Another great new idea from Essex

Posted in Apprenticeships, Education, Essex County Council, Industry, Jobs, Training at 2:42 pm by henrysgauntlet

Essex County Council continues to show itself to be a most innovative institution. 

Its latest project is designed both to help young people towards a qualification which will lead to a career path with potential high earnings, and also to help preserve an industry with an ageing workforce, which could lead to its dying out.

The project is the setting up of engineering apprenticeships, in partnership with three Colleges:  Harlow, the Colchester Institute and the Basildon Campus of South Essex College.   There is more about the project here, including an article in today’s Guardian.

Well done to Essex for another great idea.



Not even safe at school

Posted in Education, Law 'n order at 6:44 pm by henrysgauntlet

What kind of a world are we living in now?   Parents send their son to school, and he is badly beaten up, actually in the school building, in the middle of the school day.   No, it wasn’t bullying  –  it was a former pupil who entered the school grounds, and then boldly walked into the building to what is known as a “social area” and assaulted a 14-year-old.   And all of this happened at the new purpose-built Gateway Academy at 10.30 in the morning.

Perhaps 10.30 is the morning break.   If not, why wasn’t the pupil in classes?   If it was break, is there no supervision of the “social areas” and the grounds?

Didn’t anyone see the former pupil as he crossed the grounds and walked to the social area?   Most schools nowadays have a system where teachers wear identity badges, and legitimate visitors wear a Visitor badge.   So, if anyone is on site without a badge, and is not a pupil in school uniform, then it is clear they have no business to be there.

Many Chadwell parents had great doubts about sending their children down the hill to Gateway.   Incidents like this one will worry both Chadwell and Tilbury parents.    Parents do their best to ensure their children are safe on the way to and from school, and keep them safe at home.   Now it seems they can’t rely on the fact that their children will be safe at school.

Apparently the police are investigating, and expect to make an arrest soon.   Heard that one before!!


Three post-16 education centres in Grays – is this overkill?

Posted in Education, Training at 3:53 pm by henrysgauntlet

Happened  to see an advert in the local paper for teaching posts at Palmer’s College in Grays.   They were for Health & Social Care;  Psychology/Health & Social Care;  Business Education;  Business Technology;  Biology/Chemistry;  and Maths.

Now Palmer’s is a Sixth Form College.   It used to be the girls’ grammar school, being part of the Palmer’s Endowed Grammar Schools.   When Thurrock went comprehensive in the early 1970s, they went for 11-16 schools with sixth form education being provided at Palmer’s.   The old boys’ grammar school building was closed, and the girls’ school took 16 year olds from across the borough.   Now it seems to market itself just as Palmer’s College, dropping the Sixth Form from the name.

At the same time, there was the old Thurrock Technical College also in Grays providing non-academic courses for 16-18 year olds, together with adult education and sandwich courses in conjunction with local industry.   Then the “Technical” was dropped, and it became just Thurrock College.   Finally it merged with the failing Basildon College to become Thurrock and Basildon College with sites in Grays and in Basildon.

But over the years the lines have become blurred.   Thurrock College offers both academic and vocational courses, and Palmer’s, as can be seen from the advert, now offers vocational courses as well as its academic remit.   What’s more these two institutions sit opposite each other with just a bit of scrubland between them.

I have always been concerned about this duplication of resources, and now there is further confusion with what is called “Thurrock Learning Campus”, (dear god, how dumbed down is that), which seems to have been set up at Grays Riverside in a collection of container boxes and is supposed to be a state of the art centre for skills training!

So now we have three post-16 education providers in Grays.

Wouldn’t it be better to have either sixth forms at the secondary schools or go back to a dedicated sixth form centre for academic 16-18 education, and then to avoid all this duplication of provision for other post-16 education and training?   That way financial resources and teaching staff could be centred in one place which must make more economic sense.


Chadwell Primary School saved

Posted in Education at 10:00 pm by henrysgauntlet

Excellent news that Thurrock Council has decided not to close Chadwell St Mary Primary School.  

The level of support in the town was tremendous, and a fine campaign was fought.

Now it is up to teachers, pupils and parents to prove that the right decision has been made by working to make the school even better.


Mind your language Mr Sub Editor

Posted in Education, Life, News at 10:02 pm by henrysgauntlet

Was it really necessary for today’s Thurrock Gazette to print its front page main headline as it did?

The story was about two men finding a WWII hand grenade in the front garden of a house in Stanford-le-Hope.   What one of them said when he found it is understandable.   He was obviously shocked.   But did the Gazette need to repeat it in full?   “It looks like a b******* hand grenade!”

The word itself is not particularly bad, and most of us use it from time to time.  

But this newspaper is delivered free of charge to the great majority of households in Thurrock;  to houses where there are young children.  

How can we expect children to speak their own language correctly, and how can we teach them not to swear in public, when headlines like this appear in the main local newspaper.

It’s bad enough when one hears mothers dragging naughty children round supermarkets, addressing them at the top of their voice to “stop f****** doing that”.  Those children learn that this way of speaking is the norm.  

It’s much worse when a respectable newspaper puts language like this into print. 


The University of Thurrock?

Posted in Education at 9:55 pm by henrysgauntlet

Thurrock is not really natural territory for The Guardian newspaper.  Local people have too firm a grip on the realities of life to be taken in by its promotion of fashionable causes and its subservience to radical posturing.

All the same, there are occasionally items in the paper of local interest.  Its Education Supplement last week contained details of the Borough Council’s hopes of creating a university campus in Grays in the foreseeable future.  This would help to raise the proportion of Thurrock University Graduateyoungsters going into higher education.  The Universities of Essex and of East London, along with other bodies, have been drawn in to help.

No one is against getting more of Thurrock’s young or older people into higher education. But the Borough Council’s priority should be to improve the performance of Thurrock’s secondary schools.  Their results are well below the county and national average.  Little progress is being made despite organisational changes which often amount to little more than new names being given to long-standing projects or institutions.

A very high price has been paid for the abolition of our local grammar schools – Palmer’s Boys and Girls’ schools – simply to appease Labour Party prejudices.  They offered a good standard of education for children from a wide range of backgrounds including those on low incomes.  Other local schools like Torells have perished because the LEA failed to support its governors and parents when it could and should have done.

Let us not make the mistake of creating a University of Thurrock before our schools have improved greatly. They are where our resources, our Council Tax payments and the funds available from the Exchequer should be invested.  Coverage in The Guardian may impress left-wing sympathisers but will not help Thurrock’s young people.

Posted by Ol Grumpy




Are the Thurrock exam results good?

Posted in Education at 9:37 pm by henrysgauntlet

You’ve got to be pretty optimistic, (viewing the cup as half full rather than half empty), to regard the latest GCSE results published for Thurrock as being satisfactory.  

Some schools have made an amazing advance, and congratulations to them, but others are still languishing in the low teens as far as five A* to C grades are concerned.   There are amazing differences in one local authority area between 58% and 12%.

In particular, it is necessary to look closely at the new Gateway Academy’s 12%.    Remember that Gateway is made up of pupils who in the past would have gone to St Chad’s in Tilbury and Torells in Little Thurrock/Chadwell St Mary.   Torells managed to get its five A* to C GCSEs up to 26%, but its pupils’ results are now submerged in the Gateway’s figures.

When Torells was forcibly closed in August 2003 against the wishes of the pupils and parents, it was said that the new all-singing, all-dancing school would be open in two years, which I make September 2005.   They hadn’t even started building by then, and the new school still isn’t finished more than two years after that.   So, already nearly four-and-a-half years have gone by.   That fact must have had an effect on the pupils’ achievements.   Little eleven-year-olds from Chadwell having to go down to St Chad’s premises every day, and then, at fourteen, all the pupils from Chadwell and Tilbury back to the old Torells premises for the final two years.   A split campus always causes problems.

The Council’s Leader has said:-

“We have an unrelenting drive to push up standards so our children can reach their true potential.   I would like to thank all school heads and their teaching staff for their efforts and hard work.”

Well, of course, that’s right.   Teachers have a really rough job these days.   Battling against a tide of bureaucratic targets and form-filling, having to try to please OFSTED, and get some education into children despite, quite often, disruption and ill discipline in the classroom.  

Parents are entitled to expect the best for their children, but they have a responsibility, too, to make it clear to them that they go to school to learn, and to insist on good behaviour, hard work, and no bad language.   A calm classroom certainly helps teaching and learning.

Not everyone can shine academically;  they just weren’t born that way.   But they may well be tremendously talented at other things.   If there is a budding Christopher Wren, Michaelangelo or Nicky Clarke stuck in a class where they have no interest in general academic subjects, wouldn’t it be better for them to be in apprenticeships at 14 or studying vocational subjects at college?   They’ll probably end up earning far more and having much more satisfying lives than some young person with a lower second degree who will end up manning the ‘phone in a call centre.