Newcastle Royal Grammar School head rejects academies sponsor calls

THE headteacher of one of the region’s top private schools has rejected Government calls to sponsor state academies.

Royal Grammar School, Bernard Trafford

THE headteacher of one of the region’s top private schools has rejected Government calls to sponsor state academies.

The Department for Education is keen for independent schools to become sponsors for secondaries converting to academy status, with the hope that their academic excellence will transfer across to struggling schools.

But Bernard Trafford, head at Royal Grammar School (RGS) in Newcastle, said private schools like his did not have the money to spend on state schools and also were not well suited to help children in struggling communities.

He told the Journal: “Every penny we get in fees goes towards our students’ education and we don’t have pots of cash left over.

“If that was the case, we would be short-changing our pupils and their parents who expect the highest standard of care from us.

“I don’t know what the Government thinks we do with our money, but we make sure it goes into providing the best education possible.

“We have projects we want to do at RGS that need funding, too. We would like to refurbish our library in time, but like every school, we have to budget for it and only tackle it when we can afford it.

“We work like fury to raise funds for bursaries. What can I tell a head in a school in a disadvantaged area?

“I can tell them about never bending on high expectations. But in an area where there are three generations without jobs and where they have no concept of a working household, what have I got to tell them?

“In my school, the parents are totally signed up to education. It would just be arrogant.”

Dr Trafford is one of 35 education experts from the UK and abroad to have contributed to a new report on the future of schooling in the UK.

Education Britain has been published by the Education Foundation, a new think-tank made up of some of the world’s leading educational thinkers. The paper explores pupil aspiration, academic versus vocational learning, the role of teachers and parents, the examination system, as well as looking at how schools are inspected.

In the report, Dr Trafford says: “Education must equip all young people with skills and aptitudes not only for employment but also for enjoyment of their families and their leisure.

“Many jobs are humdrum but necessary, so future citizens must be able to explore active interests, in order to live fulfilling lives. Even in an entirely routine job, they must be equipped to make the most of human interaction with colleagues or customers.

“The system must not place arbitrary barriers in the way of children, put pressure on them or force them into niches in society or the economy.

“It must open doors, and support and encourage them to pass through and benefit from what they find on the other side.

“No one can be good at everything: systems should not give young people the impression that they can be or raise false hopes.

“Teachers should not encourage them to follow courses when they know they will be unable to complete them satisfactorily: nor to work for qualifications that have no currency in the world of work.”

The Education Foundation is calling for reform due to the gap in attainment between pupils from poorer backgrounds and those from more affluent families, which is wider in Britain than in Germany, the US and Australia.

Dr Trafford has been head at RGS since 2008 and regular writes for education papers, particularly focusing on leadership, creativity, personal development, democracy and children’s rights. He also writes a regular column for The Journal.

What can I tell a head in a disadvantaged area? ... about never bending on high expectations


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