TV show brings school bud­gets to front of class

Western Daily Press - - News - MICHAEL YONG michael.yong@reach­

T’S get­ting re­ally dif­fi­cult to achieve what we are be­ing asked to achieve.”

That was the frank ad­mis­sion of Will Roberts, chief ex­ec­u­tive of the Cas­tle School Ed­u­ca­tion Trust (CSET) as a land­mark TV series started this week.

BBC Two’s new doc­u­men­tary School gives an un­prece­dented in­sight into three of CSET’s academies, namely Cas­tle, Marl­wood and Man­gots­field School.

Pro­duced by La­bel1 – the pro­duc­tion com­pany be­hind doc­u­men­tary series Hos­pi­tal – School dives deep into the ev­ery­day is­sues at the three se­condary schools in South Glouces­ter­shire.

With more than 5,000 chil­dren on their books, the series looks at how bud­get cuts have eaten into the sup­port net­work at the schools and the tough de­ci­sions teach­ers and gov­er­nors make to en­sure the schools keep run­ning.

The first episode, which aired on Tues­day night, looked at Cas­tle School in Thorn­bury. In it, head teacher Angie Browne had to make some tough de­ci­sions when it came to bal­anc­ing the bud­get while main­tain­ing the school’s high stan­dards.

She said the trust cash re­sources would be ex­hausted in 18 months, and they were fac­ing £6,000 in pay cuts. Some 80 per cent of the trust’s bud­get goes to staffing costs, Mr Roberts ex­plained, and they have agreed to pro­tect the num­ber of class­room teach­ers and class sizes.

But it means los­ing out ev­ery­where else.

“We’ve had to look at al­most ev­ery­thing else to do that. That in­cludes ad­min staff, sup­port, pas­toral sup­port and fewer lead­ers than be­fore, and squeez­ing the bud­get on things like text­books and main­te­nance,” Mr Roberts added.

The first episode showed 16-yearold Chloe strug­gling to deal with the pres­sure of her up­com­ing GCSEs, walk­ing out of one mock exam af­ter suf­fer­ing an anx­i­ety at­tack.

Chelsea, 12, was strug­gling to set­tle in her first year of se­condary school. She set off a fire alarm de­lib­er­ately, caus­ing the en­tire school to be evac­u­ated.

Ms Browne saw it as a cry for help from a tal­ented child try­ing to fit in, and stepped into the breach.

Mr Roberts hopes the series will in­crease the dis­cus­sion around school fund­ing.

“I’m pas­sion­ate about ed­u­ca­tion, I’ve worked in schools for more than 20 years,” he said.

“For me, ed­u­ca­tion is a fan­tas­tic in­vest­ment in our next gen­er­a­tion but it’s one we are all mak­ing.

“There is a lot of fo­cus on things like Brexit and the NHS – and rightly so – but I do think we need to have more of a dis­cus­sion about ed­u­ca­tion and how big a pri­or­ity it is.”

School airs on BBC Two on Tues­day evenings at 9pm. It will also be avail­able on the BBC iPlayer.

Man­gots­field head teacher David Spence, for­mer Cas­tle in­terim-head Angie Browne, chief ex­ec­u­tive Will Roberts and for­mer head teacher at Marl­wood JamesPope fea­ture in the new series

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