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Specialist school status has popularity

PUBLISHED: 17:12 25 June 2002 | UPDATED: 12:08 03 March 2010

HADLEIGH and Holbrook high schools are applying for Specialist School status in what is becoming an increasingly popular option.

Rural high schools are seeing the scheme as a way to attract extra money and resources, according to two head teachers.

HADLEIGH and Holbrook high schools are applying for Specialist School status in what is becoming an increasingly popular option.

Rural high schools are seeing the scheme as a way to attract extra money and resources, according to two head teachers.

Holbrook is applying for the status in maths and computing while science is the subject at Hadleigh.

Jenny Lee, Holbrook's head teacher said the decision had been taken to help improve resources in the two subjects where they felt the school had a slight weakness, but also to attract more money.

She said small rural high schools often did not have access to special funds the Government had made available to urban schools but had to exist on the per capita allowances.

This was even more of a problem for rural primary schools, she said, where it was even more difficult to provide specialist subject teaching or keep up to date with expensive IT equipment.

Until the start of this month under DfES rules all schools had to raise £50,000 before they could make a bid.

However, now the rules have been changed for those schools with fewer than 500 students, and intending to make bids either next October or in January 2003. Now the smaller schools have to raise £20,000.

Under the rules the school has to raise at least 50% of this money by attracting donations from outside. No more than 50 per cent of the money can be raised by school-based fund raising events.

So the first step is to approach businesses for donations or sponsorship.

If they succeed and if their bid is accepted, the school will then get £100,000 to add to the money they have raised towards capital costs (buildings and equipment) then for the next four years it will get £123 per child extra funding – a total of around £60,000 in Holbrook's case, with a roll of 500 pupils. The school is hoping to have the £20,000 in time to make a bid in October.

A further condition of such bids, said Ms Lee, was that 40pc of the resulting resource has to be put into the local community.

She said the school would be creating closer links to provide specialist help for its pyramid primary schools, but was also thinking in terms of an internet café and computing lessons to be available for surrounding residents.

Ian Carrington, head teacher at Hadleigh High School, echoed Ms Lee's frustration at the lack of extra funding for small rural high schools, while accepting the need for the help urban schools were given.

He said: "You do miss out on a number of Government-funded initiatives which urban schools are able to tap into, like Excellence in Cities and Education Action Zones."

With around 700 pupils, Hadleigh will have to raise £50,000 before it can make a bid.

Mr Carrington pointed out that many parents had a misconception that going for Special status in a named subject meant that pupils missed out on good teaching in other areas.

He said: "It will clearly give us some improved facilities and will fund curriculum development, for example offering three separate science subjects at GCSE for some students and more applied science subjects for others, but it will also fund curriculum development in other subjects linked with science like food technology, history (of medicine) and geography.

"The other knock-on effect is that the money we invest in science through this will release other money to be invested across the board in other subjects."

Hadleigh has held a meeting with parents to explain its proposal and one or two have queried why the school did not go for a sixth form.

He said: "The school is not big enough to generate sufficient children for a viable sixth form in Hadleigh because the range and combination of subjects that post 16 providers as expected to put on now is too vast for a school of this size."

Hadleigh is aiming to make its bid in January 2003.

East Bergholt High School is also considering bidding for special status.

A spokeswoman for the school said: "As a beacon school we are committed to exploring every opportunity to enhance the education of all our students."

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