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ESF - English Schools Foundation

All parties have a responsibility to help resolve ESF's issues

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 21 December, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 21 December, 2002, 12:00am

As the lone voice of dissent at the recent ESF Foundation meeting I should explain my position and that of many less vocal but highly concerned parents.

I have read the Ofsted report on Beacon Hill School and discussed it with a number of people. My questions stemmed in part from my astonishment that no one seemed to have tabled a question about the issue, something that could easily have led to the ESF being accused of sweeping it under the carpet, which none of us would have benefited from in the long term.

Whether the criticisms in it are valid or not, they were of sufficient concern for principal Robert Lyden and ESF primary education officer David Coles to resign. The fact two such senior people resigned suggests that the concern within the ESF is probably real and perhaps justified.

The loss of Mr Coles suggests the problems may be more widespread. At the foundation meeting I was assured that the system for monitoring schools was being revised to ensure proper standards are maintained and that children achieve their potential.

But we must avoid using these two people as scapegoats. If there are systemic problems they need to be addressed. It cannot, as has been shown by this episode, be left purely to the ESF and individual schools to put their houses in order, hence the use of outside scrutiny from organisations like Ofsted.

Parents should be kept firmly in the picture. They provide the bulk of the ESF's funding and contribute financially and educationally through PTAs and educational assistance programmes. The flip side is that parents will get what they deserve if they don't stand up and ask the hard questions, leading the system to assume that what it offers is good enough.

Things can only improve if we examine honestly where we have gone wrong and where we can make changes.

That said, the vast majority of the ESF teachers and administrators I know are highly professional, motivated and sensitive people who deserve our support. And although I may not have always agreed with Jennifer Wisker's view or methods I believe her to have been an honest, highly skilled professional and effective CEO for the ESF. I hope that nothing I have said detracts from the tributes paid to her, all of which she richly deserves.

NICK BILCLIFFE

Lamma Island