LAST MONTH, Chafford Hundred School and Business Enterprise College became the most improved school in the United Kingdom. The press descended upon the school: The Guardian, Daily Mail, Times Education Supplement, ITN and BBC London.
What struck the press was the commitment and energy of the staff, governors and students as well as the clarity of vision. Their “Movers Week” which is virtually an internal ofsted amazed the journos. From teetering on the brink of special measures in 2006 to this paragon of educational ambition and success in just three years.
As we reported on wednesday night at the Full Council Meeting, Headteacher Chris Tomlinson wrote to senior political figures in the borough exasperated at the lack of support the school had received.
Controversially, Chair of Thurrock Labour, Cllr Carl Morris read out extracts of the letter to the embarrassment of the ruling Tories.
In the letter, Mr Tomlinson said: “The sixth form presumption is receiving no support from the Local Authority. It is as if a “High Performing” school is an inconvenience to them.”
It is understood that the school is exasperated at the level of investment in the east side of the borough where birth rates and population numbers are declining while the booming west side appears starved of resources.
But what does this mean to parents? The bottom line is that parents in Chafford Hundred in september 2011 will discover that they may struggle to get their child into the school.
YourThurrock understands that three years ago, Mr Tomlinson agreed with the council to temporarily increase the school roll in each year to 180 but only until 2011 when it would return to 150.
In the meantime, the population of Chafford Hundred has grown and housing continues, despite the recession to gather apace.
The only answer seems to be that the government allows schools such as Chafford to leave the LEA and set up as an Academy. This would be a remarkable situation: Ormiston and Gateway already provide academies for the Aveley and Tilbury area. Grays School has been ear-marked for Academy status.
Is it possible that by the end of the decade all the schools will have left the Local Education Authority. Which would then beg the question: How can the LEA survive?
YourThurrock spoke to Mr Tomlinson re his comments.
He said: “The pupils, parents, staff and governors overwhelming support the High Performing school to develop a sixth form in line with our status.
“At present the Local Authority have overlooked this and are funding other projects in all other Secondary Schools in Thurrock.
“Our proposal fits the criteria for the Capital money available and is more of a priority than other projects being funded but the LA are refusing to support us.
“What is also a real concern to all parents in Chafford Hundred and West Thurrock is just over two years ago the LA asked the school to increase
the yearly intake to 180, we obliged because we want to serve our local community and its needs.
The LA know that we can only do this for every year group if they invest in the school with a new building, this was agreed at the time but the LA have failed to deliver,
“September 2010 is our last year intake of 180.
“For a small investment the school can maintain 180 yearly intake and develop an outstanding sixth form for this nationally leading and award winning school, the LA have failed to deliver on this promise.“
The lack of investment is not just at Chafford Hundred, it is endemic of TBC overall, CH was badly planned with respect to the amount of facillities per houshold, the school infratructure was not thought through properly but the same can be said about the whole of Turrock, just look at Orsett Hospital, this was a complete facillity but is now a walk in minor injury with limited opening times, Thurrock population has grown and rather than developing a local hospital people now have to travel over 15miles to thier nearest A&E.
I can sort of sympathise with Mr Tomlinson but he has been in the area long enough to see the mistakes made by TBC throughout, this includes whne Labour were in charge so he should not be that shocked.