Thursday, May 13, 2010


Skools bak on ahjender!

The people of Swanage - and surrounding area - hath spake!

They want change.

Posted by Anonymous to swanageview at 6:05 PM


Anonymous said...

Well, well. Looks like they have found the input they wanted.

I am surprised that only 635 people bothered to give their views - pro or con - in the whole area. If these figures are accurate, then the Council has a clear majority of respondents in favour of changing over to the new system. All the local buzz gave me the impression that many more were protesting - or supporting - than just 635.

Perhaps once St George was saved, a lot of the wind went out of the whole argument. Good luck to everyone. Perhaps this can be seized upon as an opportunity for something even better.

Anonymous said...

This last consultation was about what would happen with the primary schools - it was NOT about the change to two tier. That had already been decided when DCC ignored public opinion the first time. The paper also did not mention secondary schools.

No one was going to say they didn't want their school to become a primary school because the only alternative was for it to close. Instead most people abstained.

So DCC's press release, which the BBC has printed verbatim, is just more spin.

Anonymous said...

Maybe Dickie 'Plunkett' Drax will use his massive influence (gained over the past week or so) to bring the council around on this issue.

Maybe not. Plonker would probably like to see Swanage return to the days of umpteen little private prep schools to educate our kiddies. Better start saving up them school fees!

Anonymous said...

If it's DCC's press release then I'm wondering about their press officer who said

"The council is going ahead with the plans despite 70% of people saying in a previous consultation that they were against the change from a three-tier to a two-tier system."

When quoting stats I wish people would use them properly as 70% of schools said that they had no problem with going 2 tier.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

"The council is going ahead with the plans despite 70% of people saying in a previous consultation that they were against the change from a three-tier to a two-tier system."

Thats totally at odds with this, in today's Echo:

" Overview committee members received 635 responses in the last wave of consultation, of which 534 were about proposals for Swanage and Langton Matravers.

Two thirds of this 534 were in favour of turning Swanage St Mary’s RC, Swanage First School and St George’s schools into primaries, and move St Mark’s to the middle school site to become a primary."

If two thirds are in favour of the first schools becoming primaries that means they are in favour of two tier. Thats a reversal of the the first quote!

Anonymous said...

"The schools involved will have the right to refer the matter to the Department for Education's national adjudicator."

But, presumably, not the people.

Anonymous said...

1.25 has got it all wrong. Whilst there were private prep schools in Purbeck in past years, there were also junior, grammar and secondary non fee paying schools offering a variable quality of education. I remember them well ! Lets embrace the new system which most people appear happy with based on only 635 respondents.

Anonymous said...

'only 635 respondants'.

Only 635 people in Purbeck could be bothered to keep up with news and to download the form or write a letter.

The rest - too lazy, don't care?

I dunno.

Mind you opinion polls look at about a 1000 people and manage pretty accurately to predict how the whole country will vote, so does it matter that so few responded?

I dunno.

Anonymous said...

Opinion polls ask a random cross-section of a given population, which is why they are more accurate

DCC policy has been to threaten each first school in turn (apart from the blessed St Mark's) and then gauge the level of protest.

Anonymous said...

So DCC in their wisdom, have decided to plough ahead with their decision to export 100's of children daily along the A351, 20 miles to the Purbeck School.

Many people including parents, governors, teachers, community and councillors have continued to meet throughout the past 18 months to try to find a way of working with officers at DCC. This has not been possible.

This group has not necessarily focussed on the 2 v's 3 tier debate but has discussed the wider concerns about the cut in provision of education to local children and the negative economic impact that this may have on Swanage and its villages.

Secondary Education has continued on the (present) Middle School site since 1958. What a waste of a Secondary School built for purpose and a waste of the extensive grounds too. Who can guess as to what this land will be used for in the future.

There are concerns that there will be lack of parental choice.

Whereas in the past there has been a choice of Middle Schools, there will only be the Purbeck School. Few spaces and competition will make it more difficult for those wishing for a Grammar School education for their children. Parents may not be able to afford a Private Education for their children.

It seems that there is no choice for local people other than what DCC has offered.

Thousands of GCSE, A Level, Degree students swarm to Swanage/Studland to study Geology, Geography, Oceanography, Environmental Studies, Languages, Rural Skills, a Sailing School, Outward Bound, Art, Music, quarrying and other vocational studies. Soon there will also be a specialist Science School.
DCC is able to fund wonderful facilities such as Leeson House, Durlston Country Park and other centres of Education, but, it seems, it cannot extend this to the educational needs of the children of Swanage.

There is so much potential for local schools to tap into all of this for its local young people.

What a wasted opportunity.

There will be some that will think that DCC have made a very sensible decision, and that to centralise education is the best thing ever, whilst others will be thinking that this is madness, and that there must be a better way.

As one of the governors recently said, Swanage is concerned about the education of its young people and this extends over and beyond the age of 11. Concerns about funding are paramount to this reorganisation. The plan was not to increase council tax to pay for this, but as there is little funding available, where is the funding for the changes going to come from? New builds and conversions that include extra facilities for the community were proposed. This cannot be achieved on a shoe-string. How will it be paid for?

Anonymous said...

"Few spaces and competition will make it more difficult for those wishing for a Grammar School education for their children. Parents may not be able to afford a Private Education for their children."

Just can't help thinking that that's your main motivation.

Anonymous said...

I wonder why SMS isn't offering a 'grammar school' education to our 11-14 year olds, then? Why would a Swanage secondary school be so much better than Purbeck? Would it not be the same as SMS' in terms of its 'quality', albeit different age range? Education Swanage has never addressed this question. Just how would their school be so good as to offer a 'grammar school' education, whatever that means? Will it be selective? Or is the author of 2.26 being rather over enthusiastic about his/her pipedream?

Look at Christchurch Junior/The Priory School and Twynham School for a two-tier target to aim for. Two tier can produce a first rate local school system, even in areas with a predominantly aging population. Let's get some inspiring leaders in charge of our schools who can drive them forward with energy and vision. Throwing money at it will not necessarily produce better education. A shakeup in goals and direction will. This is sorely needed in our local schools.

Anonymous said...

Many Swanage parents do not desire a grammar school education for their children. They detest the divisive grammar school system and want their children to be educated in a capable comprehensive school which aims for the best outcome for all of its students. They certainly do not desire private education.In many families decisions to locate away from Poole and Bournemouth to Purbeck our comprehensive system has often been a big consideration.

Its high time this educational archaism which lingers in a number of "time capsule" seaside resorts and the county of Kent was consigned to the history books.

I find the argument that grammar schools offer choice utterly without merit. Those who say this must think that when the country had the 11+ system 80% of parents "chose" not to send their children to grammar schools. It was in fact a perfect example of "the system" choosing for them and to maintain otherwise demonstrates an inability to distinguish between the elbow and an entirely different part of the anatomy.

Anonymous said...

Then look at Christchurch as a model. First rate two tier non-selective education there. Wht don't we aim for that here. All it takes is dynamic, talented leadership and parents who are motivated. Can't we have that here?

Anonymous said...

Dorset County Councillor states DCC does not have a good record for consultation processes. The same councillor stated 'the consultation process has been shambolic and a bloody mess', but we have been told we must get on with it ! COC 17.5.10

Another Dorset County Councillor states, there seems to be a wide gap between what the DCC officers, think has been a good consultation process, and the parents, community and Purbeck District Councillors thinking it has been a 'done deal' and close minded from the outset. 24.05.10

The Audit and Scrutiny document 2008 -2009 states that Dorst County Councils aims are to improve the quality of life for people in Dorset and for the future! The Audit and Scrutiny committee is responsibility for making sure that consultation processes are carried out correctly. Today, DCC have stated that they must look into the way that consultation processes are carried out in the future, as they do not seem to have a good record. They say 'consultation processes should take a more holistic approach, that considers not only education but also the impact to communities and the environment'. Not to do this may be contravening their own sustainable and environmental policies and the aims of Agenda 21.

Despite the above comments the process will go ahead.

Where will John Nash, John England and Rick Perry move onto next once all the boxes have been ticked for the Purbeck Pyramid ??

Anonymous said...

Yeah, and it's Councillors who agree to do so.

It's nice to have dissension in the ranks, but if that doesn't change anything. then .....

Anonymous said...

'consultation processes should take a more holistic approach, that considers not only education but also the impact to communities and the environment'

One would hope the whole decision making process would do this, not just the public consultation part.

Anonymous said...

Today I thought the new government had thrown an opportunity to Education Swanage to fulfil its dcream of a new secondary school, and perhaps save some of the primaries.

In today's Queen's Speech, the new, fast-track Academies Bill was rolled out, which will allow locals to create academy school free of local council control. What a triumph over the machinations of DCC and its drive to two-tier at any cost if Swanage took control of its schools as academies!

So I thought: have SMS apply for academy status, and from September 2011 add one more year to the top of the school as children rise up in age, until it is a full fledged secondary school (it is listed as secondary anyway by OFSTED). Perhaps one or more of the primaries could also achieve academy status. Great, I thought, a whole local school system run by locals, free of DCC nonsense.

However, it looks as though there is a snag. To achieve fast-track academy status, a school must be deemed Cat. 1 - Outstanding. SMS in its last OFSTED (2008) was deemed Cat.3 - Satisfactory, So that might prove to be a problem, but is it insurmountable?

OK, Education Swanage, there is your window of opportunity. Will you seize it? It would appear that the Council will do nothing for you. The ball is in your court now.

Anonymous said...

Lets look at this sensibly for a moment. "Swanage" cannot run schools. It is a place not an organisation. Bodies of people run schools. At the moment we have a professional organisation responsible to elected councillors running our schools. Replacing this with a gaggle of self appointed amateurs is a retrograde step.

The government seems to have two aims with the proposed legislation, one is to bail out hard-up private schools by letting them become academies and hence the recipients of money diverted from the LEAs, the second is semi-privatisation of schools with a well heeled middle-class catchment. Since neither of these are particularly honourable we are being treated to a spinning campaign to make it all look good. Swanage Middle is in neither category.

Anonymous said...

Actually we have governing bodies made up of local people running our schools.

I'm not really sure what benefit DCC brings, what couldn't be done by some other body, probably far more efficiently.

All the best things seem to come from the schools themselves, either alone or by working together.

Anonymous said...

In other words, Education Swanage has neither the expertise nor enthusiasm to do this? ES wants a sustainable, 21st century secondary school laid on by DCC?

If that is what you are saying, then any prospect of a secondary school for Swanage is doomed. DCC is neither inclined nor empowered with the funds to do this. It appears to be determined to amalgamate SMS with Purbeck.

Perhaps this is a good thing. If there is not local commitment, then best not to try.

Anonymous said...

I am getting bewildered. Can someone help? The last but onepost says schools are run by governors. The government has said it is keen to free schools from LEA control. If they are in fact run by their governors this control does not exist, if they are so run the governors seem to be in a delusional state. If the governors are in control there is no need to change things.

There is another argument being made to effect that services to schools provided by LEAs could be bought more cheaply. So far I have seem this asserted but no evidence presented. Is there any? Can anyone point to research demonstrating this or is it all puff, guff and empire building by a few vocal and egotistical head teachers?

Anonymous said...

May I comment as a former head teacher?

Governors indeed have enormous power, along with the Head Teacher, in the day to day operations of a school, plus future planning. However, they are subject to a myriad of rules and regulatory powers created by local and national governmental authorities, such as county councils, Department for Education, OFSTED, social services, and so on. One need only subscribe to Croner's Head's Legal Guide to understand just how many regulations and rules exist beyond the authority of the Head and Governors. Governors are, by and large, not educational professionals in its fullest sense, though they bring a range of talents and experiences that can help a school. The buck does NOT stop with the Governors. Does that help? It is confusing.

I am not sure which 'services' you refer to but I do know that there are consortiums which allow bulk provision of supplies to schools; even independent schools and some others may take part in these. Generally speaking, buying in goods and services need not be any more expensive for an academy or an independent school; indeed these may have more latitude to choose to opt into the county consortia, or take bids from the private sector.

I am surprise at the negative tone of many of the posts concerning the possibility of a new secondary school for Swanage. I accept that the County Council has not been encouraging, but the government's initiative may be a way forward. If I were the head of SMS, I would be studying this very carefully, along with my cohorts at Sandford MS and Bovington MS to see whether it could apply to my school. I would in particular see whether opting out of county control under this scheme would allow my school to continue as a middle school academy. I would also work with my fellow heads at Swanage primary schools to see if they would follow suit, as they can achieve academy status under this scheme as well. Swanage schools have an opportunity too reverse the County Council's dictate to go two tier. It seems foolish, in my humble opinion, if this were discarded without serious thought. We shall see.

The main point I would stress is that Swanage schools will have more freedom for self determination, which I would have thought would go a long way toward Education Swanage's goals. It will take a lot of work, effort and determination to achieve. I note that DCC received a lowish number of replies to its consultation (635? for Purbeck) so I do have to question whether we have the desire to role up our collective sleeves and do this. As I said two posts before, if the majority of residents are not particularly interested, it is better to leave well enough alone. But please think carefully first!

Anonymous said...

I should add that, as an academy, the governors will have far, far more power and responsibility in running the school, as the council's authority will be in the main removed.

Many academies look to outside professionals to run their schools. This is without doubt an industry that will grow, and I would expect to see a number of educational authority figure becoming involved in this profession, as we have already seen.

I expect some will think this is wrong and in discord with their views, political and ethical, but it will happen and cannot be stopped by lobbying groups and unions as long as the government supports the concept. After all, academies grew under the last Labour government. This is not a surprising development sprung on the nation by the new government.

Anonymous said...

If you want to get a feel for what Schools have to do then visit

may give you an insight!

ThomasArnoldofRugby said...

Perhaps no longer! Read this disclaimer on the main site:

A new UK Government took office on 11 May. As a result the content on this site may not reflect current Government policy.

All statutory guidance and legislation published on this site continues to reflect the current legal position unless indicated otherwise.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, thanks for that!

Can you remember when a Gov't made things simpler?

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Carl of Education Swanage here. Our attempts to work with DCC have failed, as expected, so we are looking very seriously at the New School model. At the moment the details are sketchy, but we have signed up with the New Schools Network and have been invited by Richard Drax to meet the schools ministers in London.

We want to invite anyone interested in the idea to attend a meeting on 10th June. The venue will be posted soon on our website at where you can also join our mailing list to be kept up to date.

Anonymous said...


With respect, surely Education Swanage should work with our local school heads and governing bodies, and not go it alone with a proposal to create a New School. Only schools can apply for government funded academy status - ES cannot. The ball is in their court now, unless ES plans to fund its New School independently. Are the school heads members of ES advisory committee? Or is ES separate from school heads and governing bodies?

Anonymous said...

The announcement inviting existing schools to become academies is not the same as the one about parents and other groups setting up New Schools and the procedure will be different. ES is just a campaign group set up because DCC wouldn't listen to individual parents worried about secondary education.

There would need to be a school trust with charitable status and a clear set of objectives at some point, to ensure longevity. We are advised that groups should wait before setting up a charity because the new school legislation is still unclear it is legally difficult to change a charity's objectives once set up.There are also many charities and trusts lining up to helps new schools get established.

Of course, ES would want to work with local schools and governing bodies - as well as local businesses and clubs - and we welcome support from any quarter. I am a governor at Swanage First, there are others who have been involved from the start and yet more who are becoming interested.

The point of all this is to create a school for the town of which we can all be proud. Not everyone will want to choose the school for their children and we want to gauge the level of interest and inform the town about the options. Any school would have to be academically successful and financially viable. But it appears the new legislation allows schools to be more flexible in how they achieve this.

We have many questions of our own - and from others - that we want to answer but we want to explore this new option with a realistic yet positive attitude - not the relentlessly negative one adopted by DCC. All the information we get will be put on the website.

Best wishes, Carl

Anonymous said...


Thanks for your post. I wish ES well in this endeavour.

I hope we will hear some views about the academy scheme from our local heads and governing bodies, as this course of action is the most certain way to wrest authority away from DCC and into local hands. While I think ES has a strong view of what it wants to achieve, I do not see if happening financially unless government money is behind it, which probably means academy school status. I may be wrong. I am sorry, but I do not think the people of Swanage are in a position to foot the bill alone. Nor is there any local business or entrepreneur willing to stump up the millions it will cost. I would not count on Drax - Jim Knight was on your side; Drax appears to be on a pretty right wing agenda, and the best he might offer is the academy route. I am sure he would encourage a fee paying school if that is what ES intends, but the days of fee paying schools in Swanage are long over.

Good luck.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the support and we have been very grateful for the help received from all the political parties.

Have checked the latest news and it is now said that free schools are invited to be academies too, which means that they get their money direct from central government and enjoy the same freedoms.

It will be the same money per pupil as now, with a new premium for disadvantaged children. It will also include the percentage that the LEA currently take off the top to pay for its services.

A report on the BBC website with a headteacher in Bath says she will get an extra £400,000 per year (10 per cent of her budget) and the services she gets from her LEA add up to £30,000, so she sees obvious advantages.

As for premises and capital costs, there are ways to find space and raise money, perhaps via charities, and we are starting to investigate options with the New Schools Network, but of course a mystery benefactor wouldn't go amiss.

Anonymous said...


A more immediate question is this:

Now that the new Government has announced a potentially radical and sweeping change to the way its schools are financed and governed (and that County Councils can be taken out of the mix if schools choose to become academies) does this mean that the Council's plans to mandate two tier education in Purbeck is under review, and may be scrapped altogether?

Perhaps this should become a new topic for the forum.

Anonymous said...

DCC know this and are still ploughing ahead.

They would argue that the undersubscribed schools in the west of the district are struggling and that they need the extra money the two extra years will bring. And Purbeck is getting smaller due to these tiny schools and parents choosing elsewhere. It will struggle financially unless it becomes a secondary.

Anonymous said...

I simply cannot understand why DCC are pressing ahead with this misguided reorganisation. However, if we are to accept that a two tier structure will definitely happen and that all four first schools in the Swanage and Langton area will be retained as primary schools then I am seriously concerned for the future of our young people’s education. Losing the now excellent Swanage Middle School is particularly regrettable and, whilst I’ve no doubt that the older (year 7 and 8) pupils will take transferring earlier to the Purbeck School in their stride, there are a number of serious questions and issues that everyone involved should pause to consider, namely:

1. How seriously will our year 5 and 6 pupils be disadvantaged by being kept in small primary schools for two additional years when, if past experience is anything to go by, they have clearly outgrown these schools by the end of year 4. Both St George’s and St Mary’s are particularly restricted sites and there are some contradictions in the St. Mary’s “Don’t Axe Excellence” campaign.

2. How on earth can it make sense for St Mark’s to occupy the excellent Middle School site all on its own?

3. A large number of pupils at St Georges come from Swanage. If St. Mark’s proves to be successful on its new site is there not a risk that numbers at St Georges will decline to the point that it becomes unviable? I hope not.

I would strongly prefer to retain the existing three tier structure but if we can’t then a future with four primary schools in Swanage just simply doesn’t make sense. For the sake of our young people the bunker mentality forged by dubious faith and secular arguments should be put to one side. The Middle School site should be used to provide an inclusive Primary School that children of all backgrounds can benefit from.

Anonymous said...

I share your concerns, having lived through this change in another county.

The simple answer is that a lot of thought and effort will have to be placed into these new schools in order to make them successful to every year and to every pupil. That is not an impossible task.

I agree that small site schools will have less to offer years 5 and 6 pupils, and wonder how this will be sorted.

It will be an interesting time, this transition. A time for all 'pushy parents' to do their stuff!

Anonymous said...

Bunker mentality? Children face a daily onslaught of religious propaganda even at community schools, so it was worth Mount Scar parents fighting back.

But actually it was the Catholic Bishop of Plymouth who bunkered down as he refused to allow DCC's original plan to merge St Mary's with St Mark's, even though it was the best option as both have small sites and are faith schools.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately this is a good example of just the kind of counter-productive position I was referring to in my 9:18 PM post. I think you’ll find that the vast majority of parents who send their kids to the so called faith schools in Swanage are either agnostic or atheist.

Four primary schools with single form entries is nothing short of madness. I really hope I’m proved to be wrong but with the ongoing effects of a reduced birth-rate in Swanage caused by unaffordable housing and low employment opportunities, I really do fear for the future of some of these schools.

Anonymous said...

Has it occurred to you all that the proposed switch to academies is mostly to do with destroying the power of local authorities and concentrating it in the hands of central government. There has been nothing to suggest that the stream of paperwork from County will not simply give way to one from Whitehall despite all the rhetoric about decentralisation. Expect the buck to stop with school management when things go wrong though.

So far the reaction in schools to the proposal has been laughter but if they have to swap slightly out of touch management for totally out of touch national management it may not be so amusing.

Anonymous said...

"Four primary schools with single form entries is nothing short of madness. I really hope I’m proved to be wrong but with the ongoing effects of a reduced birth-rate in Swanage caused by unaffordable housing and low employment opportunities, I really do fear for the future of some of these schools."

It's not madness, it fits the situation rather well. One of those schools is in a neighbouring village, one is out in Herston, two serve the main town. Three out of four are full - there are too many children, not too few. People have campaigned to keep a school near to where they live, what's wrong with that?

If St Mark's loses too many more kids it will have to close, despite the efforts of the planners. Even if it was getting a shiny new building , which it isn't, it wouldn't make up for the fact it is in the wrong place for most parents of small children.

Anonymous said...

That’s more than a little unfair to hide behind anonymity and attack St. Mark’s in this way. As far as I can tell during the Purbeck Review they never for a minute tried to conceal the fact that their best interests as a primary school would be to close and merge (incidentally is a merger a closure?) with another of the first schools on the Middle School site.

I don’t agree that a primary school in Herston would necessarily be in the wrong place. ‘Walk To School Week’ figures reveal that St. Marks has the highest percentage of pupils who live within walking distance of the school and the lowest that are driven to\from school. A number of parents who live in the catchment area exercise their right to parental choice and choose to send their kids to other first schools in the area. Whilst academic standards form one likely reason for this the fact that St Marks serves a socially deprived area is no doubt another reason.

I’m not suggesting that any of the first schools in Swanage are doing less than a good (and in at least once case outstanding) job. Whether they will continue to do the same as primary schools remains to be seen. Year 5 and 6 pupils currently benefit from 3 classes and excellent facilities at Swanage Middle. Don’t future pupils in these years deserve the same opportunity?

Anonymous said...

I think you’ll find that the vast majority of parents who send their kids to the so called faith schools in Swanage are either agnostic or atheist.

Or Pagan !

Anonymous said...

As St Marks has been named in the comments above I feel it should be noted that at their last Ofsted inspection the school received a 'Good' category review.

St Marks Pre-School received an 'Outstanding' review.