Saturday, 29 October 2011

Should you avoid ψηφισάτω (666) on Halloween?

Until this post was written Blood and Property had a symbolically significant number of posts in its archives.

Wikipedia gives some of the background on the source and meaning of 666. However none of it's that scary, at least not in a supernatural kind of way.

But with Halloween impending and Blood and Property sounding like the title of a horror movie it seemed sensible to push past the number of the beast.

It provides an excuse to revisit October 2009 when Blood and Property asked Hackney politicians if they had ever had a brush with the supernatural. Should the operation be repeated?

Back in 2009 several Hackney politicians replied but some have moved on, like the former leader of the Conservative group who had ghost troubles in a property in Stoke Newington.

Now there are lots of new faces on the benches in Hackney Council and their supernatural views remain uncharted meanwhile older hands may have updates. (Today's Financial Times 'exposed' a potential Conservative MEP as a ghost hunter and expert on the paranormal).

So would it be in the borough's best interests to recalibrate the ghost index? Or did Meg Hillier have the right attitude to Blood and Property's idiotic questions?

Latest on Hackney occult

Otherwise Ancient Hackney is keen to address the devil's work in your area. The most recent post (a lengthy piece of research into an advertising campaign for New Age Games on Hackney Downs) contains this reassuring comment: "It never surprises us when we discover occult symbolism contained within government literature, so on seeing The Venus Map... our response amounted to nothing more than a raising of the eyebrows."

Friday, 21 October 2011

Official investigation into Cardinal Pole

The Hackney Gazette has some interesting new stuff on what's going on at Cardinal Pole - there is now an official investigation by independent investigators.

This is unexpected because, on 12 September the Learning Trust, which runs Hackney's schools, told Blood and Property: “These matters have been looked into and there is no investigation at Cardinal Pole.”

According to the Gazette's front page story the Learning Trust "said they supported the governors' decision decision for an investigation this week". The Gazette reported that teachers "claimed they were told to mask results for pupils in years 7 to 9 in order to show Ofsted inspectors that achievements had improved".

Blood and Property tried to work out what was going on at the school over the summer:

In the last story the school's head, Katherine Hartigan, said: "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."

However neither the school nor the Learning Trust have answered any of Blood and Property's requests for details about this "new system" introduced at Cardinal Pole.

If the allegations turn out to be correct the question is whether anyone will follow up the accompanying allegation - that Cardinal Pole is behind the curve and that falsification has been going on at all the other schools?

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Correction: Urswick School stats

Richard Brown, headteacher at Urswick School just called to clear up a couple of problems with the teacher/pupil ratio statistics published in the previous post.

The figures were taken from the Department for Education website and show Urswick has a much higher pupil teacher ratio than other secondary schools in the borough (20 pupils to 1 teacher while at the other end of the scale City Academy and Mossbourne have near 10 pupils per teacher).

But Brown said this was because Urswick is the only school on the list that doesn't have a sixth form (although he said he was consulting about changing that). Sixth form students have different funding and much smaller class sizes of 12 or less which brings down the pupil/teacher ratio for a school.

This means that the teacher pupil ratio provided by the Department for Education will not reflect the situation at GCSE level or lower. Consequently Urswick is one of the few schools in the borough giving a real picture of the pupil teacher ratio at that level.

Brown said that Urswick never has class sizes of more than 25 adding that many of the maths classes were smaller. The school has an annual intake of around 150 which, in other schools, would generally mean 5 classes of 30.

Brown also pointed out that year groups at the school can have very different levels of ability and that this could cause some large fluctuations in the schools performance in terms of GCSE results. Academies do not have the same problem as they use the fair banding system which grades the ability of pupils across the borough into A, B and C ability and a school can take a third of their intake from each band.

All of this means that Hackney parents will have their work cut out for them if they want to assess the schools they are expected to send their children to.

Another moral of the story is that I should check the stats better. I did try. I sent this email to the Learning Trust on 27 September 2011:

"I was hoping to get a comment from the learning trust about the significance - if there is any - of all the borough's academies having average or above teacher:pupil ratios while all non academies have average or below average teacher:pupil ratios."

The request included reference to where the stats had come from and a spreadsheet with all the details and a version of a graphic used to illustrate the differences.

No reply came.

Response time from the Learing Trust had dwindled somewhat following requests for a copy of the "assessment framework" which seemed to cause such an uproar at Cardinal Pole school last term.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Hackney headteacher discusses academies on BBC

Richard Brown, headteacher at The Urswick School (formerly Hackney Parochial) told BBC Radio 4's Beyond Westminster - (still available on iPlayer) that academies have financial advantages and are free to act against the interests of other local schools.

But Brown said he didn't know if he would convert the school to an academy if it gets the required rating from Ofsted in its next inspection.

Brown implied that he would only convert if the school was disadvantaged by remaining in its current status.

He said: "It looks like there are financial advantages but how longterm those advantages are... lets face it, with the economic climate at the moment the cake isn't going to get any bigger, it's how the cake is going to get carved up."

On the ethical front he seemed to balk at the potential disruption that an academy could cause in a local area:

"If I want to expand the number that come to the school I have to go through a process that assesses the impact on other schools in the area. (But) Academies can decide on their own if they want to expand. There is a danger that some schools will suffer as a result of that sort of policy." (The story about Skinners Academy poaching Petchey Academy's maths department shows that academies don't look out for each other either... A third of teachers leave Hackney School)

Another issue he discussed was the "pupil premium" which (I think) is related to whether a child is eligible for free school meals which could add an extra 10% funding per pupil.

He said that this didn't sound as good as it should for Urswick (its got one of the highest rates in Hackney see chart) because cuts elsewhere would outweigh the gains.

Also, an issue that wasn't mentioned in the BBC piece was that Urswick has the highest pupil:teacher ratio - the fewest teachers per pupil as per the chart. This subject was discussed in the most recent edition of the Hackney Citizen.

The data in both charts is from 2010 and from the Department for Education site. Richard Brown's interview is about 14 minutes into the programme which was broadcast on Saturday 1 October 2011.