Mutiny on school fields as pupils stage protest

Bispham High School.
Bispham High School.
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Angry pupils walked out of class in an unprecedented protest over the way their Blackpool school is being run.

The mutiny unfolded as more than more than 40 schoolchildren left lessons and gathered on the fields of Bispham High School to rebel against what they consider to be falling standards at the school.

Now 13-year-old Aaron Parfitt has been excluded for two days after admitting he organised the mass gathering.

Pupils involved in the wildcat protest today told The Gazette they had grave concerns over turnover in staffing and lack of homework being set.

Education bosses today acknowledged the school was going through a “challenging” time and insisted they were working hard to make improvements.

Aaron today said he felt forced to cause the disruption to lessons, at around 12.15pm on Wednesday, after failing a maths test which he claims is down to regular changes to teaching staff in the department.

He said: “I did it because I needed some attention for them to listen.

“Before now I’ve talked to my headteacher, my head of year and the head of maths about problems.

“I’ve emailed Ofsted and Blackpool Council too.

“I’ve had so many different maths teachers and none of them stop for more than a week.”

Year Seven pupil Leanne Higgs, 12, said she witnessed the protest.

She said: “There were lots of people crowding outside maths, they were yelling and the teachers tried to stop them.

“People had been talking about it in the day. I heard different things about why it was.”

The Gazette understands the protest lasted only a short time before the youngsters returned to class and only one lesson period was disrupted.

Aaron’s mother Janet Monkman said: “Aaron says maths is not good because they’re having different teachers and each lesson is different. They’re swapping them that often.

“I do feel sorry for the teachers though, it’s uproar for them, I think they don’t know if they’re coming or going and that’s why they don’t give homework.”

The Gazette asked for figures relating to turnover of teachers but Blackpool Council declined to provide them.

Bispham High School was, last year, placed under special measures by Ofsted
 inspectors, who said “standards are low and have declined”, there was too much “mediocre teaching” and attendance was poor.

The school has since merged with Collegiate High School and is set to move to a new £10m development on the Blackpool Old Road site.

The last interim Ofsted report, a requirement for schools in special measures, conducted in September, said the school was making “reasonable progress”

It added that in maths 
Bispham students were making better progress due to “improved leadership and better planning” and some good teaching was seen in the department but most was considered “dull and unchallenging”.

Sandra Dawson, 55, whose 12-year-old grandson, Daniel Thompson, is at the school, said: “He comes home with hardly any homework and says he’s bored in lessons, it does worry me.

“Apparently a lot of 
teachers are leaving so I don’t think things are going very well, they must be struggling as well.”

Mum Vicky Teece, 44, whose daughter Kaitlynn, 11, is in Year Seven, added: “They’ve had a really big turnover of teachers, Kaitlynn’s had three or four in English.”

Colin Brown said while he was happy with the care of his daughter Crystal, 11, who has special needs, he was concerned about how staff changes impacted on her.

He said: “There’s no consistency because teachers are leaving.

“A child gets used to a teacher, especially one with learning difficulties, so it’s hard for her and it’s difficult when the teachers don’t know the child.”

Bispham High School’s acting headteacher said the school was working hard to improve teaching for pupils.

Deborah Hanlon-Catlow, acting headteacher said: “This is undoubtedly a challenging time for the school however, with support from Blackpool Council, we continue to work to try to improve teaching standards, behaviour, attendance and punctuality.

“This will not happen overnight but we continue to work with Ofsted, staff, parents and pupils towards gradual improvement.”

The school said it will not comment on individual pupil’s disciplinary issues.

Mrs Hanlon-Catlow added: “The school has a proactive policy in dealing with complaints from both parents and pupils. We are also passionate about 
ensuring that pupils and parents have a voice and are listened to. We deal with individual issues on a one-to-one basis .

Coun Ivan Taylor, Blackpool Council’s cabinet member for children’s services, said: “The school is going through a transitional period and this is a undoubtedly a challenging time.

“However, this is not an excuse for poor standards and we have given additional support to the school to try to help it to improve.

“The welfare and education of the pupils is our number one priority and we always make sure that all complaints are taken seriously and investigated thoroughly.”