"There is a job to be done here, I think, in educating some of the parents..." Linda Foley, Principal, Irlam and Cadishead College
Parents have been venting their fury after Linda Foley, the new Principal of Irlam and Cadishead College, decided to change the curriculum and GSCE options of Year 10 pupils, after they had already chosen their subjects.
In June, the College became part of the Salford Academy Trust, under the tutelage of Salford City Council, Salford College and the University of Salford, and a new principal was appointed to start officially on 1st September.
Despite improving GCSE results, over the summer she chose to change the curriculum to concentrate on fewer subjects. A letter that went out to parents stated: "For year 10 pupils this means some changes to their diet of subjects and options choices..."
The 'changes' have been met with fury, particularly on the Irlam and Cadishead Community Views Facebook site, with dozens of negative comments about the school.
Kate Holland's son wanted to go into media or become an electrician. He chose IT, history, resistant materials and construction, only to be told when he returned to school this week that he was doing geography, art and history...
"How those subjects will help him with his goal I do not have a clue" Kate told the Salford Star "We are fuming with the school. I waited for calls that haven't been returned and I've been into school to be told 'We make the choices for the child's best learning outcomes and to set them up for a bright future of higher education'... What a load of fluff... I am currently in the process of removing him to another school that can cater for his learning needs."
Collette Rose's foster daughter chose to remain in the area when her family moved out, primarily to be with lifelong friends at the school. With a complicated and emotionally draining previous home life, the decision was about stability...
"Weeks before the summer holidays my daughter, who's just gone into Year 10, had made her a conscious effort choosing her options; we read through the booklet and returned the slip" Collette explained "She excels in her work when she's mindset...so she was looking forward to starting her chosen options."
Collette added that when these options were changed she became "disheartened" and "told the head of year that she was just going to be naughty instead..."
Natalie Allanson, expressed the frustrations... "This current Year 10 has had to put up with more changes since Year 7 than any other year group. They are on their third head teacher, they have had more changes to the teaching methods and lessons. High turnover of teaching staff. Now they can't even take the options they want to take..."
The gist of comments from other parents were that the school was 'messing with children's futures', that the options handed to them had nothing to do with their career choice and that the change was more to do with the school tables than its pupils.
The Salford Star had a long chat with Linda Foley this morning and she was adamant that altering the curriculum was in the best interests of the children...
"I'm sorry that it has upset parents" she said "I kind of anticipated that some people would be a bit upset but I am a little bit surprised that there hasn't been more patience. After a day and a half in, you don't expect it. The new timetable is still evolving and parents just have to give it time. We are dealing with cases individually, and what I'm hearing back is that once parents have vented their frustrations and actually sat down and talked about it we're able to resolve it."
Linda, with a background as an OFSTED inspector, an education advisor and, as a head teacher, turning around two failing schools, is convinced that the new, more traditional model will be successful...
"The children came in, I did an assembly and explained we have done this because these options will help you get on any university course or apprenticeship" she said "It's a really good solid curriculum diet, and I know it works because I've implemented this model in other schools, and, as an inspector, I have gone into many outstanding schools, and one of the ways you get to be outstanding is to have an outstanding curriculum. This is my area of expertise, to help children to aspire to whatever they dream to do, and I know that the curriculum we offer students will not disadvantage them in any way.
"There is a job to be done here, I think, in educating some of the parents" she added "One of the parents said to me yesterday, 'My son wants to be a teacher and he is not now able to do childcare'; so I explained that 'What your son needs is good GCSEs, A levels or B-techs to go to university...in order to be a teacher you do not need to study childcare'. Another student said they wanted to work in media and I said 'You don't need to do media studies at GCSE'."
"I think there's a misapprehension that children need a vocational qualification at GCSE; they don't" she insisted "All they need is good results at GCSE."
Linda added that the school's 'passion' subjects like drama, dance, art and music would be protected but "child by child, parent by parent, family by family, I am trying to resolve these issues..."
Indeed, some parents, like Natalie, who have been in to see school staff, have had their children's GCSE options partly restored but there is still confusion over why pupils can't take subjects they are either good at or interested in.
"In this academy, historically the children have really, really not achieved their potential" Linda explained "These are really bright, able children but they have not had perhaps the amount of challenge that there should have been. I'm a professional person. I have made a professional judgement about what is in the best interests of these children; that is my job. And I just need the parents to give us an opportunity.
"I felt it would have been wrong for the children in Year 10 to go ahead with the curriculum they had" she said "When you go into a new school you have to show an impact immediately. People have to realise that if you do what you've always done, you're going to get what you've always got..."