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
None.

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

Ingredients
52% Purity Pink Slime
Chernobyl Cherry Flavour Fortified Boost
Solid Meat Substitute
Liquid Meat Substitute
Carrot
Gentrificati├┤n Brand Pie Base
Egg

Optional:
Decades of Resentment

Method

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.

Tuesday, 23 January 2018

(Not So) Free Birds

Hampstead school is notoriously bad when it comes to Twitter. The school has several 'official' accounts that have been misused or unused over the years. The Hampstead School account has zero tweets, and the school Updates account - designed to provide a quicker (and less costly) way of contacting parents with need to know information at the height of the school's push to be technologically literate - has nine tweets, the latest dating as far back as October 2009. No wonder neither of them have any large amount of parent followers.

The account that does seem to have a lot more use (and a lot more followers, although these are mostly companies not parents) is the Hampstead Sixth Form account. However, some of its activity of late has grown to be a little bizarre and off-topic for a school account.

Although activity has stalled in the last few months, over the past year tweets have ranged from "Hi @wattbike Our screen's frozen as in the attached pic. Buttons unresponsive. Any tips to unfreeze/reset??" to "I just found out my note is E! What's yours? @SingTrueApp". Other strange tweets include "Rwanda begins Zipline commercial drone deliveries", "US election: My secret life as a Texan Trump supporter" and "Humans need new skills for post-AI world, say MPs".

Whilst some of these may be all in the interest of proliferating educational news stories, you have to scroll back to March last year to get a tweet that says anything about sixth form students at Hampstead.

Friday, 19 January 2018

Careless Talk Costs Nuggs

The way Hampstead is going about its business is getting more Sztazi-esque by the second. Whilst we are all already aware of how the school treats its students when it comes to having the right papers uniform and only taking exams that will please Comrade Szemalikowski, the Hitler Youth-style intelligence gathering now extends to visitors as well.

The Trash has gained an exclusive look at the leaflet that is given to all visitors to the school (see images below.) Whilst the majority of the guidance on said leaflet seems fairly standard, such as “wear your visitor’s badge” and “follow your host’s instructions”, some of it would make any sane person question what went through their mind when writing it.

On the back under their ‘Mobile Phone Policy’ they write that “we ask all visitors to support our mobile-free school by switching phones and other electronic devices to silent and only using them in staff-only areas”, because students are such impressionable creatures that they would never produce a mobile phone in school unless they saw an adult flaunting theirs. To say that Hampstead is mobile free is to be kidding yourself; the collection box of confiscated mobiles in the reception at the end of every day is testament to that. In this day and age, students will have phones; the most you can ask is that they put them away whilst in the classroom.

Where the leaflet becomes truly insidious is when it asks that visitors “Do not: agree to keep anything confidential that a student may say to you”. There are many instances wherein a student may need to confide in a visitor without the school knowing, especially with a senior leadership such as the one Hampstead has that has been known to act in a bullying and intimidating way. There are many things a student may not feel comfortable sharing with the school, and we have come across instances wherein a student needed to report about the school to someone impartial without reprimand; when the school was applying for Rights Respecting status being one such instance.


If visitors to the school are not allowed to talk to students in the knowledge what is said between them will be kept away from the school, there are few other avenues of recourse when attempting to report about the misdoings of the school itself. The only other way a student might protest a decision made by the school would be to go to their parents, who may be apathetic, or to a publication such as The Trash. Far more gravely, the inclusion of this guidance for visitors suggests the leadership of the school is actively trying to control the student voice and what is said to members of the public, or otherwise ascertain what is said off the record. Once again, Big Szemalikowski is watching you.