A MAJOR REPORT into the state of education in Thurrock has pointed to a “lack of aspiration in the curriculum” in Thurrock schools.
The 72-page report written by former Ofsted boss Christine Gilbert is perhaps the most comprehensive assessment of education in Thurrock to date.
Council leader, John Kent asked for a “full and frank report” and it would be fair to say that the report does not pull its punches.
The council’s response is to roll out a £1 million strategy over the next three years.
If there is a constant theme that the report returns to it is a lack of aspiration in Thurrock that has somehow hot-wired itself into the borough’s DNA.
The report also asks serious questions of a number of senior school head teachers.
In many ways, the report questions whether those schools playing the statistics game are part of the problem or part of the solution.
Over the next week, YT will be looking at parts of the report and examining whether the students in Thurrock are being given an excellent education or are they pawns in a political game.
The EBACC controversy is a case in point.
For some the figures don’t add up………..
The Ebacc gauge is simply: How many students took English, Maths, a science, a language and a subject in the humanities and (of course) how many students achieved?
To some it is a guide dreamed up by Education Minister Michael Gove to push schools back to a ‘classical” education that hark back to his grammar school education of the 1970s more than the myriad of demands of the 21st century.
Whatever your stance, the figures may lead to a lot of questions being asked.
For perhaps only one school, the stats make sense: Gable Hall: 35% of pupils entered them and 27% achieved. That figures sits along with their 5 A* (Inc Eng and Maths) figure of 71%. The figures seem to bear out a rounded education: some are guided to an academic education and some to vocational.
At the other end of the scale is Ormiston Park Academy (OPA). 2% of students entered and 0% achieved. However, everyone knows that OPA has a huge number of students with learning statements. Some may say that it is all very well trying to teach a student about the Treaty of Belgium 1839 but would it not be better for that pupil to be taught more vocational subjects?
So who are the schools who have a large disparity between their GCSE results and their place on the Ebacc gauge?
The most surprising “disparity” comes from Harris Academy (Chafford Hundred).
Its harshest critics have seen it as some form of Orwellian exam machine whilst others see it as a shining beacon of aspiration.
The school has seen a meteoric rise in its GCSE results. Going from 59% in 2008 to a peak of 93% this year. However, in 2012, only 10% of students entered the Ebacc subjects and only 9% achieved a pass.
It looks like the old saying is true: Statistics are like a bikini: What they reveal is suggestive, but what they conceal is vital.
The other schools with a wide disparity include:
Grays Convent: 17% of students entered the five subjects and 12% achieved. That compares to 63% achieving 5 A* to C including English and Maths. For your information, fellow Catholic school, The Campion School recorded 74% students entered the Ebacc subjects and 41% achieved.
The report also shows that William Edwards school, in the year that it recorded 71% of students achieving 5 A* to C including English and Maths, only had 11% of students achieving the Ebacc standard.
St Clere’s had 34% entered and 14% achieved.
Ockendon Academy with 10% entered and 8% achieved.
Hassenbrook had 36% entered and 3% achieved.
Gateway Academy 1% entered and 1% achieved.
The education report points to the fact that “a significantly lower proportion of students in Thurrock is being entered for the full range of Ebacc students than the average nationally.
“Thurrock is 8% behind the national average….This could suggest that there is a lack of aspiration in the curriculum for the more able students.”
Again, like The Campion School statistic, when you look at schools just over the border such as Dartford Grammar, Gravesend Grammar, you see a far higher number of students entering and achieving the five Ebacc students.
Perhaps a lesson can be learned from Passmores Academy in Harlow which featured in the Educating Essex documentary. 18% of their students entered the Ebacc and 13% achieved. YT understands that over 30% are planning to enter all five subjects this year. Inspirational head Vic Goddard seems to have got the balance right.
Some of the schools above run very high profile open evenings and in their open evenings producing statistics that compare themselves with other schools outside the borough.
Now that they have entered the market place and have decided to speak the language of the market, they may also have to face the difficult questions that Ms Gilbert’s reports throw up.
What Ms Gilbert’s report may be asking is that the great senior school revolution in Thurrock may be a case of the emperors new clothes.
It is over to you….