Friday, 16 March 2018

Permanent Deficit

After reports that the number of state secondary schools spending more than their income in England has almost tripled in the last four years, to more than a quarter (26.1%), you have to start wondering... what is really going on?

It might be malice, it might be apathy, it might be incompetence - whatever it is, it's bad news for schools, and worse news for students. It really is quite obvious that not having enough money is a bad thing. But this is the new normal. Save Our Schools, Save Our Schools, the constant chorus on a muted TV screen... occupants of the house elsewhere...

Maybe we just have to get used to it. Maybe its all that's on offer. But it doesn't really end there - in a world where it was as proof-positive that nothing is possible and things only ever get worse, we could at least put on a brave face, pretend that we are used to it, like a cold chill. Nope - you're not even allowed the pleasure of being unhappy. Always Positivity, Always Improvement, Always a Growth Mindset. The School/Company/Country needs it!

If you're a student, you can spend five years watching Management piss away cash in pointless ventures that only serve the figures or their egos. That is  — Rights Respecting, Bins, Banners, Adverts. But nobody wins anything when the school puts up another award. If it wasn't obvious enough: their interests are not our interests. Even though there are budget cuts that Management cannot really prevent, there is no one else to blame for their often irresponsible and unnecessary spending.

If you're a student who needs support with disabilities or English as a 2nd language, then you can just get lost. See when a school has to make cuts, support staff are often the first to go. I really hope I don't have to explain why that is worrying. We are not all affected by the budget cuts in the same way. We are not in this together. Not only worrying though I suppose - it's just what happens.

This is just what happens. A permanent deficit, sustained precarity, we're always on the edge of complete and total failure. Just thank our lucky stars we don't live in one of the poor countries. Just do what is expected.

DISCLAIMER: This is a critical article, and so is comprised of the opinions of the author.

Thursday, 1 March 2018

Hampstead School Remains Open

Hampstead School remains open - after all, a day off from the misery and utter boredom would be far too kind. And what better way to boast of this fact than in a news-but-not-actually-news post via the school's website, with a picture from roughly 5 years ago to boot?

Of course boasting has never been anything Management could resist. Maybe some unscrupulous tricksters would endeavor to deceive their parents with gleeful suggestions that "Oh Mother, Father, it seems the School is closed in the wake of all this dreadful weather", but its doubtful that parents would simply assume that Hampstead is closed without being explicitly told that it is. The "news" appears even more dubious when you look at its pseudo-defiant phrasing (MINISTRY OF WAR REMAINS IN ACTION?) and explicit reference to "Hampstead School". UCS (the private school just round the back of Hampstead) are hardly going to start making press releases via Hampstead's website now are they? Besides, there are only so many schools whose buildings are marred by permanently docked oval alien spaceships in the Greater London Area.

As to the contents of this "news" story themselves, a PDF giving "Guidance for Students and Parents/Carers in Case of Snow" is included, with it a rather curious concern for student safety that seems to go amiss when they send students home for uniform violations:

As the Trash has reported, Management frankly appear unconcerned with how a student gets home when they haven't got a tie or a blazer, or when they're wearing something not quite right in the School's eyes. Coupled with a willfully used out of date picture (Hampstead no longer has a pond or a front sports cage...), an usually absent display of concern for student safety when they are dismissed at non-standard times, all in the context of a boastfully framed  non-news item (perhaps it would be more informative and less boastful were it titled "Information in Case of Snow Closure"?), it looks like we've got yet another case of the disingenuous marketing experiments Management never seems to tire of. Wake up and smell the coffee - nobody's buying what you're selling.

Friday, 9 February 2018

EXCLUSIVE Governors Woolly-Eyed over AS Subject Dropping

Frequent readers of the Trash will be aware of 2015's shocking revelations that the school had, on a particular day weeks from exams, publicly shamed failing AS students in an assembly, telling them that they would have to drop a subject that day – without a word to parents – in an effort to push up the school’s overall results. In the Governors’ Minutes for March 2015 seen by the Trash, the matter was addressed.

Evidently some of those frequent Trash readers are Governors themselves. Put using the most passive language possible, so as to exempt themselves from having to mention this blog, the minutes stated “Information which had come to the governors [sic] attention about a special assembly being held at which 56% of Sixth Form students have been told they had to drop a subject.” First of all, ‘special assembly’ is putting it lightly; school-wide cull might be more accurate. Especially given that ‘56%’ – or over half of all students sitting AS at Hampstead – were affected. That means that in at least one subject, more Year 12 students were failing than not failing.

This is a sharp departure from the earlier remarks that “Governors noted the positive results prediction”; positive, no doubt, because the school had forcibly purged all the possible bad results in some Stalin-esque pogrom rather than let students – and their legal guardians who were erstwhile unaware – choose their own education, of which the school has no part in.

Of course, despite sources for the Trash actually being there in the assembly, a kindly member of SLT “explained that the information in question was not as highlighted.” Do the statistics lie? Are you saying that students were misinformed by staff in that most ‘special’ of occasions?

“Students who were operating at the D- range and doing 4 subjects, one of which was a GCSE subject were asked to drop a subject. Likewise students who were doing 4 A level subjects and working to the required standard were also asked to drop a subject.” Ignoring the lack of commas that make either of those sentences grammatically correct, let’s unpick them a little. First and foremost, it is misleading to say that students were ‘asked’ to drop a subject; ‘asked’ implies a sense of choice in the matter. Instead students in the assembly at the time were reported to be told categorically that those on the list at the front of the fateful assembly would be dropping a subject that day. Sounds awfully like the school are misinforming their own governors. Secondly, the claims espoused that students had to be taking four subjects to be in danger is false; students taking only three subjects already were also asked to drop a subject. When one student asked a member of the sixth form team about how this would mean, with only two subjects, they wouldn’t be able to get into university, the staff replied – and at this point I am paraphrasing – that they would just have to deal with it. So much for bright futures. Thirdly, if you are a student ‘working to the required standard’ you should not be forced to drop a subject; you are doing exactly what is required of you. You shouldn’t, as the above quote confesses, have to ‘drop a subject’. Since when did achieving become a sin?

Despite these two aching faults in the school’s report to governors, there is a further one which, highlighted then and again now, is this: it is not the school’s place. The school has no power to stop students from sitting exams for anything other than behaviour. If a student wants to fail a subject, the school must grit their teeth and let them, regardless of its effect on the league tables. The school has only the power to advise students. The school misled parents by not informing them of these changes (as they have a responsibility to do; in loco parentis only extends to looking after a student’s wellbeing, not forcing them into a decision) and the students by thinking they had the self-entitlement and power to meddle so deeply. Regardless of how many subjects or what level or how badly students were failing, the simple fact is all of this is moot; the measures shouldn’t have been taken in the first place over anyone.


The school seems to have a strange view of what is an efficient use of public funds, in fact, some would say such use errs of the egotistic. Talking over the progress of the school, the Head – in his report to governors for last year (2015) seen by the Trash – tells of the extensive, exhaustive and, more importantly, expensive advertising campaign waged for the comprehensive.

In the aforementioned document, the Head states that the (then) “new website is just one aspect of the school’s continued marketing and publicity campaign which also included newspaper and magazine adverts, editorials, large displays at 7 designated bus stops as well as direct mailings to households, primary schools, libraries and local estate agents.” We have already detailed in articles exactly how much various of the listed cost the school each time they are used, and cumulatively it would not surprise if the total annual expenditure on advertising for Hampstead School is well over £20,000.

He then goes on to boast rather proudly that “We are full for September with a record waiting list of over 100 families for Year 7”, making the necessity for that costly advertising questionable. Some might argue that such an over-subscription is due to the advertising, thus justifying it. A rather vacuous view of parental decisions, and one that may be true for private schools, but as Hampstead is – despite the best efforts of the SLT – not a private school, it gets prescribed students by the local education authority rather than having the ability to select students, and so will have students signed up to attend advertisement or not. The problem of over-subscription is one recognised by local councils, and is motivated by a deficit of school places (due to a lack of schools) in the area, not necessarily a readiness to attend Hampstead specifically.

Advertising is an activity that isn’t confined to the school Management; pressing the skill of spin onto students seems to be occurring as well. Speaking on ‘Computing Week’ which, unsurprisingly, we have no recollection of, the Head said “the entire school engaged in Computing based activities ranging from creating an app to developing an advertising campaign for Microsoft Windows 10”, an operating system that the school doesn’t have even though it is a free upgrade.

Friday, 2 February 2018

Cooking with Caterlink: Brexit Surprise

Sometimes it's good to see just how far you can push the definition of "food". We hope our Brexit Surprise helps you do just that.

Preparation time

Cooking Time                       Serves
Forever at this rate.              A self-interested political elite.

52% Purity Pink Slime
Chernobyl Cherry Flavour Fortified Boost
Solid Meat Substitute
Liquid Meat Substitute
Gentrificatiôn Brand Pie Base

Decades of Resentment


1.Mix the egg and the pink slime using that weird food processor you've always been told not to touch.

2. Strain the resulting mixture up to three times.

3. Add salt to taste.

4. Boil the solid meat substitute in the liquid meat substitute.

5. Laugh at how Caterlink is still getting paid to serve up this sort of crap.

6. Resume your serious work with an equally serious expression — a chef must never smile.

7. Keep boiling the solid meat substitute in the liquid meat substitute.

8. Make odd and creepy remarks and noises about the juiciness of the meat.

9. Keep boiling the solid meat substitute in the liquid meat substitute.

10. Okay that's enough —  stop boiling the solid meat substitute in the liquid meat substitute.

11. Add salt to taste.

12. Put the pie stuff on the pie base(???)

13. Use the fortified Boost however you want — I'm not here to tell you what to do.

14. Serve to hungry proles.

15. Hold up carrot and say "Oh this? I never quite got round to using it. Funny how things like that work out."

DISCLAIMER: This article is a spoof, and is in no way endorsed by, approved of by, affiliated with, formally or otherwise, Caterlink.

Thursday, 1 February 2018

The Big Leagues

According to the latest School League Tables, Hamsptead's Sixth Form is ranked highest in Camden for progress, with the Lower School ranking as average.

Although Hampstead's A Level Results for 2017 were an improvement on 2014, 2015 and 2016's results, they were largely worse than, or merely equal to, 2013's A Level results, as The Trash reported here. Although League Tables give Hampstead's Sixth Form a favorable position when ranked by progress, the superficiality of ranking in this way becomes apparent when attainment across all Camden Sixth Forms is taken into consideration:

Hampstead's AAB + attainment is half the 4th ranked (in terms of AAB + attainment), a quarter of the third, a sixth of the first and second Sixth Forms. Furthermore, the average A Level Grade at Hampstead is a C, whereas one other school in Camden has a B+ average, and two have A- averages.

Unlike the Sixth Form however, Hampstead only ranks as average for progress as a Secondary School, suggesting that whatever resources and effort are going into the Sixth Form are not equally being put into the Lower School, which is undoubtedly serious cause for concern. 

While The Trash is frequently opposed to the obsessive preoccupation with statistical measures and League Tables that increasingly defines Education, we engage with statistics to show precisely how deceptive and illusory they can be when taken at face value. The above average progress which the Sixth Form can claim cannot likewise be claimed by the Lower School, and is not in fact matched by above average attainment in the Sixth Form. While exam performance should not be the only measure of a school's capacity to educate, as The Trash has frequently argued, in the current economic climate, and with the general intensification of competition throughout education and employment, it is simply irresponsible for the School's Management to pass off this year's League Table standings as a sign of success.