June 14, 2004
An interesting website about an interesting school

This looks like a really interesting little row.

One of Hounslow's most successful schools has been severely criticised by a website claiming to represent some of its students.

The Heathlands School, in Wellington Road South, has some of the best results of the borough's schools, and was recently awarded specialist science status, to much acclaim.

However, apparently not everyone is happy with this, and a website, called www.voiceofheathlands.co.uk' has been set up by an anonymous group, who claim to be students, but are only contactable by email.

I tried to get to that website, of course I did, but got no result. Maybe if you click that link you'll get luckier.

What is more, googling for Heathlands School didn't even clarify for me exactly which school this is. Not this one, I'm assuming. And certainly not this one.

They say that their aim is to ask questions, criticise and flag up issues which they feel are of concern at the school.

It is unclear, however, whether the website is a genuine attempt to get across students' views, or whether it is merely a half-term prank.

Meaning, I presume, that "This is local London" doesn't know who to ring, or does, but isn't getting any answers. I can tell them a guess/answer: neither exactly, and both, a little bit, I daresay. What it most definitely is is politics. "Flag up issues". That's politics-speak for grab hold of some problems and shout about them, thereby making them worse and very possibly insoluble.

Hounslow Local Education Authority has refused to comment on the website.

Don't know what's hit them, in other words. Website? Website? What's that? What do we do? How can we close it down? Ought to be a law against it, blah blah blah. Say nothing. We must have a meeting, and then say nothing more eloquently.

The authors of the website claim to have set it up because: "We felt it was about time to do something, and raise our voice against the wrongs we saw.

Like I say, politics. "Voice". "Voice" means poltiics, every time.

"Through experience, we knew that talking to the school, through the school council, would achieve nothing, so we looked for a more powerful means to bring our message forward."

The point about a website is that you don't need anyone's permission to say what you want to say. You don't have to get it past any editor, who may have fishes of his own to fry. And there is not a lot of expense involved.

And everyone else can ignore you, or of course start their own website and say you're prats.

Their main complaints, which are posted on the website, are that the specialist status is making the school selective, rather than open for all.

They also criticise the political leanings of their teachers, and an assembly on the benefits of Margaret Thatcher's leadership, and cast a sceptical eye over the relationship the school has with local multi-national pharmaceutical company, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK).

Which certainly makes this sound like a lot more than a mere "half-term prank". Interesting that these clearly left-wing websiters at least perceive the teachers to be – or try to present them as – Thatcherites. I wonder what they really are. My guess is, they gave Thatcherism a respectful look-in, in some school discussion/debate they organised. They refused to present a united front of wishy-washy leftism. That would be my guess. But that could be quite wrong, and maybe these teachers are indeed gung-ho pro-capitalists. If so, hurrah! This will be even more fun.

Regarding the specialist school status, and the school, as a whole, they claim: "Many students feel that they are ignored, and have no way of channelling their views.

"Most students on the school council feel it is a puppet organisation.

Well, not an organisation that the school's actual bosses will allow to take over the school, that's for sure.

"The school used to be so proud of being unselective."

Not all of it, evidently. Otherwise, why the change? Maybe, they were just so good that thousands more people suddenly wanted to send their kids there, and they had to choose, because they didn't have enough room for everyone, whereas before, anyone could come.

The issues surrounding GSK were: "The school's close relationship with GSK is looked down upon by the majority of pupils in the upper years of the school.

"The introduction of Lucozade into the school canteen blatantly suggests that the school has some kind of agreement with GSK, which produces Lucozade, which it is not open about."

They continued: "Also, we have complained for many years, through the school council, that we have trouble affording the food in the canteen.

"This has always been ignored; prices continue to rise, and we are told it is a matter which the school has no influence over, due to the private catering company setting prices.

"We would like to know why the school has the influence to introduce Lucozade, but cannot make the food affordable?"

The students also raised concerns that there were now plasma screens in reception, a lot of extra CCTV cameras around the site and a painted tennis court, which has little benefit'.

Politics, politics, politics. What did I tell you? Not that they don't have a point. Maybe on this matter, they do. If the real agenda of GSK is to sell Lucozade, that is a bit tacky, I think.

However, they did admit that: "Heathlands is a good' school, which achieves some of the best public exam results in the area, and has a highly-respected reputation.

"The exam results have a lot to do with the commitment and dedication that the staff show towards pupils."

So, Thatcherite bastards and committed and dedicated teachers. Or are the teachers divided between these two groups? I'm guessing not, or they would have said this.

No one was available to comment from Heathlands School at the time of going to press.

And they don't know what's hit them either.

It will be interesting to see if this story goes anywhere. Maybe I should try to help turn Heathlands School into a Global Focus of Fascination, as per Cecile Dubois.

But anyway, fascinating. What an interesting mixture of things going on here. As with the previous post, material for many novels.

I support - and will seek to provide aid and comfort to - both sides in this row. I support under-age trouble-making websites and Thatcherite schoolteachers.

But sadly, I fear that the shut-down of the website is permanent. Those teachers knew at once who was behind it, and threatened expulsion if they kept on with it. It's over, in other words. If so, shame.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 12:12 AM
Category: PoliticsSelectionThe internet