Recruitment at NUAST

Hands Off Our Schools has just issued this Press Release:

Press Release 9 January 2016 IMMEDIATE

A campaign group is claiming that recruitment to Nottingham University Academy of Science and Technology (NUAST) is “chaotic”, with low and fluctuating recruitment and a significant drop-out rate, that are putting the school at “serious risk of failure”. Secretary of Nottingham-based ‘Hands Off Our Schools’, Colin Tucker, has obtained details of the numbers of students recruited and retained, via ‘Freedom of Information’ requests.

“These show that the school only managed to recruit 67 students into its Year 10 in September 2014, of whom 14 left during the year; others apparently joined and by the beginning of this academic year (November 2015) there were 61 in that cohort. Recruitment into a school whose buildings weren’t even open might be expected to be poor – but it was even poorer during 2015 and the number in the NEW Year 10 (November 2015) is only 48!” explained Mr Tucker.

He went on, “The drop-out rate in Year 12 – first year Sixth Form – was very high. They started with 35 in September 2014 but by November of this year, that had dwindled to just 19! (in Year 13). All the more surprising, then, that numbers in the current Year 12 are high with 92 students. Recruitment is, frankly, all over the place – it’s chaotic. They clearly don’t know from one year to the next how many students they’re likely to have.” During the first academic year, according to NUAST 6 teaching staff also left. “I’m not clear if this figure includes the Principal, Mr Sohel, who suddenly disappeared in July, just before the end of term,” added Mr Tucker.

The ‘HOOS’ group supports schools that serve and connect to their local communities, and campaigns against forced academisation and so-called ‘free’ schools (NUAST is a hybrid of a new academy and a ‘free’ school). Mr Tucker says they have analysed the figures. “It always seemed likely to us that NUAST would struggle to persuade students to leave their current school at the end of Year 9 and that is borne out by the figures,” he said. “Whereas, students traditionally decide at the end of Year 11, after GCSEs, whether to stay in their current school’s Sixth Form or to go elsewhere, perhaps to a specialist Sixth Form College. On the basis of these figures, we can predict that NUAST – which we think is at serious risk of failure overall – may well end up trying to be a Sixth Form-only institution. In which case, it has failed to carry out its purpose. However, we know from staff and parents of established local Sixth Form colleges, such as Bilborough, that they are under capacity and struggling for funds. We can also see that, in three of its four year groups, NUAST is a long way from viable, and can only keep going with heavy subsidies from the tax-payer. ‘HOOS’ has consistently said that the money lavished on NUAST – the original building alone cost £10 million – could have been spent far more efficiently on enhancing facilities and teaching at existing schools.”



Better value?

You’ll be familiar with the ‘free school’ that opened recently, cost £18 million but only attracted 17 pupils. A report from the Liverpool Echo details a similar level of funding for the rebuild of a large voluntary-aided school in Liverpool (it’s a sports college but as far as I can establish, it’s not an academy), but that funding came not from the government but the local authority. Silly question, but which would voters think was better value for their hard-earned taxes? So, a stark piece of evidence of the Coalition’s priorities.

A visit to the Nottingham Free School website

Now that they’ve finally got a building, and it looks increasingly likely that NFS will be able to open in some form or other in September, we need to monitor their progress,  since nobody else will (remember, a ‘free school’ is only answerable to the DfE in London).

The first thing that strikes you when you click through the site is the photos, for, as any good PR person knows, a picture paints a thousand words. The images in the main are of happy, earnest children in the NFS uniform (a very practical light grey with light blue piping which screams ‘private school’) but, since there are currently no NFS pupils, who are the children in the pictures? Were they volunteers or paid  models?

There are a few members of staff – the Executive Headteacher, an anonymous ‘science teacher’ and a caring ‘pastoral’ teacher – and, again, one wonders who the latter two actually are.

And, what about the settings? Since these pictures have been up for a while, presumably none was taken in or around the Courtaulds building so, where is that science lesson taking place, where is the library and where are the leafy environs where the children are happily playing?

Of course, we are not accusing Torch of trying  to mislead by these staged pictures of pupils who are not pupils of NFS in surroundings that are not NFS. It’s just ‘artistic licence’, of course, which is nowhere in greater evidence than in the picture of the Courtaulds building, shown in classy black and white and, what’s this, they’ve already put up the Torch logo and NFS name above the door? Well, no, as they admit on their Facebook page, somebody’s been hard at work with Photoshop!

If you want to have a browse, here’s the link:

and, just to give yourself an incentive, see if you can find the inaccurate use of the word “complimented”. . (Picky? Well, they’re the ones who claim they’ll be an ‘excellent’ school – always check your work, we say!)

Nottingham Free School announces site

After months of silence (the website hadn’t been updated since the end of November), ‘Torch’ has finally revealed the site for the NFS, which will be the Courtaulds building on Haydn Road. The Group now has less than six months to turn part of this building into a proper school with not just well-equipped classrooms, complete with interactive white-boards and so on, but also specialist teaching rooms : Science laboratories, Technology workshops, kitchens (for teaching), a gym. And what about outdoor sports facilities?

We know that money will be no object, as Michael Gove will be keen to fund this start-up, the first in Nottingham, but time is short. What will parents who have signed up and been very patient, make of the location? How soon before they can actually have a look inside: will they be happy with the resources available to teach their children? What will the children themselves make of it?

Finally, given that other offices will continue within the same building, are there ‘safeguarding’ issues to think about?

We maintain our position that, wherever the NFS is located and however well it is resourced, this is an unnecessary development that is costing tax-payers money that would have been better spent on existing schools.

The Nottingham ‘Free’ School: the debate hots up

Here is the text of a letter which, in edited form, appeared in the Nottingham Post, Monday 23 June (text in italics did not appear in the newspaper):

“I feel I must respond to Cllr Philip Owen’s letter (‘Free schools will raise educational standards’, 15 June). I’m no apologist for Labour so I’ll let Cllr John Peck defend its record and his remarks, but Cllr Owen’s comments about ‘free schools’ must be challenged.

Where is the evidence of the “enthusiastic support” for the ‘Nottingham Free School’ which, according to him, is the only reason this ‘virtual school’ (it currently only exists on-line) is about to spring into the real world? These parents, currently clamouring to be allowed a free school are, apparently, dissatisfied with existing  provision, which will surprise the many good schools in the Sherwood area where, it is rumoured, this school will be sited. If these schools  are so poor, maybe any available resources should go into improving them rather than starting from scratch in a hastily refurbished derelict building somewhere (remember, they’ve got just over a year to conjure up a fully-functioning school from thin air).

Free schools are “influential in driving up standards”, claims Cllr Owen: tell that to the parents of children at The Discovery (free) school in West Sussex, just rated ‘inadequate’ by OFSTED. As for offering greater choice, in my experience what parents want is a good local school they feel happy to send their children to. 

In any case, looking at the ‘Nottingham Free School’ website, I can’t find very much in their ‘offer’ that’s different from any other school, apart from an option to do Latin and LAMDA public speaking exams. Even then, don’t expect them to keep to that ‘offer’ since they are still apparently planning to share resources and staff with their ‘sister’ school, the ‘Trent Bridge Free School’: they don’t seem to have noticed that the Department for Education and Science turned down the TBFS application! They, like Cllr Owen, need to keep up with what people actually want and what is happening in the real world, not indulge in some ideological fantasy.

Colin Tucker”

More ‘free school’ free-for-all

The country’s best known elite private school, Eton, is to be the ‘education sponsor’ of a new ‘free school’ in a move that further blurs the distinction between state and private education. Holyport College, to be set up near Maidenhead in Berkshire, not that far from Eton, will have about 50-50  fee-paying boarders (£9000 – £12000 per year) and non-paying ‘day’ pupils. It will, apparently, be non-selective but the lure of the Eton name and the quasi-private ethos created by the ‘paying guests’ will probably mean it is very popular amongst certain sections of the local populace. Continue reading