Wednesday, 7 October 2015

UNICEF: A Lesson in Idiocy and Bureaucracy

In the first week back, the Head already wasted 1,300 sheets of paper spouting the usual rubbish about the school's achievements over the summer, one of which being the awarding of Level 2 Rights Respecting School status, which, of course, is laughable given the Head and the School's track record.

As soon as we found out the school was going in for the award, we reached out to the Director of the Rights Respecting School Award (RRSA), giving a full explanation of why we thought the school, at this time, didn't deserve the award, and how actions they had taken (and we had reported on) were, even though it sounds very first-world-problem to say, breaking children's rights.

We said that "by [RRSA's] own admission in RIGHTS RESPECTING SCHOOL AWARD: CLASSROOM CHARTERS OR AGREEMENTS document, the "schools are responsible for promoting a rights-respecting environment", which makes the rights violations of the schools more poignant. For instance, our blog [...] has been blocked for over 18 months now on all school servers and computers, because we have published opinions that paint the school in a negative, if ever truthful, light. Equally, the Wikipedia page written about us has also been blocked. If these do not count as violations of Rights 12, 13 and 17 of the Rights of a Child Charter, then we don't know what is."

We went on to say that "writing for the blog is an expellable offence, hence us all having to write anonymously, for fear of our education being threatened [...] This threat of expulsion surely contravenes Article 12 again, as well as 13, 15, 16 and 28." We pointed out that "in 2014, we reported on how the school had left the personal details of over 400 students and their parents on a public server. We were instrumental in fixing this grave error in the school's ways, and then made sure it was reported locally, so that the school could not simply brush it under the carpet. Before we intervened, the school were violating Article 16 of the RCC, as well as Article 3 of the UN Human Rights Declaration, and the UK Data Protection Act of 1998."

We also commented on smaller issues "such as [the school] generating a Girls Only Area, which we pointed out was gender segregation, contravening Article 2 of the RCC, as well as raising a whole other group of problems and assumptions. The school has admitted that it needed to be taken down, but still has yet to do it."

Now, when posed with evidence such as this, you would expect a Director of a UNICEF body (you know, those people that deal with children's rights) to at least investigate the instances we spoke of, and include any report with the final report on the school. Instead, the pithy, frankly spineless response, which perfectly typifies the bureaucracy the United Nations represents, said that "it seems a great shame that communications between a group of pupils who have a good understanding about the Convention and a school that is committed to making rights real have broken down. I hope that there someone you can discuss this issue with, explain what is happening and that the situation is then dealt with to your satisfaction", as if they hadn't read anything we'd said, or understood at all how the suffocating grip of the Management works.

He went on to say that he had "contacted Hampstead School", like that would do any good, and was "concerned" about what we had said, but after "considerable discussion" with the school had "agreed that the assessment visit should take place on the date agreed", so, in layman's terms, was going to completely ignore us and forge on ahead regardless. He went on to say that "individual situations and experiences outside the assessment process cannot, on their own, determine the school’s accreditation as Rights Respecting. However during the assessment visit the RRSA assessors meet a large number of people predominately students and that should give you the opportunity to discuss your situation."

Obviously, we were a little bit miffed. We wrote back:
"We understand that, of course, to have consistency in assessment, you must generate your own conclusion of the school through your own data, but it seems, then, that you only gain a false, or rather narrow, representation of the school. You must be aware of the 'best behaviour' policy that schools adopt when under inspection, that leads to a brushing under the carpet of unfortunate truths. There must be some element of background research that goes into the assessment that removes this issue, surely? To discount instances that are obvious violations, just because they are outside a specific timescale is to be giving yourself an inconclusive judgement, and shows tunnel vision in the assessment system. Boko Haram may not kill anyone between today and tomorrow; doesn't stop them being genocidal. 
We know this is none of your fault, and the example is an extreme one for the case at hand, but you must see that, without proper representation, its a bit hard for the school not to get the award. This is what we are offering; the flip side of the coin. We agree that these instances cannot count towards an entire accreditation, but they must be beared in mind when taking the decision, as they garner a certain gravity uncommon for your average North London comprehensive. 
We hope when your assessors do come, they are allowed to pick which students to discuss school matters with, and not the school, as you will find yourself being handed students wholly apathetic or uningratiated with the truth that they will only confirm the bias in favour of the school."
The reply this time was a mix of exhasperation and wistful generalisation, saying that
"what [The Trash] identify is the downfall of all inspection, assessment and award schemes as you can only make a judgement on the evidence you see at a particular time and by its very nature it is a snapstot [sic].

The assessor is very experienced in assessing Level 2 secondary schools and he has been alerted to your concerns. Please make sure that you volunteer for focus groups and then hopefully we will get the fairest picture of Hampstead school that we can."
When it came to the inspection, despite our prior warning, the assesor was handed a group of students that reflected the views the school wanted to impose of the school, and so to our knowledge only two students said anything other than the expected apathetic wimperings of mindless individuals. Even with this, and the evidence we gave, it was a nigh-on certainty that the school would get the award, also with with the several thousand pounds paid to the RRSA (see follow-up article).

See the next article on the RRSA for our questions to the Director of RRSA after the status was awarded to the school, and his answers, available soon.

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Hello BTEC, My Old Friend

Last week, the Science Department announced a dramatic reshuffle of Year 11 top-set science classes, in perhaps the most important year for them academically. Those who got B's or lower overall in either core science or additional science would not be allowed to continue their studies into the third year of the science curriculum. They were told they would instead have to retake the subjects they didn’t get A's in, despite having studied nearly all of extension science’s chemistry unit in class this year.

The top-set teachers could offer little explanation other than that letters had been sent to the affected students’ homes (after the decision had been made, without consultation of parents or students). They added that they were themselves were against the change, but upper management was unwilling to hear their opinions (where have we heard that before? -Ed). Allegedly, one higher-level science teacher, in support of the reshuffle, told them “Tough.” when told the opinions of those who work closest with those most affected.

Once again, the school has made a poorly advised decision, purely in the pursuit of more affable results come August 2016. Of course, students can still do science at A-level with double science, but, then again, you can do the same with B's in triple science. Furthermore, you can even do science A-levels at Hampstead with a D (and a little lube). This affirms that this change is purely cosmetic. There is no consideration for those that would like to study science as it interests them and don’t want to spend another year reading the same ‘jokes’ from a battered CGP textbook, and instead science lessons will become tantamount to revising core content most have already done.

This is not the first time the school have pulled a stunt this crass. Weeks before the previous academic year's exam season start, Year 12 students underachieving in one or more subjects were told publicly in an assembly, in front of their peers they would be dropping a subject that day, before they had even had a chance to fail it, without prior consultation of parents. All this is a further shade of wrong on the part of the school management, and could even be considered an impeachment of their obligatory duty of care.

Monday, 5 October 2015

An Unexpected Journey to Dismay

In the third instalment of our trilogy of advertisement-bashing, The Battle of Five Smarmies, we attempt to strenuously liken the school's incessant advertising come Open Day time to a set of films that has gone on for too long, involves characters who somewhat lose the plot, and despite all the decent graphics, has a disappointing end; we wonder how we'll cope...

In the latest bout of local press marketing, emblazoned atop the Hampstead advert, was a massive image of the Head's face, pretending to care about a student, and so the following section will be entitled 'The Desolation of Szmaugkowski'. The title this year had strayed from the usual meaningless collection of buzzwords, the press-monkeys spending more than five seconds copying-and-pasting last year's stuff onto this year's, and instead read 'Our journey has been remarkable'; remarkably pisspoor, judging by the remarkably thin copy in the faux article accompanying the advert, and we're sure remarkable for some of the remarks we have made, which have been so remarkable that the nationals found them remarkable, and not in a good way. The remarkably thin blurb, of course, had nothing to do with the school's poor results and lack of any meaningful award in, well, ever. Instead they had to fall back on their Achievement for All (which they paid for), their UNICEF Rights Respecting School Awards (both of which they paid for), their Investor in Careers Award (which they paid for) and their Investor in People Award (are you getting the gist? -Ed), all of which could be put to better use educating children, you know, like what a school does. What we're trying to get at is that any Ingrish teacher will tell you 'remarkable' doesn't necessitate good, and Hampstead, as we've shown, may be 'remarkable' for all the wrong reasons.

Also what's remarkable is their persistence to use awards, even after we've mocked them for it, or have been downgraded in, and still call it a success. The second half of the full-page spread (which, as we've said before, costs a few thousand pounds) had the usual emphatic quotes from a cast of unknown adjudicators and anonymous parents, who, judging by their reviews, had never actually been to Hampstead, as well as on the page a large, red, super-imposed sticker heralding the school as being "amongst the TOP 5%" of Sixth Forms. This sticker, however, neglected to mention, as we have in the past, that the school used to be in the top 2% of Sixth Forms, which, you guessed it, the school paid for, and it's not even for achievement, but improvement (which means in the last year the school has got worse at being less crap).

If you want see the advert in full, we would have to question why you are reading this blog.

Exceptional: the exception being its the only school in which the
boilers never work.

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Update from the Replacement Block Service

With the term started and the work on the New Building well underway, the school has well and truly been turned from a place of learning, despite the claims of Camden council and the school's Management, and instead into a building site dependent almost entirely on the contractors over students and teachers. For those who don't know, the first week back saw no power in the 'New' Block, no phone lines, Sims or email, and a few weeks back a power down of the whole school, meaning any timetabled Period 6 lessons were disbanded.

As such, the school site is a much looser affair (hehe) than before, and than the Head would like; after all, if he can't control it, it must be wrong. Workmen come and go as freely as they please, and have even installed their own showers, encroaching even further on that tiny streak of land which is what is left of the outdoor free space. Said workmen are providing the school with a plethora of good role models, as we have had reports of workers smoking on the school site (which is, of course, not allowed for students), even reports of certain workers smoking something slightly danker than just tobacco by the smell (which must be very safe), and one truck in frequent use in and around the school having a stenciled image of a less-than-clothed lady on one window, which must be very distracting for kids trying to learn. How must parents think of the people in close proximity to their children, and how well are the workers vetted?

DISCLAIMER: Everything reported in this is based on separate eye-witness accounts. We honestly couldn't care what people do in school, as there will always be students who have done worse, but some parents do care, which is fair enough.

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Cards Against Humanity - Hampstead Expansion Pack

As a complete rip-off homage to the card game Cards Against Humanity, we have kindly created an 'expansion pack', specific to the school and its many idiosyncrasies that only students could know of, for you to fill your half-lunch-hour playing. Anyone who doesn't know the rules is immediately a scrub. Enjoy!

You can also view and print the cards as a PDF, available by following the link here.