Thursday, 22 September 2011

Hackney escapes drugs, gangs and EastEnders not Britney and guns

The front page of the Hackney Gazette runs a story about how the Channel 4 drama Top Boy was banned from filming in Hackney.

The paper quotes Hackney's mayor, Jules Pipe, saying it would have been unfair on Hackney folk to have 'their neighbourhood stigmatised on national television as riddled with drugs and gangs.'

But he's not totally averse to stigma and misery. He told the council's newspaper - Hackney Today - that he was "extremely disappointed" that notoriously miserable BBC soap EastEnders (see above) had pulled out of a deal to base its HQ in the Broadcast Centre in Hackney Wick.

Jules said: "If Dr Who can be based in Cardiff and all the sports staff are in Salford, surely the BBC can send EastEnders to the East End." Hackney Today pondered over the reasons why the BBC had pulled out of the deal - apparently it wasn't the noise of aeroplanes.

Meanwhile on Page 3 of the Gazette there's a story about Britney Spears shooting her latest video in Hackney in which she performs an armed robbery and evades the police.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Cardinal Pole replies to coursework falsification claims

Katharine Hartigan, head teacher at Cardinal Pole school in Homerton and the Learning Trust, which runs Hackney's schools, have replied to allegations that staff at the school were asked to falsify coursework last term.

The allegations in the original story were put to the Learning Trust before it was published but Blood and Property only received this short response: “These matters have been looked into and there is no investigation at Cardinal Pole.”

Teachers at the school had passed a vote of no confidence in the head teacher and voted to strike over the issues reported. Also a statement from the NUT suggested that these issues were still being looked into. So the story was not just based on staff room gossip.

The dispute appears to have been sparked by the introduction of an assessment framework for teachers to follow when assessing pupils. Blood and Property will ask for details of this framework and whether other schools in the borough have them too. But thanks to the school and trust for replying.

This is the email from the Learning Trust:

"We are extremely disappointed by this article which questions the professionalism of staff at the school, and casts an unwarranted shadow over the excellent GCSE results of the students this summer.

"Staff were not encouraged to falsify GCSE coursework.

"As part of the drive to raise standards across the school, a new system was introduced for all staff which provided a consistent assessment framework for tracking and assessing pupil progress across the school."

Katharine Hartigan said: "Differing views were expressed regarding the new internal assessment framework and it is disappointing that comments are being taken out of context. I know my teachers are professional enough to disregard any comments which do not meet the very high standards we set ourselves as teachers.

"All matters have been resolved and the governing body, staff and unions are working together to continue to build a strong future for the school."

The Learning Trust said: "This matter has been looked into and no basis for investigation was found”.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Hackney teachers urged to falsify coursework marks, claim

Staff at Cardinal Pole school were urged by email to falsify GCSE coursework marks last term, Blood and Property has been told.

(The school and the trust have provided a response to these allegations)

Also, at a staff meeting attended by the school's head teacher, teachers were allegedly told that doctoring GCSE coursework marks was normal practice elsewhere and schools that didn't do it were "too honest".

This alleged advice sparked a vote of no confidence in the school's head teacher, Katharine Hartigan, as Blood and Property reported on 3 July. At the time the background to the dispute had not been revealed and it was still not public when the Hackney Gazette reported it (page 2, July 14).

The dispute threatened to end in a strike after the school's National Union of Teachers (NUT) representative was suspended - but the school withdrew the suspension.

Then, during the summer holidays, it was revealed that Cardinal Pole had achieved its "best ever" GCSE results.

Blood and Property put the allegations about teachers at Cardinal Pole being urged to doctor coursework results to the Learning Trust and to Hackney Council. They were asked to clarify or correct any of the alleged details in the account here.

The Learning Trust commented on behalf of the school and the council: "These matters have been looked into and there is no investigation at Cardinal Pole."

However a comment from the NUT about the conditions surrounding the suspension and the strike threat suggest that these issues are still being looked into.

In a statement issued in July, the union said: "From September the NUT will have a series of meetings with the head and Diocese of Westminster. These meetings will deal with the range of issues Peter (Domokos) was raising when he was suspended. These meetings will also address the issues which were the subject of the vote of No Confidence in the Head."

The chart below shows the percentage of pupils achieving 5 or more GCSEs at A-C including English and Maths in some of the borough's schools.