Heads unhappy at scrapping of schools’ excellence scheme
Last updated at 07:57, Friday, 11 September 2009
A SCHEME that is said to have revolutionised education in West Cumbria has been shelved.
Created in 2001, the Government’s West Cumbria Schools Excellence Cluster aimed to demolish barriers to learning in areas known for their social and economic deprivation in Workington, Maryport and Whitehaven.
Headteachers said the scheme was instrumental in improving behaviour, Ofsted reports and raising key stage two standards.
Extra cash was awarded to 15 schools, including Netherhall in Maryport, Southfield Technology College in Workington and primary schools Distington, Beckstone in Harrington, Maryport infants, Westfield in Workington, Ellenborough and Ewanrigg infants and Ewanrigg juniors in Maryport and schools in Whitehaven.
But now the scheme, which employs 19 learning mentors for pupils with issues, will be handled by the county council’s children’s services.
The existing committee of headteachers has been disbanded and while cash has been promised for the next 12 months under a different project, beyond that, no-one knows.
Tina Ellis, Maryport Community Infant School headteacher, said: “The schools involved had additional grant money.
“Although I believe the money went to the schools that most needed it, I think some of the others have felt it was unfair for us to get extra resources. It is a shame because this has been an excellent programme with hugely successful results.”
Netherhall head, David Sibbit said the programme recognised the whole range of factors that affected learning and the cluster had given students “a more robust attitude to learning.”
David Warbrick, head of Beckstone Primary, Harrington, and last chairman of the cluster, said if only one thing could be saved, it had to be the mentors.
“We can deal with everything in our school now - behavioural or learning problems, or difficulties in the home, thanks to the mentors. They have become the most prized and important assets,” he said.
Ex-teacher and Workington MP Tony Cunningham, joined the headteachers for a visit to participating schools in Maryport on Tuesday and said the programme had to continue.
“The excellence cluster has been recognising problems from the time a child is five. The extra funding for new programmes and the learning mentors have helped the children to learn -have given them something to aim for. It is absolutely essential that a programme like this carries on,” he said.
The cluster was an extension of the Government’s Excellence in Cities initiative, which aimed to build on success, improve exam results, pupils' achievements, attendance and participation in activities such as music, art, drama and sport, as well as provide opportunities for cultural enrichment.
First published at 19:32, Thursday, 10 September 2009
Published by http://www.timesandstar.co.uk
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