Wednesday 24 October 2007

Ramsgate’s schools political football or cricket?

Out of all the Ramsgate issues that concern me at the moment that of our secondary schools pretty much tops the bill.

picture Chatham House First Eleven 1894

There is a rumour that some of our politicians would like to make changes to Chatham House, Clarendon, Hereson, Ellington and Marlow schools.

The rumours are that they would like to end grammar school, and single sex status for those that have it, and move them all to a school cluster at Pysons Road.

In view of all this I will email them and ask them if they would like to tell us about their ideas here.

I should add that it is my intention that this blog should be totally non-partisan I am myself a floating voter, without party ties.

picture Hereson School Football Team, 1950


  1. Here are some thoughts to get the debate started.

    The Government is making a huge amount of money available for the rebuilding of our local schools through a scheme called Building Schools for the Future (BSF). Potentially it is enough for every secondary school in Thanet to be refurbished or even replaced. For example, a major rebuilding at Dane Court and the new Ellington are already agreeed or completed.

    It is important to note that although the money is coming from Government via BSF, the proposals have to be developed locally and submitted by KCC.

    In addition, we know we now have too many secondary school places in the area. KCC's own figures imply we have one too many grammar schools and one too many 'High Schools'. (Note: I put 'High Schools' in inverted commas because although that is what they are called they are in fact secondary moderns since we have an entirely selective education system in Kent.)

    So, if we want to use this massive funding opportunity to best effect we need to take some tough decisions - and my argument is that all local parents should be involved in the debate before those decisions get made.

    KCC currently propose that Hereson should mmerge with Ellington. That would reduce the number of 'High School' places but mean that there would no longer be any single sex 'High Schools' in the Ramsgate / Broadstairs area. KCC find this acceptable, I don't. And having spoken to staff at Hereson I don't think they do either although they don't feel they can speak out because their bosses (ie KCC) won't like it.

    KCC have compounded their insensitivity by also announcing that Chatham House and Clarendon will not be merged because they wish to preserve their single sex status. So what they are saying is, if you are going to a grammar school then you have to have a choice of co-ed or single sex schools but if you are going to a 'High School' there need be no such choice for you!

    The KCC proposal would have the further illogicality of not reducing the number of Grammar School places although they don't intend to increase the threshold for getting into a grammar school so either the schools will have vacant places every year or people will be bussed into them from outside Thanet.

    And last but not least, Clarendon's main site is too small so will the newly refurbished school be a split site school? That is one of the problems they have at the moment.

    So what are the alternatives? I don't have an exhaustive list and local people will have ideas of their own which is why I say we need a local debate not a 'fait accompli' from County Hall.

    One option is to move all 4 schools to the Pysons Road site, keeping them seperate to maintain their individual ethos, reducing their size to deal with the numbers problem but having them share resources and common facilities so that their expenses are contained while every child has access to world class facilities. Given that this is a selective education area and that is unlikely to change anytime soon, this is probably the best option from an educational point of view as 4 shchools sharing resources could afford specilised teaching and facilities that would be unmatched anywhere in the area.

    The downside would be that we will no longer have any schools in Ramsgate Town Centre and a good use of the old buildings will need to be found.

    Another option is to move Clarendon to the same site as Ellington at Pysons Road, and move Hereson into a new building on Clarendon's current site and have Hereson and Chatham House sharing facilities while maintaining their seperate identities. This would preserve schools in the Ramsgate Town Centre and reduce concerns about the future of the heritage buildings but would probably be less cost effective than creating a new multi-school federation at Pysons Rd.

    A third option would be that KCC could agree to Hereson moving to Pyson Rd but not merging with Ellington. This is probably not the most cost-effective or progressive solution but at least it would maintain single sex 'High Schools'

    All these alternatives to the KCC proposals would preserve a mix of co-ed and single sex secondary education in both Grammar and High School sectors - an advantage that KCC says is important but which their solution fails to deliver.

    You will note that I do not claim any of these solutions to be the definitive option to move forward - I offer them only to start a debate. KCC's current plans owe more to their desire to maintain Grammar Schools status quo rather than to clear thinking or the educational needs of Thanet's children. Their thinking is politically driven and runs the risk of us missing a huge opportunity from BSF funding.

    And before my comments attract howls from the pro-selection lobby, let them note that I have NOT suggested anything above that would lead to a change in status for any of our local schools. I remain of the view that selective education is deeply damaging and we could do even better if we moved to a comprehensive system with pupils taught in subject sets according to their needs but this is not the place for that argument and we could not complete that argument in the time scale needed for decisions on BSF funding.

    Let the debate begin. I'll listen to local people's views even if KCC won't.

  2. KCC did not have the courtesy to inform the local elected KCC Members regarding its Grammar School decision, which was to refurbish both on their current sites. I only heard about this decision via a press release. KCC have so far refused to consult with anyone.

    Both Grammar Schools require large sums of money to make them fit for the 21st century and their current sites are far from ideal. The Government have given KCC £1.8bn (Building Schools for the Future – BSF) to rebuild / refurbish all Kent’s secondary schools.

    I firmly believe that there is a much better solution to the current surplus of school places in Thanet (at least one, possibly two secondary schools, need to close!); a solution that would far better serve the needs of all Thanet’s school children and not just the selected 20%.

    One idea would be to form a loose federation of four schools on the Pyson’s Road site (Chatham House, Clarendon House, Ellington and Hereson). A federation would allow all schools to maintain their separate identities while working together to improve the education of Thanet’s children on a common campus.

    I will continue to press the Government to review the funding situation until I am satisfied that the best educational solution has been arrived at - whatever that solution is and if that means upsetting a few people……… so be it.


Comments, since I started writing this blog in 2007 the way the internet works has changed a lot, comments and dialogue here were once viable in an open and anonymous sense. Now if you comment here I will only allow the comment if it seems to make sense and be related to what the post is about. I link the majority of my posts to the main local Facebook groups and to my Facebook account, “Michael Child” I guess the main Ramsgate Facebook group is We Love Ramsgate. For the most part the comments and dialogue related to the posts here goes on there. As for the rest of it, well this blog handles images better than Facebook, which is why I don’t post directly to my Facebook account, although if I take a lot of photos I am so lazy that I paste them directly from my camera card to my bookshop website and put a link on this blog.