SUPER PR (as the Daily Tel’s calls her) Julia Hobsbawm blogs today on William Ellis – the lack of a ‘culture of learning’ at the school makes her hanker for private education. She was at a parents evening at the school in Highgate Road last week and her piece includes the warning that it’s not as desirable as its proximity to Hampstead Heath might suggest. There’s PCSOs on the front door… like every other secondary school in Camden. Julia explains:
It is taking herculean efforts by the governors and teachers to turn itself around but despite the steadily advancing exam results, what is elusive is a “culture of learning”. I am sure that this is one of the ingredients that private schools appear to offer. In spite of the fees, which all but the wealthiest can effortlessly afford, and in spite of the social opprobrium, and in spite of the time and effort required to get in, the private system offers for some an assurance (or the impression of one anyway) that state schools mostly cannot provide: that your child will learn in an environment free from social disruption, free from basic behaviour or literacy being the dominant focus before any actual learning can begin, and for academic excellence to actually thrive. This is the elephant in the room when parents like me send their children to the local state secondary. That is what we want but doubt we will get.
Not the most glowing review for a school which has a long and prestigious history, popular with the sons of writers, ministers and QCs, and so on. Those with long memories will remember former health secretary Patricia Hewitt once got stick for choosing over three secondaries closer to her home. It’s worth remembering that when William Ellis needed help and advice from the council a few years back and rolled up on a ‘satisfactory’ (rather than ‘good’ or ‘excellent’) Ofsted report, the main complaint was about the finances and budgeting at the school, not the teaching. I still get the impression that most parents are happy sending their boys there.