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The tabloid where a good Ofsted report is a bad and scary thing

August 6, 2011

***Please be aware, the last paragraph of this blog includes a tenuous link***

Forrins!  In our schools!  They can’t even speak English!  So says the Daily Mail, in this story:

You see that?  English is not their ‘mother tongue’!  Perhaps it’s their ‘father tongue’ – who knows.  The article itself includes such scary language as:

only four for whom English is their mother tongue.

In one of Britain’s most extreme cases

and:

Many arrive at the school unable to speak a word  of English.

One of the photo captions includes the legend, ‘Outnumbered’, in a subtext so sneaky, yet so obvious, that the writer saw no need to clarify who, in the Mail’s opinion, is outnumbered.  This is such standard fare for this ‘news’paper that I can’t bear to go through it in detail.  However, I would like to throw some positives out there for consideration alongside the article, in the hope that some balance and perspective can be applied.

The school singled out for attention by the Daily Mail is Bradford Moor Community Primary, whose website is available here.  It has been rated ‘Good’ by Ofsted, so it must be doing something right.  Putting the rating in context requires a closer look at the report itself, because, as anyone who works in education knows, it’s not that easy to get a ‘good’ from Ofsted.

Here are the challenges faced by the pupils and staff at this school, as stated in the Ofsted report:

Most pupils enter school with either little or no English and are weak in home language development. The school serves an area of high deprivation and dramatic urban decline and ranks in the bottom 10% of socially disadvantaged areas of the country. Income and living environment indices show that 97.1% of the pupils are in the lowest 3% nationally.

So, the pupils at Bradford Moor are among the most deprived in the country.  These children start out at a huge disadvantage, whether English is their second language or not.  A table included in the report shows that the ‘good’ rating was shared by 50% of primaries nationwide between September 2007 and July 2008.  37% of primaries were below this standard.

Surely, given the deprivation experienced by the majority of children at Bradford Moor, the ‘good’ rating achieved by the school is something to be celebrated.

Reading the report reveals that pupils are now attaining at levels “around the national average from being well below.”  This indicates significant improvement has taken place, and the report highlights discipline policy, good behaviour, a good attitude to learning,  good relationships within the school and mutual respect between staff and pupils as important contributors to this.

Other strengths of Bradford Moor include strong support from parents, strong contributions to the local community, good achievement of pupils with special educational needs, good relationships with outside agencies, strong leadership and an inclusive atmosphere.  What does a ‘good’ rating mean?  Ofsted says it is “a school that is serving its pupils well.”  That screechy, negative headline doesn’t seem so scary now, does it.  In fact, for a school facing so many challenges, this seems to be a triumph of both education and ‘integration’, that popular buzzword so beloved of the government and nationalist groups.

I will leave the final word on this to Kath Tunstall, Bradford Council’s Strategic Director for Children’s Services.  Quoting from the very end of the Daily Mail article, she says:

‘The fact that the children speak English as an additional language does not mean they do not speak English, and we know that young children learn languages very quickly.

‘Bradford Moor Primary School has a strong record of performance, having been judged ‘good’ in its Ofsted report following inspection in 2009 and this year’s provisional figures at Key Stage 2 show a 10 percentage point increase in English and maths since the school was last formally assessed two years ago.

I shall now make a tenuous link (finding the positive in the Mail’s negative) in order to publicise the rather wonderful master of satire, @DMReporter (Tumblr and Twitter), who has found the positive from Liz Jones negative and has raised an astonishing £21,194.41 (not including Gift Aid, and rising all the time) in aid of the Disasters Emergency Committee appeal for Somalia.  @LizJonesSomalia is a recommended follow if you have a Twitter account, and you can read about how @DMReporter used cutting edge satire as a force for good  here.    I did say it would be a tenuous link!

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