My old school was in the news recently, for the wrong reasons. It was founded in 1571 and is a “grammar” school, meaning it’s free but supposedly with high academic standards. In my day, it was somewhat “selective”, and I scraped in at age 11 with a “B” (it took me a number of years to mature into the towering intellectual specimen I am now). In more recent years it’s been ultra-selective, and if you want a place you need to do the school’s own entrance exam, and places get awarded on a competitive basis, to the pupils with the highest marks.
The recent controversy related to the school’s policy of kicking out pupils in their final two years, if they were not on track to get an A or B in their ‘A Level’ exams (the school-leaving qualifications). Some of the parents raised a legal challenge, and there was also a fair amount of adverse media coverage. To cut a long story short, the school backed down and changed its policy.
Personally, I enjoy a bit of righteous indignation as much as anyone. I think it was misguided for the school to have adopted that policy in the first place. I can understand that a school may want to maintain its position in the ‘league tables’ of academic results. But to eject students at such a late stage, seems to miss the point of what a school should be about.
It would be easy to leave the story there, on a note of moral outrage. It’s easy to blame other people for getting it “wrong”. However, being in charge of a school like that – whether in the role of headteacher or governor – is probably a pretty thankless task, just like the task of politicians. It can’t be easy, and they must face a multitude of conflicting demands.
This episode confirms my deepest suspicion that most people want to do the right thing. Sometimes how right or wrong something is, only becomes apparent in retrospect, and it takes a different perspective to realise that. In that situation, admitting the mistake and getting back on track is the only thing that matters.
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