OPINION: Two sides to every story - and this school's new tale is fantastic

In a perfect world every education story in this paper would be positive.

Monday, 21st March 2016, 5:59 am
Updated Monday, 21st March 2016, 6:01 am
Chaucer schools building and hairdressing vocational classes Ellie McCormick and Ellie Pryor in the hairdressing salon with Head Scott Burnside Picture by Dean Atkins

Nobody in The Star’s newsroom takes ANY pleasure – at all – in reporting when a school in our city is failing, has been ranked badly, or has missed targets.


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We would love to fill our pages with unrivalled success, ground-breaking achievement and above average exam results.

That said, it is our duty, as a paper of record, to report facts from official bodies like our Government.

If a school has a bad Ofsted inspection, for example, we cannot ignore it.

While it might, at times, seem best to spike news that didn’t show our city in a good light – that would irresponsible and dangerous.

That’s why, after receiving Government League Table results in January, we reported that Chaucer School in Parson Cross was the ‘worst performing school in Sheffield’.

They were the facts, as presented to us, and we reported them accurately.

Shortly after the article was published, Scott Burnside, head teacher at Chaucer School, called the office to say that pupils were, in fact, hitting performance targets for the first time in the school’s history. While that might sound impossible, as ever, things are never as simple as they first seem.

The Government League Tables assess pupils and schools on GCSE results – exams taken when a child is 16-years-old.

But the problem with this method of assessment is that it takes no account of a child’s starting point.

If a school is in an area that has high levels of non-English speaking children, for instance, then getting them to the Government target is going to be significantly harder than getting a class full of mini Einsteins there.

In theory the latter class could actually hit targets, but make poor personal progress. On the other hand another pupil could make superb personal progress – but still be classed as missing the target, according to the Government.

With Chaucer, the progress made by children during their entire time at school is on target for the first time in their history. Great news. Not only that, though, the school is forging a new path by offering its pupils vocational classes.

Students now have the opportunity to learn about construction and hair and beauty. The result? According to Scott – amazing.

Pupils typically forgotten by a standard education are excelling in ALL subjects.

A story like this demonstrates that, while statistics are important, they don’t always give the full picture.

There are two sides to every story and we are delighted to report the other side of this one.

Every child is different, and it’s fantastic to see that Chaucer School realise this.