Saturday 22nd September – “The one I love….”

This week Ed is perplexed about the ramifications for Purbeck’s future students of our beloved Secretary of State for Education’s plans to scrap GCSEs.

The thoughts of Mr Gove are that GCSEs will be simply scrapped (“not fit for purpose” are we getting bored with that expression yet?Grade inflation (so that’s why the results are all improving!) and our international cousins overtaking us are cited as the justifications.

And replaced with what?  Well not “O” levels (and upset Nick with their elitist connotations). Ebacs??? But baccalaureate is a French word!!!!!!!! Gove levels???

So FF has the answer, the new exams for 16 year olds will be called the EWoks!

Not much to report on locally  this week – Education Swanage’s Plan C, to set up temporary shop at Harrow House was announced at their Information Event last Tuesday – so far Ed thinks the reaction to this is best described as muted –   (early days I suppose, plus ES sometimes announce their news items first on their student-cultured FaceBook social network group page).

Like many others, Ed is still weighing up the implications for Education in Purbeck of this news, but is beginning to think this could be a very sensible move, as it enables the viability of TPSFSS to be properly tested before the DfE commit (or not) our tax payers money to a much-trumpeted new school building in a corner of Swanage. Commendations for ES are perhaps in order? A chance to make them will be at the next ES/TPSFSS’s Information Event on Saturday 29th September between 2.00 – 4.00pm at The Mowlem Community Room, Swanage.

Whether this helps add clarity to the confusing dual-admissions process situation remains to be seen. Details of TPSFSS‘s application process (closing on 31 January, 3 months after the unified DCC version closes) are fully explained on page 29 of the October edition of the very excellent The Purbeck Gazette.

EiPs lurkers may also like to flick through to the Gazette’s letter pages (pp 9 -12 – not yet on line) to read no less than seven well written and balanced letters following up The Purbeck Gazette’s article about new school locations in Swanage in September’s edition. Plenty for EiPs lurkers to chew over there, and Ed is fairly sure that the final letter on page 12 probably represents the views of the writer, and not necessarily those of her employer.

Next week The Purbeck School opens its doors on Thursday 27th September for its Open Evening event, 5:30 pm start. The Purbeck School website also contains details about the implications of this summer’s English GCSE grading  fiasco and how it affects Purbeck students. Ed is sure it will now end either in court or a parliamentary enquiry, as the smell of fish seems to be getting stronger (allegedly of course).

EiPs new feature, Primary Website of the week features Wool First School, the home page of which has links to E-Safety pages, which contains the advice about  being careful with social networking sites like Facebook as apparently people use alias accounts!.  Just as well that Facebook is filterd out of Purbeck school’s Internet service then.

Finally, in an attempt to add some diversity of opinion for its lurkers, Ed has invited several educational institutions in Purbeck to consider offering somebody to take part in the next interview.  We all wait with anticipation to see who that might be!

20 links, a record for EiP….Stay Tuned!!


Monday 17th September – An omission and apology

Ed would today like to inform and/or remind its lurkers that tomorrow The Swanage Free School are holding an Information Event at The Swanage Middle School, 7 pm to 9pm.

Ed sincerely apologizes for not mention this important event before and pledges to ensure that all similar future events will receive coverage on EiPs pages.

Ed is also aware that there are similar events at secondary schools outside Purbeck (which may also be of interest to lurkers), but as this list could become rather long, Ed has made a quick editorial decision to keep it simple and restrict this to Purbeck based schools.


Saturday 15th September – “People stand in line…”

Today’s new Primary School focus is on Lady St Mary’s Primary School, Wareham . Ed encourages EiP readers and lurkers to have a look at their refreshed website, and get to feel the values, community, ethos etc that the school holds and that is reflected in its website. “A picture tells a thousand words…” still true.

On the secondary front The Purbeck School is gearing up for its massivest ever Open Evening in living memory as it will throw open its doors and welcome the whole Purbeck Educational community to see what’s on offer (now and in the near future) on Thursday 27th September.  Get there early as parking will be at a premium. (Park and Ride planned from outlying villages/towns, or sort your own lift shares out? – How about a couple of “Swanage Special” coaches?)

With no site to call its own The (Proposed) Swanage (Free) Secondary School (TPSSFS) has not been included in Doret’s Unified Admission Scheme (upon sensible advice from DCC and the DfE – just how can you include a non-existent school in an admissions process (?) is a conundrum that EiP lurkers may wish to consider). Here is the separate TPSSFS admission form, so apply for multiple schools and mess up the planning (staffing and curriculum) of BOTH of them! Now that is clever…… make your mind up where you intend to send young Johnny on 3rd September 2013 – why not spend a couple of days in each, no need to make a decision just yet is there?

EiP is slighlty reluctant to report on yet another disastrous Free School, this time in St George’s, Bootle, another Free School vote-winner! where it seems the TUPE arrangements have gone horribly wrong.  EiP thinks this will head for an industrial tribunal.  This outbreak of bonkers educational law-breaking is frankly worrying Ed.

Finally get yourself into a Welsh school for your English lessons.  Oh irony of ironies….Same course, same exam(s) but you get a FAIRER grade!!! England or Wales?


Saturday 8th September – “It’s like the old man says….”

EiP gets back in the blogging groove as our beloved Purbeck Schools have completed one full week of the new year.

A quick trawl through the news sections of all the Purbeck school websites doesn’t reveal too much news this week, but Ed thinks that this is only as expected because first week’s back must be a bit manic!

Special mention on the website front must go to St Mary’s (Wool) which now has a really funky design, made in collaboration between students and interim Image Lab, Poole. Do check out the game! Worthy of a quick comparison is Stoborough Primary School’s site, designed (and supported?) by Shiftscape.

Interesting to note that Stoborough is now (rightly) announcing itself as a Primary school, (as all the ex-First schools are now designated), having Y5 for the first time this year, (and Y6 next year) as the action part of The Purbeck Review slides into place.

News from The Purbeck School centres around a busy summer of building work, as it prepares to welcome Y7 and Y8 for the first time in September 2013. New car park configuration, new SEN and Inclusion rooms, and a few new internal “road blocks” as the next science labs refurbishments are about to start. The Purbeck Parents Facebook Group members politely pun this year’s must read book around the issue of uniform colours, with a happy outcome for all concerned.

On the uniform front, EiP has been fortunate enough to have seen The Purbeck School’s uniform for 2013 and Ed (usually ambivalent on this stuff)  thinks it is amazing, imaginative, stylish, slightly retro, and will/could be a real hit. The kilt is a wow. Sensible materials, and (hopefully) realistically priced and readily available. Check it out for yourself on the mannequins in the school foyer.

EiP is next in the long line of people to welcome Mrs Leanne Symonds to her new post as the fourth Headteacher at The Purbeck School, and very politlely asks whether she’d be interested in being the next interviewee for Education in Purbeck?,(following Nigel Beckett’s interesting points from Corfe First/Primary School last June)

Nationally (Bonkers?) Free Schools continue to throw up tales of woe, with Beccles perhaps an extreme case of a huge waste of tax payer’s money. Cameron now has positioned the expenses fiddling David Laws as Schools Minister, ready to take over from Gove as soon he drops another PR gaffe. NOW we know where Dr J Rowe has ended up! (answers on a postcard please)

With the Beccles judicial inquiry (allegedly over whether the Seckford Foundation even bothered to conduct a public consultation at all) proceeding its no surprise that the signing of Funding Agreements and associated buildling contracts has rapidly dried up. 52% of Free Schools opening this week ( i.e. 27 schools) opened up in temporary accommodation (allegedly). Perhaps the other 25 are going to keep their portacabins permanently?

The GCSE English fiasco also seems set to end up in the courtroom as a growing number of miffed parties (unions, associations, governors etc) are forming into an impromptu alliance and considering the best route to put right  the dreadful mistake that Ofqual/QCA/DfE(?) have made.  This won’t go away easily. The Purbeck School’s publicised excellent 67% 5A*-C figure is still (rightly) not complemented by the 5A*-C inc E+M figure.  All schools must be watching this space.  Ed finds it interesting that very little attention seems to have been given to the rather silly eBac figure this year. Let it slip away quietly Michael, with you close behind, perhaps nobody will notice.

Back on planet Purbeck the good people of Swanage seem to have turned in on themselves (if The Purbeck Gazette reports can be believed) arguing on whether a church sponsored Primary School or a (proposed) Free School should have the right to plonk themselves on land owned by Dorset County Council. As EiP suggested recently, the chance of a sensible resolution to this one is inversely proportional to the number of organisations involved. Now add two dioceses to last week’s list, and EiP is making very sure NOT to ever touch upon the pros and cons of churches involved in state education….

This week’s poll is a repeat of the first ever poll, so EiPs first longitudinal comparison!

And finally a quiz question, what have T(P)SFS and a David Gray song got in common? Clues here, look for Anon 6/9/12 6:50, which EiP is now sadly tending to agree with. This interesting petition may not even need to be forwarded to DfE after all.

That’s all folks!

Friday 31st August – That back to school feeling

As the nights start to draw in towards the end of a typical summer school holiday (illuminated by the splendid London 2012 Games), Ed reflects upon a few national educational issues for its lurkers to make their own links to local issues.

GCSE English grades fiasco

Looks like our beloved secretary of state for education is in for another good kicking, and again deservedly so. To ask Ofqual to “add rigour” to qualifications IS political interference.  How can AQA add rigour? a) Introduce new qualifications / specifications (which takes a few years) and remove redundant ones. b) Make existing qualifications’ grades harder to achieve by raising the grade boundaries.

So AQA are (allegedly) leant on to adjust the grade boundaries for all three components of their very popular GCSE English specification. Result, no parity between previous entries for same cohort, and 65,000 students get a D rather than a C if their entries had been 5 months earlier. This will make 6th form/college enrollment next week very interesting, and (with any threat of legal challenges) schools and colleges may well have to allow students with a D in English the same entry rights as a grade C.

This will run for a while, and may hopefully even lead to a discrediting of school performance tables, the prime reason why these grades are so important to schools.  I suspect all schools will simply ask for an expensive re-mark, leading to huge pressure to return the grade boundaries to previous sessions. More useful would be a public inquiry, including a revelation about the huge rise in examination fees paid out by schools over the years, partly due to multiple (re)-entries.

Few (if any) local schools are publically stating their % students with 5 GCSEs at A*-C inc  Maths and Eng figure, so EiP thinks every school is watching this space. Apparently an announcement from DfE (or AQA?) tomorrow!

Free Schools becoming a national political and election issue – perhaps becoming a vote-loser?

The appalling situation in Bradford (similar to Bournemouth / Poole) shows that Free Schools don’t exactly exist until their Funding Agreements are signed by the secretary of state for education (probably with the chancellor of the exchequer looking over his shoulder).  As the conservative majority of the coalition return after their extensive recess, it will soon be conference season, and the next general election starts to loom.

Free Schools may very soon become seen as troublesome and a vote-loser, so EiP bravely predicts a coalition re-focus on the economy, deficit, domestic debt etc, and that Funding Agreements for Free Schools that will incur further national debt will be quietly sidelined. These stories don’t help…

More on wasteful Free Schools on BBC website

Free School with problems due to planning regulations

Using the Free School agenda to expand independent schools – its a bit naughty?

Free Schools and social and educational segregation

An article in The Daily Telegraph stated that around half of the 50 (ish) Free Schools due to open this September are opening in temporary accommodation. EiP can’t help but wonder how many of these schools have been given a promise along the lines of “get your roll up and we’ll fund you a new school soon” Yeah right, how many U-turns have this coalition performed already?

Wednesday 15th August – “site no longer available”

Today visitors to the (proposed) Swanage School website can read confirmation that  the landowner of the former Swanage Grammar School site has withdrawn his offer of making the land available to Education Swanage.

EiP is happy to point its lurkers to discussions about this development on a Facebook group here, a very lively and open Swanage issue  forum here, and to Education Swanage’s Facebook Group here. Readers / lurkers can certainly make their own minds up about the problems of trying to open up new schools, planning permission agreements, conducting public  (and private) business openly or discreetly, and what constitutes acceptable use of Swanage land.

A few points that Ed would like to make are:-

  1. EiP agrees with Education Swanage’s website comment “Clearly this is very disappointing and a big setback”. Just how big will become clearer over the next few months.
  2. EiP is hugely impressed with the way Education Swanage (ES) has quickly swung into Plan B mode, and has now openly acknowledged that Plan A always carried risks.
  3. EiP reflects upon what the DfE’s role in all of this is? Has it any more power to create or re-assign land than it had last month?
  4. Plan B comes with an impressive and growing number of interested parties, all of which will perhaps be looking after their own interests first and foremost. Count them…… (and let Ed know of any that are missed out) Education Swanage; Dorset County Council; Department for Education; Purbeck District Council; Swanage Town Council; Welfare Dwellings Residential Care;  St Mark’s CE VA Primary School; St Mary’s RC (VA) Primary School.  
  5. EiP wonders whether the private contractors Keir, Hunters and Plincke should be included in this list, but thinks that perhaps they are happy just to be the recipients of tax payers money for producing plans and ideas that will (at best) now need some serious alterations.
  6. EiP thinks this setback may influence a few parents that were perhaps considering selecting The (proposed) Swanage Free School as their first preference when completing DCC’s Co-ordinated Admission Scheme Form. Perhaps selecting a (proposed) school that has no track record, no contracted teachers, no Funding Agreement and now no site of its own may be a risk too far. But heh, some people like risks….
  7. EiP recognises that fortunately the coordinated admission form does not need completing until 31st October 2012, and that a lot can happen in 76 days (Rome was allegedly built in six days)

As the Chinese proverb goes, we continue to live in interesting times.

Tuesday 14th August – Expansion of Free Schools programme

EiP recommends this webpage to all its readers, contributors and lurkers. Its the press announcement of the coalition government’s intention to expand its controversial Free School programme. It suggests that 102 applications for free schools to open in 2013 are in the pipeline, with 24 opened in 2011 and around 50 due to open in a few weeks time.

There are scores of points that taxpayers can draw from this article, and Ed reckons that there is enough blog material for 30 entries. However, as Ed is conscious that its readers / lurkers really want to know how these national issues may affect Purbeck, EiP draws out the following points:-

  1. The interesting use of the word “around” in this September around 50 are due to open.” So with less than four weeks to the new school year the DfE do not know exactly how many free schools will open!  Just how many cases like the (proposed) Parkfield Free School are there nationally?
  2. The range and variety of free school proposers is simply staggering. In its article the DfE highlight The Harris Federation, The Big Life Group, The University of Birmingham, University of Plymouth, Cuckoo Hall Academies Trust, Collective Spirit, Altrincham Grammar School/Manchester City FC, and The Physics Factory. How qualified these alliances and people are to run schools is clearly open for question, as is who they are accountable to.
  3. How well staffed (and funded) are the DfE to deliver their side of the bargain and so bring to fruition the aspirations, hopes and dreams of the providers and students? As this complex and troublesome programme expands the DfEs resources become stretched and pulled more and more.
  4. The linked map is fascinating and immediately indicates that most applications are urban.
  5. “The groups will now work to make their schools a reality. This includes undertaking a statutory consultation in their local area and taking steps to recruit their school’s Principal Designate, with the final aim of securing a Funding Agreement with the Secretary of State – which will allow the school to open” So a lot of obstaces to go through before a proposal becomes an open school.
  6. “Capital funding for these projects is still to be decided” And there is a surprise! It is very easy for the DfE to say “yes” to a proposer, but all this initial “yes” really means is “go away and do some more work” (perhaps with the help of a remote DfE person as a link/manager). Until the Funding Agreement (FA)  is eventually signed by the Secretary of State for Education there is no big long-term financial commitment from the DfE, nor any assurance that the school will open. And if this FA comes with a big capital commitment (such as a brand new building rather than a leased redundant office block)  the Secretary of State may be slightly more hesitant on putting pen to paper.
  7. “The Free Schools revolution was built on a simple idea. Open up our schools to new providers and use the competition that results to drive up standards across the system.” And this is at the very heart of it! Will competition drive up standards? EiP has not found any large-scale international evidence to support this bold claim, but is open minded to any evidence that is presented.