Education column: Most parents know less about school than what’s going on at Westminster

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This is the first in a series of new columns about education in Sheffield, where our covert insider aims to break down the barriers and reveal secrets about what goes on in our schools.

Sheffield schools are wonderful places, if you sit down and think about it.

The average person knows as much about the goings on in Sheffield schools as they do about what happens in our nuclear 
submarines

These modern temples of learning house tens of thousands of children Monday to Friday, have a programme of education that’s meticulously planned, cater for individual needs, serve lunch, employ a large chunk of the city’s workforce, arrange holidays and provide free activities every day.

The range is fascinating, too.

There are big schools and tiny ones, state-funded schools and private schools, religious schools, primary schools, secondary schools, special schools, free schools.

Some schools are still part of the local authority and some belong to academy chains.

There are schools surrounded by housing with no grass in sight and schools in the middle of countryside where buses are the norm.

There are schools specialising in academic subjects and schools leading the field in sports.

Sheffield schools have helped to produce MPs, TV presenters, writers, sporting heroes and rock stars.

There is much to be celebrated about Sheffield schools.

And yet, the average person in the street knows as much about the goings on in Sheffield schools as they do about what happens in our nuclear submarines.

It’s a sad reflection on our times, but our schools are fenced off, covered in CCTV cameras and are frankly not the most inviting of places.

Sure, parents of primary school kids may get invited in to see an assembly once or term, or to help out at a Viking party.

But by the time your kids reach secondary school, most parents know less about what’s happening at school than they know about what’s happening at Westminster.

Even though you have an insider at the table every evening, you’re more likely to find out what’s in their latest FIFA 17 Pack than anything about their day in school.

And if you have no children at school, the whole concept of what is taking place behind those big fences is totally alien.

But that’s where I step in.

With years of educational experience behind me and having fulfilled various roles in several schools – including teacher – I have a wealth of inside stories and a great list of valuable contacts in Sheffield’s schools.

Every week, I will be bringing you the latest news – direct from the chalk face.

Some of it will be celebratory, sharing the wonderful achievement of students or the tireless work of teachers.

But some of it, have no doubt, will be ugly. For every tale about a great school, there are parents, teachers and neighbours who want to vent about aggressive students, bullying middle managers, acute stress and a ridiculous amount of testing.

While success stories are out there, a national crisis in education is upon us.

The feeling in schools is that we are returning to a 1980s scenario when budgets were crippled, buildings weren’t repaired, staff couldn’t be recruited and morale was at a sickening low.

The number of really good teachers leaving the profession is disheartening – and Sheffield definitely hasn’t escaped this destructive drain.

More power is being given to school managers, while Michael Gove’s time in charge of education will take decades to recover from.

We’ll explore some of these highs and lows of education in the city, when I’ll be your guide to exuberant chats over school milk in classrooms and exasperated tears over coffee in staffrooms.

And for you who have regular contact with Sheffield’s schools – the teachers, parents, governors and lunchtime supervisors – I want you to get involved.

Get in touch with me and share the news from your playgrounds, corridors and meetings.

Anonymity is guaranteed.

Approval from your headteacher is not.

You can get involved by following our Twitter account @Sheff_Schools and sharing your own stories.

If you want to remain anonymous, send a direct message and I’ll be in touch.

You can also write to me via Telegraph Education, Sheffield Telegraph, York Street, Sheffield S1 1PU.

Or email sheffieldtelegraph@sheffieldnewspapers.co.uk