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Cllr Ranil Jayawardena says too many children in the borough are being let down
A RADICAL shake-up, including a new school in Basingstoke, may be necessary to combat poor exam results, the deputy leader of the borough council believes.
Councillor Ranil Jayawardena says too many children in the borough are being let down by weak standards and he has outlined a “three-step” improvement plan, which includes a 1,200-pupil new secondary school on borough council-owned land, possibly at Manydown.
The Conservative councillor’s controversial comments come after GCSE grades exposed a big split in results between local schools last year.
“The results show that we have some really good schools in our area,” said Cllr Jayawardena, ward councillor for Bramley and Sherfield.
“But we also have some really poor performing schools, which is not acceptable.
“There needs to be a more drastic change in Basingstoke and Deane, and a real shake-up of what has gone on.”
GSCE results published by the Department for Education in January showed that most north Hampshire secondary schools did better than the national average.
But five Basingstoke schools – Brighton Hill Community School, The Vyne Community School, Cranbourne Business and Enterprise College, Fort Hill Community School, and Everest Community Academy – were below the national average of 59.4 per cent of pupils achieving at least five A* to C grades including English and maths.
Cllr Jayawardena, a former pupil of high-performing Robert May’s School, in Odiham, said some children are being failed.
“The results are not good enough,” he said. “In my own ward, Bramley Primary School is not satisfactory. It is a serious matter and it troubles me greatly that children in Bramley and Sherfield are not getting the best education. And it carries on because they are within the Everest catchment area.”
Cllr Jayawardena wants the borough council to help implement a three-point plan in a bid to tackle the results issue. This calls for:
*Commissioning of independent research to highlight the differences between schools performing well or badly.
*Pressure to be applied on the Local Education Authority, Hampshire County Council, to implement any changes recommended by the research.
*Parents, teachers, and interested groups to be assisted in setting up a Government-funded Free School for secondary pupils in Basingstoke and Deane.
Cllr Jayawardena admitted that a new school is a “radical step” but he believes the borough council could play a leading role in creating a secondary school that would “deliver the highest educational standards”.
His idea is for a 1,200-pupil school to be built on borough land, possibly at Manydown, where ownership is shared with the county council. It would be set up as a Free School and run as an academy receiving Govern-ment cash but outside Hamp-shire County Council control.
“By being on Manydown, the borough council would have more of a say because we are a part-landowner,” said Cllr Jayawardena.
“We want to help all schools in Basingstoke, but we can also create an example school.”
He said two local schools with academy status, which means they are not under the control of Hampshire County Council, did very well in the latest results.
At The Costello School, in Crossborough Hill, Basingstoke, 72 per cent gained at least five A* to C grades including English and maths, while Robert May’s recorded 68 per cent.
However, he admitted that Everest Community Academy, in Popley, was the worst performing secondary school in the local area and in the bottom five of all secondary schools in Hampshire, despite its academy status. Everest’s latest GCSE results showed that 34 per cent of pupils achieved the benchmark standard.
Cllr Jayawardena said: “Some people will say it is for Hampshire to sort out our schools and not Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council.
“I would say is it fair to disadvantage our children because someone else is meant to sort it?”