Yesterday I received an e-mail from a former pupil of St Bede’s which deserves publishing. Paul Taylor was in the 1964 intake, leaving in 1971. He had the unique experience of serving under three Rectors, the Infamous Monsignor Thomas Duggan, The doubtful and secretive Monsignor Geoffrey Burke and the genial and precise Monsignor Eric Riley. Paul is a regular commentator on my blog and one of these days we will meet up.
Subject:- St Bede’s and its 2011 and 2012 ‘A’ level results
Like a dog with a tasty bone, this is one subject I love coming back to again and again.
After recently unearthing a report in the Guardian regarding 2011 ‘A’ level results for Independent Schools, which rated Bede’s in the bottom third of those in the Greater Manchester area, I came across one from a diametrically politically
opposed source, The Telegraph, which gave the 2012 figures. Whilst not being strictly comparable (the Guardian’s gave the pass rates of A – C grades, the Telegraph’s those who obtained A/A* grades), once again the 2012 figures put Bede’s in the bottom third, 10th out of 13 for the Greater Manchester area. Please don’t blame me for these figures – I didn’t compile them, I’m merely the messenger.
No amount of bullshit, spin-doctoring or PR flannel can disguise the fact that the College is not academically performing well, compared with its rivals. Only 7% of pupils nationally attend fee-paying schools, over 90% of the population are unable to afford them. However, of these 7% fee-payers, they comprise 50% of the Oxbridge intake for an average year, a figure consistently maintained over recent decades. That in itself tell a story, one we need not go into here.
Let’s cut to the chase here. Most fee-paying parents send their children, if they can afford it, to the best school they can, in order to get a better academic education, better ‘A’ levels, get into a better university, get a better degree and a better-paid job. The money is not being spent altruistically, hard business reasoning is being enacted here. This £10K or so per annum will reap many times more yield in later life. With all of the above, I don’t have a problem. However, quite how the recent antics at the Alma Mater – namely historic sexual abuse and denial, part-time football students, unseating of a headmaster, to be replaced by the alleged organiser of said putsch, recruiting of newly-qualified teachers, some allegedly on short-term contracts, to replace more experienced teachers, appear to prospective parents – that’s another matter.
It can be understood from the above why Bede’s is struggling to fill its quota each year, why it is struggling to attract both sufficient numbers and academically gifted pupils into its hallowed halls. The current course towards the iceberg shows no signs of being avoided. What to do next? A good start would be to remove the dog-collar infested Board of Governors and replace them with people who have at least some idea of how both a school and a business should be run. Attention should then be directed towards the senior management at the school and serious questions asked as to which direction the College should go. The fact that the effective removal of a headmaster by senior staff, who then took over the reins, the senior positions thus created and then filled were not even advertised, leaves a somewhat unpleasant impression to an outsider, one that all is not well at the school.
Quo vadis? I’m glad it’s not my problem to sort out, I personally would list it under the heading ‘ An Intractible Problem’, one needing considerably more ability than the current holders of office at Bede’s seem to have. Perhaps recruiting a Superhead’ might not be a bad idea. Just a thought, a decent leader might make a difference.
N. O. T.
Well thanks Paul for that succinct appraisal of where we are at. The Telegraph have recently published the Independent schools A Level Results for 2013 or at least 405 of them, 50 schools have not entered the process including Manchester Grammar School but we will talk on what we have.
Of the 405 Independent Schools listed St Bede’s came in 293rd place, above them locally in place order were:-
Manchester High School for Girls
Withington Girls School
Bolton School – Girls
Bolton School – Boys
Cheadle Hulme School
Kings School Macclesfield
Alderley Edge School
Oldham Hulme Grammar School
Bury Grammar School
Below the St Bede’s level were:-
Bridgewater School Manchester
Beachhouse School Rochdale
North Cestrian Grammar School in Altrincham.
Clearly parents lucky enough to have the wherewithal to pay for private education have plenty of choice on where to spend their circa £10,000 per annum. They are going to look at the above 12 schools first and that is why Bede’s find it hard, shall we say impossible, to achieve their annual quota. These days results talk and altruistic reasons like a Catholic ethos ring no bells with most parents in this money talks world in which we live. A few years ago St Bede’s stood proudly up there with the likes of Withington High School for Girls, Stockport Grammar and Bolton School but now are producing results 50% lower. Something terrible has happened and parents realise and are shying away, there are plenty of better choices. The halcyon days of Byrne have gone presumably forever and that for parents of children in 6th form, who bought there way into Bede’s six or seven years ago, must be very painful indeed, seeing £60,000 or £70,000 worth of fees trickling through their fingers and not able to grasp back a single penny.
For parents of the future and even for parents of the now, why not save your money put it in a piggy bank and give the resulting cash to your child when he or she needs it at nineteen years of age, Here is a list of local state schools I have picked out from this years results who achieve far better than St Bede’s does, there are obviously more for the assiduous parent to glean:-
Altrincham Grammar School for Girls
Altrincham Grammar School for Boys
King David High School
St Ambrose College in Altrincham (same abuse problems but far better results)
Winstanley College in Wigan
Bacup and Rawtenstall Grammar
Tytherington High School in Macclesfield
Fallibroome Academy in Macclesfield,
Holy Cross College in Bury
Aquinas College in Stockport
As can be seen a great choice for parents who want a decent free education. Personally I do not see how Bede’s as much of a chance in its present format and I really do feel for the parents and children who have been sold a pup. Their only hope is to get in a super-star head but that will not be done while the cloying tentacles of the Salford Diocese are wrapped round it, sapping the air and blood from its almost lifeless body. Revolution in thought, mind and deed is necessary but I do not think it possible with the likes of Brain and Quinlan holding the reins.
Thank you Paul Taylor for your views above and I wish the best of luck to all parents caught up in this whirlpool of lethargy that St Bede’s has become.