Sunday, April 10, 2011

Thanks for that Katherine. Interesting stuff. At 24 I wonder what overview she really has and whether she's got a clear understanding of what's happeing with other schools hers is in competition with. A friend of a friend is the woodwork teacher at Kingsdale and is entirely positive about his being an employee there. Maybe I will drill him a bit to find out more.

Experience of visiting Kingsdale against St Thomas speaks volumes. Kingsdale's kids are engaged, focused and give you eye contact when you talk to them. They are clearly happy being there and are at ease with themselves and their situation. There's no hint of being on 'orders' to behave in a particular way when they are quizzed by parents of prospective children.

By comparison St Thomas' kids, although calm and polite when confronted unexpectededly, appear sedated; there is little eye contact, they look to be on message, knowing they have to say positive things rather than being spontaneous with their delivery and, when asked about their experience of the school, they seem slightly unsettled, as if they are recounting stuff they've been primed to say.

We know five children who started Kingsdale last year, they are all enthusiastic about their experience and their parents are all totally positive about their children's experience of the school. Of all the schools I visited Kingsdale stands out as a place I'd have wanted to go to if I were in the firing line now. The head has been there for a long time - previously as a math teacher I think - and wnet through all the shit and bullets before becoming the head teacher. He comes across to me as someone who's prepared to be frank and confront the realities that schools have to deal with. He's black, by the way, and it doesn't feel to me to be a coincidence that his school has such a good feel about it as it does.

Kingsdale, as far as I know, is the only school that held an information evening for parents where the whole application and appeal process was described in detail. Everything I've seen about the school, limited though it is, says they care absolutely about people and understand the horrible process that parents and children go through in trying to get into a decent place of education.

Kingsdale looks, on the face of it, to be a mixed school - all skin types and social backgrounds. St Thomas appears, I guess, to be 98% black African origin and most of them not Catholic but Pentecostal Christian.

After looking around the school with the deputy head, who is a white, Irish, woman who's been there for 21 years and seems to be a caring and competent but by no means charismatic figurehead (there is no permanent head at present) for the place, Louis said it was nowhere near as bad as he thought it might be. And he thought the boys were nice and that he could get on there if he had to. He's making this judgement in the knowledge that he's likely not to get into the kind of school that he'd like to go to.

I'm pretty confident that Louis will do OK wherever he goes but feel sorry for him that, faced with the reality of the situation, his aspirations are already lowering to the possibility that he may go to a school which cannot possibly stretch, task and stimulate him, enthuse and inspire him, and he's already making compromises for his life ambitions when he's only eleven.

It sucks.


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