How about protesting about disadvantaged kids’ deal in Brighton and Hove’s schools?

Posted On 20 May 2016 at 11:02 am

The academies debate seems to generate an inordinate amount of discussion and controversy.

But the plight of our most disadvantaged students in Brighton and Hove secondary schools fails to generate so much as a whimper of protest.

In 2015, across the city fewer than three in ten disadvantaged students achieved the benchmark standard of five grades A* to C including English and maths at GCSE. This compared to two out of three of those not in receipt of free school meals.

A staggering gap of over 30 per cent difference between those on free school meals and those not was achieved by Hove Park, Cardinal Newman, Dorothy Stringer, Varndean and Longhill schools.

Under half of disadvantaged students at Cardinal Newman, Varndean, BACA, Longhill and Patcham High made expected progress in maths.

Councillor Andrew Wealls

During discussions at Brighton and Hove City Council regarding the establishment of a new secondary school to ensure there are sufficient places in the city towards the end of the decade, it was pointed out we needed a strategy and skill set to close this gap and to improve our city’s woeful maths performance.

So where did this lead? In 2015 Brighton University was approached by the council to submit a proposal to sponsor a school.

There was no work done to check whether such an arrangement could bring the skills we need to the city to support the education of our most underprivileged children. None at all.

The University of Brighton Academies Trust already runs two schools in Sussex: the Hastings Academy and the St Leonards Academy.

The Hastings Academy has just been judged “requires improvement” by Ofsted. It achieved a dismal 26 per cent five A*to C including English and maths for their disadvantaged pupils while 37 per cent did so at St Leonards. And their performance in maths was just as bad as that in Brighton and Hove.

The last Green administration did nothing to develop a coherent plan for closing the gap. And the Labour administration’s strategy document is little different.

Blatchington Mill School

Blatchington Mill School

However, this time things are marginally more hopeful. Blatchington Mill School – the only secondary school in the city to beat the national average value-added score for disadvantaged pupils – is leading the charge.

There is clearly skill there, and I wish the school and its mission well.

It’s a shame the opportunity to add to their resources by developing a relationship with an academy chain that delivers for disadvantaged children was missed.

I hope, for the sake of all of our city’s young people, but especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds, that the new University of Brighton Academies Trust school will join with the secondary schools initiative spearheaded by Blatchington Mill School to raise secondary standards here in Brighton and Hove.

Andrew Wealls is a councillor for Central Hove on Brighton and Hove City Council and deputy leader of the Conservative group.

  1. Chris Reply

    What’s the criteria for a disadvantaged child compared to a disincentivised one and how do you change the latter? A few years ago, I had the experience of talking to several youngsters who said that when they grew up they were going to collect their benefits like their parents and had no intention of finding a job. The girls intended to get pregnant so they would get housing and money for their kids. This was seen as an entitlement, not as a stop gap which is what the benefits system was originally set up for.

  2. Valerie Paynter Reply

    The ablity to fo well at school depends to a huge extent on home life.

    How does Cllr Wealls (and the system) define disadvantaged? It is not as much about money as we hear.

    Parental discord, lack of respect or expectations for their kids at school, demoralising influences of all kinds, can swamp and fill a child’s life – leaving scant space for fitting in concentration or enjoyment of learning. Homes without books, newspapers or any interest in world affairs do not lead by example or condition a child to find their way forward, through learning, to a future that is a good fit.

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