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Monday, 24 May 2010

The view from Solsbury Hill, Bath: The 3 Disgraces

We interrupt this blog to bring you some important news from Larkhall, Bath.

First up is the news that  Oldfield School in Bath is to become an academy. An Academy is a school which has a certain degree of independence from government of various kinds. Schools that have been declared outstanding by Ofsted

The only problem for Oldfield School for Girls is the head, Kim Sparling (and I have neighbours who have been both students and teachers at Oldfield School and I don't want to repeat what they say about her because it ain't nice) , announced her decision during a consultation process on school closures in Bath. Instead of taking part in the consultation as other schools did, she abdicated all responsibility, took herself, her pupils and her school out of the democratic process and so removed herself and her school from all accountability. This is not reflected in the current school website but it was in the one that came immediately after the second consultation meeting at St Marks where Ms Sparling stated that Oldfield School no longer needs to take part in the consultation process, the parents don't need to attend the meetings and nobody should contribute anything to the process in any way whatsoever.

The consultation process is flawed to be sure, but one has to be part of it. I have a vested interest in one of the other schools in the consultation process staying open and continuing its policies of diversity and inclusion for all learners in the community. That school is St Marks. I accept that St Marks might have to close and that on exam results alone, Oldfield School appears to be the 'better' school. Even allowing for that vested interest, I can see that the staff and head of St Marks School are taking part in the consultation process, are providing an example to their students of how to be democratic and accountable. They are putting the best interests of their students and the parents of those students first, not using loopholes to get out of a flawed, but necessary process.

So what kind of example is Kim Sparling setting, what kind of person is she to evade the necessary issues? And in evading the issues, isn't she failing her students, her staff and the pupils at her school. Because she may imagine her actions are going to prevent closure of her school, but I have a sneaking suspicion she is actually hastening it.

Sorry, Ms Sparling, but from where I am sitting in sunny Larkhall, and to all the parents I know in the Valley Schools, your actions appear underhand and despicable. This is something I would never do. It is something most people would never do.  I would not do such a thing because I would feel myself to be corrupt in some way, I would know that ultimately I was giving a bad example to my students and their parents and the school. Ultimately I would be embarrassed and ashamed.

If you live in Bath or Bristol, whatever school you want to send your child to now or in the future, take part in the consultation process here.

And read the story here. In this article, the council gives the following advice to all parents, children and members of staff affected by Kim Sparling's proposal:

"Contrary to the original information provided by the school to its parents, this decision by the school governors does not impact on the consultation, which will continue as planned with a final decision on proposals to be agreed by (the council’s) cabinet on July 21.  We advise parents to attend the meetings already planned and advertised.”
And read another story here which details some local reactions to Kim Sparling's announcement.

I don't see the loopholes that Kim Sparling is trying to exploit as too much different from those being exploited by Golden Valley Paddocks over the hill in Woolley Valley. Their actions got two pages in the Daily Mail on Saturday and amount to a bending of the rules that defies belief. They are using planning law loopholes to front a farming operation that will suddenly transform into a property development operation causing damage to the valley and beyond.

Read the whole story here

And from the Telegraph.

Sign the petition here. 

And the final act in community vandalism taking place in Bath comes courtesy of  First Bus. Anyone who has ever ridden a First Bus or worked for them will know what a disgrace this company are. In Bath they are cutting services wholesale, severing links between connected communities. At the same time, they have been cutting driver conditions and hiking bus fares to unaffordable rates - how about £2.10 for a one and a half mile bus ride into town. Their actions increase congestion, pollution and drive local shops and services out of business. What kind of person makes these decisions. Have they no shame or pride?

Sign the Save our 6/7 Buses petition here.

If you live in Bath or Bristol, whatever school you want to send your child to now or in the future, take part in the consultation process here.

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