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In the News

Sociology in the News: ‘Parents are frightened for themselves and for their children’

Vicki Woolven

7th September 2022

An inspirational school in impossible times: Austerity, the pandemic and now the cost of living crisis have left many schools in a parlous state. How hard do staff have to work to give kids the chances they deserve?

Most people don't associate Oxford with poverty, but in the 1930s a housing estate was built in the south-east to accommodate those working in the Morris factory and by the start of WWII over 2000 homes had been built here. All British cities have their pockets of poverty, but Oxford is the second most expensive place to live in the country, which makes life exceptionally challenging for anyone on a low income.

Amongst these houses is Rose Hill Primary School - which at the time of building was regarded as an exceptional building. After 70 years it has been identified as a school that needed a complete re-build under the Labour government, however the Tory-Lib Dem coalition cancelled this in 2014 - unfortunately 'the fabric of the school building, which had been allowed to deteriorate in expectation of imminent demolition, and was one of the worst in the county' according to the headteacher.

Today, the school serves about 300 children, many of them from the estate. More than half qualify for funding for disadvantaged children. A third are identified as having special educational needs, compared to the national average of 12.2%. For almost half of students, English is not their first language; between them, the students speak almost 35 different home languages.

The cost of living in Oxford makes it difficult to recruit and retain staff - in 2012 it took 5 attempts to advertise the job before Rose Hill was able to appoint a new headteacher, despite the school moving from failing to most improved school in the country. It took 2 years to appoint a permanent headteacher - by that point 80% of teachers had quit and pupil behaviour was extremely challenging.

The new headteacher could have opted for a zero-tolerance approach to behaviour, which would have probably wielded speedy results - however she chose another approach which focused on communication and recognising that challenging behaviour is a sign of distress, and that children need guiding towards more constructive ways of responding.

Today the school is regarded as an inspirational place full of happy and healthy children, and staff turnover is at a minimum - so just how has this happened?

Read here to find out -

Vicki Woolven

Vicki Woolven is Subject Lead for Key Stage 4 Humanities at tutor2u. Vicki previously worked as a Head of Geography and Sociology for many years, leading her department to be one of the GA's first Centres of Excellent, and has been a content writer, senior examiner and local authority Key Practitioner for Humanities.

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