I AM opposed to the proposal to close Ellesmere Port Specialist School of Performing Arts (EPSSPA) and Cheshire Oaks High.
They each serve communities with very different needs and I am concerned these needs would not be met as efficiently in a combined school.
Both schools have won strong support from Ofsted for the work they do in two of the most deprived areas of Cheshire.
The way in which both schools use their specialisms to enhance the self-esteem of some of the most vulnerable young people in their communities has also been noted by a range of observers. Losing these schools would be to the detriment of both communities, in my view.
We have to recognise, however, that the need to achieve “value for money” is paramount. It may be that maintaining two high schools is not cost effective and that there should be a new school serving both communities.
This raises a major concern, namely the proposal to site an academy in Ellesmere Port
This is seen as an answer to the perceived problem of under-performance, but is based on the entirely false premise that this academy will “raise achievement”.
There is no evidence that academic achievement will be raised and the evidence that exists suggests that the opposite may be the case.
The Price Waterhouse Cooper Report (www.standards.dfes.gov.uk/ academies/publications) concludes that “there is insufficient evidence to make a definitive judgement about the academies as a model for school improvement”.
Like Terry Wrigley’s work the report points to a decrease in the number of pupils who qualify for free school meals, suggesting selection in favour of middle-class pupils rather than those for whom the academies were intended.
Similarly, the report points to a watering down of the curriculum with the introduction of vocational courses to secure “improvements” which are illusory.
As someone who has worked for more than 30 years in secondary education with many disadvantaged pupils, I fail to see how the introduction of an unproven, arguably discredited system of schooling will improve the situation.
The evidence would lead one to believe there will be an increase in exclusions, placing strain on neighbouring schools, and that selection will further exclude other vulnerable young people – the kind of young people who currently have their complex needs met so well by EPSSPA and Cheshire Oaks.
If the local authority feels the maintenance of two schools is not cost effective, the new school must be a community school in order that these communities may enjoy the right experienced in other areas.
This is the right to have a say through the ballot box about who is running their local school.
Keep Ellesmere Port Schools (KeEPS)