IT was interesting, predictable even, that the issue of ‘narrowing the education gap’ in Solihull was given only a couple of hundred miserable lines in the Solihull News.
In my experience, this reflects the low priority given to the matter by Solihull MBC .
The issue of educational outcomes in North Solihull is complex and deep seated. Anyone who reads the Save the Children article will see that it calls upon national politicians to take action in the run up to the election. While Solihull’s own capacity for supporting its most challenged secondary schools has never been particularly impressive, it is the iniquity of funding from central governments of both colours that has made it so difficult for council and school leaders to ‘narrow the gap’.
While many of the students in Solihull’s northern schools live in postcodes which share the same socio-economic disadvantages as Birmingham families, their schools are funded at virtually the same levels as schools in the highly favoured south of the borough.
A previous director of education in Solihull described students in these schools to me as ‘having five good GCSEs stamped on their foreheads’ before they even start school.
Two years ago, I calculated that if my own school was moved less than two miles down the road towards Birmingham, my budget would have been increased by nearly £700K every year. Give that to every secondary school in North Solihull – then you would see the gap narrowing.
What people don’t want to see, I’m sure, is the kind of ‘quick fix’ school ‘improvement’ many feel forced into in the current climate which is hostile to struggling schools. In the main, this relies on ‘turning schools round’ by entering more students for exams in which GCSE higher grade equivalence is easier to achieve.
This is where most spectacular looking improvements are coming from these days; they are seized upon by politicians who use them to claim credit for things that haven’t actually happened. Deep rooted, sustainable improvement is harder and takes longer to measure.
Solihull Council’s commitment to securing Regeneration Funding from Central Government is to be applauded. However, its strategy of trying to give away its newly built northern schools as academies may be less worthy.
So relax Ken (Council Leader Ken Meeson). Soon, even the Save the Children Fund will be unable to point the finger at our council. They will have absolved themselves of any responsibility for the education of children in North Solihull. Problem solved.
By the way, along the way to Academyland, the council will have seen the closure of two school swimming pools in Chelmsley Wood. What does this say about the council’s commitment to supporting its most socially deprived children?
Mike Corrigan, Stonebow Avenue
Open your eyes
In response to Peter Kennedy’s letter “Facts Please” (Letters), I was a little surprised that he has had to write to your newspaper about the pay for senior council staff as the information has been readily available on our website for some time.
To assist, perhaps I could direct him to the information he seeks via the following link: http://www.solihull.gov.uk/democracy/21662.htm which sets out the salary ranges for the Council’s top earning employees for the financial year 2009/10.
This information will be updated in May following the annual routine review of chief officers’ pay when readers will be able to see both the pay bandings and the actual salaries for the new financial year 2010/11, along with contextual information about the various job roles and responsibilities.
£1 a dive
ARE you aware that Simon James, manager of Tudor Grange Leisure Centre has introduced a £1 charge to use the diving board?
My son and his friend have just returned from the baths. When they went to use the board they were refused by the lifeguard as they didn’t have a band which apparently you purchase at reception (although there was no sign to say so).
I phoned the centre and spoke to a member of staff who confirmed that Mr James had decided to trial this charge over Easter and then see what feedback he gets!
I asked if this is a council decision, he advised no, that it was purely a “money making scheme”.
M McCorry, via e-mail
THE March edition of the Solihull Ratepayers Association’s newsletter includes the claim that the town’s mayor, Councillor Norman Davies, voted to remove hanging baskets and flower beds across the borough. This is blatantly untrue: the Mayor abstains on such issues and this was no exception. Is it too much to expect an apology?