When I was at the school a couple of days ago, the Head showed me a letter he had received from a bus driver. About a dozen buses have come to the school every day (this has now risen to twenty-two, as I’ll explain) bringing pupils from the outlying villages – within a school’s catchment area, if a student lives more than three miles (I think it is) from the school then he/she is entitled to free transport. In addition, we have some pupils from out of catchment and they either catch a regular bus or come in one the school has laid on.
The Local Authority put the bus contract out to tender and took the cheapest bid and that means a change of contract, which is a pity as the previous firm had done the job for years and were very good. This bus driver wrote to say how well-behaved his passengers had been, never rowdy or rude and it shows what a good school this must be and he’ll miss driving our route. And then I was in school yesterday and a teacher, who retired last year but still does a bit of part-time work and joined a geography field trip last week as minibus driver, gave me a letter saying how well-organised and executed that was. “It makes me wish I was just starting” – as a teacher at the school, that is.
The changeover that has been in preparation for the last four years has finally taken place and the school now takes pupils from Year 6 – that is, from age 11, although the youngest children who have now joined us are still 10 years old – it was decided that it would be less nerve-wracking for the children if they came now rather than at the start of a new school year, and it would also give the school time to iron out any little problems thrown up. The Middle Schools have closed, apart from the few pupils who are joining the new Free Schools in September (one of them has an uptake of 37 rather than the 120 they said would flock to them – rumour has it that they’re being funded for the first year as if they were full, but I don’t know if that’s true) and we have several hundred very small but cheerful youngsters holding maps of the school and looking puzzled. After lunch, I was on my way back to the exit when I was asked for directions and spent the next few minutes pointing out the new second Music room, formerly the Careers room. “How are you doing?” I asked a teacher friend. “Fine,” she said, “but the voices are all so squeaky! And they’re so small, I hope I don’t trip over them.”
For next term, we will be altering the car park at the front of the school to allow for the extra buses bringing in these younger pupils (and we do have high demand from out of catchment, whence we draw nearly a third of our students). And yes, it does mean that we’re now a very large school, 1,350 pupils instead of just under 1,000. But we have made preparations for that and I daresay I’ll tell you about that another day.
It’s splendid that school governors have finally been given the Gove tongue-lashing. We were feeling so left out. Now that it’s clear that we local worthies are in it for our own ends, to feed our egos and discuss trivia, we feel – well, we feel proud. We’ll still carry on as normal of course, claiming no expenses even when we’re entitled to, taking time off work, unpaid in some instances, to do our duties, helping to draft innumerable policy documents as required by the government and being interviewed by Ofsted who will judge our management skills. But we’ll do it with a new spring in our step.
Oh, I did receive a benefit in kind yesterday. I had a school lunch (vegetable curry, salad and apple crumble) and I didn’t pay.