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An awful lot of healing to do, says exec head teacher

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‘WE HAVE an awful lot of healing to do with teachers’ was one of the messages from educationalists at a meeting with parents from Castel Primary School.

Educationalists spoke with parents at Castel Primary School about the new school model. Photo credit: Helen Bowditch (27164795)

It was in response to a parent who read out loud the numbers of teachers who were against the two comprehensive schools ‘as a member of the public those are pretty damning statistics… how does that make you feel?’.

Executive head teacher Liz Coffey replied that the transformation process had been challenging and difficult.

‘Change is happening, it’s not comfortable, and we have an awful lot of healing to do.’

Education member Deputy Peter Roffey interjected that early on there had been a lack of States resources, leading to ‘systemic failure’ in the way the plans had been communicated to teachers and the public, but that was not to say that the two-college model itself was bad.

The meeting for Castel School parents was well attended, with an audience of around 50, and the questions were mainly focused on students’ opportunities and wellbeing.

It was difficult to pinpoint any general mood among the parents. A few parents dominated the questions, which prompted one audience member to pipe up at one point with ‘can we see the other slides please’.

One parent was concerned about the impact of the longer school day.

‘It means less time for their pastimes, what about children who have clubs at 4pm, if that gets pushed later then when are we doing tea, and there’s always homework.’

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Another parent added, ‘my son has swimming at Beau Sejour at 4pm’.

Mrs Coffey answered that it was not their ambition to ‘slog children to death so that they never had any leisure time’, and the idea behind the enrichment programme was to increase the uptake in extra-curricular activities and work in partnership with the various sports clubs and commissions.

One parent wanted clarification about outdoor playing space and Education member Deputy Mark Dorey said that while outdoor space fell short of UK recommended standards, an important distinction was that practically all UK schools did not meet those standards.

On a question about the provision for gifted students, Mrs Coffey responded that ironically larger contexts give opportunities to specialise more and there would be a ‘good depth of setting’ in many subjects.

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Another parent wanted assurances that there would be a proper budget and hard infrastructure in place to support walking and cycling and not just a few white lines painted along the road.

On a question about whether the student numbers could support three 11-18 schools, Deputy Dorey said it would reduce sixth form choices, which prompted another parent to chip in, ‘it’s not just the sixth form though, there’s lots of other years’.

After the meeting, Peter Norman said he felt disappointed.

‘They’re cramming loads more people into the building, at the moment we’ve got three good schools on good sites and it works, why can’t we just stay as we are and change the system – it’s the system that’s wrong, not the buildings.’

Another parent, who did not want to give her name because she said there were a few parents at the school who might ‘lynch’ her, said she was encouraged by the presentation.

‘I’m not opposed to it because there are lots of positives.

‘I’ve dealt with Kieran James [the appointed head of Victor Hugo school] before and he was excellent, so I trust him, and I’ve never met these other two teachers here before tonight, but I was very impressed with them as well.’

Helen Bowditch

By Helen Bowditch
News reporter

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