Need for a new school solution
SIR - The opportunity offered by the government through its Building Schools for the Future programme of some £145 million to transform secondary education provision in Stevenage to meet the demands of the 21st century is to be welcomed. We must hope th
SIR - The opportunity offered by the government through its "Building Schools for the Future" programme of some £145 million to transform secondary education provision in Stevenage to meet the demands of the 21st century is to be welcomed. We must hope that in the extra time given to the county council and its partners they are able to come up with a more robust educational and demographically satisfactory solution than that proposed to their cabinet in early January.
The need for change is clear, taking the new output measure of five GCSE passes including English and Mathematics, only two of the seven Stevenage schools did better than the average for the country last year. This is despite the continued hard work of staff and students that have progressively made incremental improvements over the last few years in many of our schools. Nevertheless a young person entering secondary education in Stevenage based on current results is some 20% less likely to go on to higher education than the average for Hertfordshire. This suggests that the structure of secondary provision within the town is far from optimum.
Having originally concluded that co-located pairs of secondary schools would not meet the changing demographics of the town the county education planners suddenly changed course in late December and proposed two eight form entry secondary schools on adjacent sites in the Old Town area. Clearly this would not meet the sustainable needs of the north east of Stevenage over the next 20 years and presents major logistical problems regarding sporting and community provision within the confines of the current Thomas Alleyne and Barclay school sites. In reality it is close to proposing a giant 16 form entry school with 3,200 students - hardly a recipe for either educational or social success.
The county council needs to spell out to the public exactly how the new proposed Trust governorship arrangements are going to be both accountable to the public and drive up performance to offer all our young people the same opportunity that is enjoyed by the majority of secondary students in the county.
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This is a once in the century opportunity to shape the education provision for future generations of Stevenage students in terms of equality of opportunity and equipping our future citizens with the skills and love of learning that will enable them to both meet the needs of the knowledge based economy and share its benefits. So please let us all work to get a solution that meets the needs of our young people and ensures the future prosperity of our town.
JOHN GARDNER Chair of Governors, Shephalbury Meadow Federation
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