No reprieve for scholarship scheme in Stamford

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THE county council scholarship scheme which gives bright children in Stamford free places at the endowed schools will definitely end next year.

Lincolnshire County Council’s education department says it is not able by law to reinstate the scholarships. And current legislation also means it is unable to build a grammar school in the town.

The council now intends to try to persuade more parents to send their high-achieving children to Stamford Queen Eleanor School.

The department’s assistant director Andy Breckon praised Queen Eleanor for the progress it has made and said headteacher Wendy Hamilton was trying to raise the profile of the school.

“However it is fair to say that the Queen Eleanor has not been able to raise its profile significantly in the community to make massive change of perception,” Mr Breckon said.

“A lot of this is about perception and that is what we need to recognise, that remains a challenge for Queen Eleanor and education in Stamford.

“A lot has been done, we have put new buildings in Queen Eleanor, a lot of training and support, changes of headteacher and the school is making good progress.”

But he said some parents were still opting to pay to send their children to the endowed schools.

The council has compiled a report to look at the impact of withdrawing the scholarship scheme. The decision to end it was originally made in 2006.

The endowed schools currently have 300 scholarship scheme pupils. The schools will lose 50 pupils who are leaving the sixthform in the summer but will take in 24 children in Year 7 in September. Those 24 will be the last pupils to gain scholarships under the scheme.

The education department report created much debate at a meeting of the county’s children and young people scrutiny committee last week. Mr Breckon told councillors that council officers had spoken to pupils at Queen Eleanor and the endowed schools and received positive feedback from both. He said Queen Eleanor had improved its value added scores and GCSE grades.

County councillor Mike Exton (Con) asked officers to explain the difference in exam results between Queen Eleanor and Casterton Business and Enterprise College. Mr Breckon said: “The reality is that the Queen Eleanor has not been taking in a comprehensive intake.”

Coun John Hough (Lab) said: “What we can do is continue to invest and develop education in Stamford and I very much welcome the improvement in Queen Eleanor’s performance and its continued improvement.

“The important thing is that people’s perceptions change on the basis of performance.”

Stamford councillor John Hicks (Ind) said he welcomed the Queen Eleanor’s progress but said that his biggest concern was what would happen to children from Stamford who had passed their 11-plus but because of the county’s school transport policies now had little chance of going to Bourne Grammar School, or to The Deepings School.

Stamford Endowed Schools principal Stephen Roberts said of the report: “The recommendations are generalised and, while fine in principle, it is hard to see how they will be implemented to improve the education of children in Stamford in the short to medium term.

“The report notes the exasperation and frustrations of parents and the consensus of support for radical change in the educational provision, and we hope that this is heeded and addressed urgently.

“Also noted in the report is the Stamford Endowed School’s long history of enhancing the educational provision in the town, whether through scholarships or subsidised places, and we hope that we can remain a part of any solution reached.”

Stamford Queen Eleanor School head Wendy Hamilton is inviting parents looking for a senior school for their children to take a look at her school.

She said: “Our best advert is our students and our results.

“The one thing I find disheartening is when people make a decision when they have not visited the school.

“Everyone has an opinion but I would like to think that people have made informed decisions.

“The best way to make an informed decision about QE is to come and see us. If anyone wants to do that we would be more than happy to show them around.

Queen Eleanor has had £250,000 of building work over the last few years and she said more youngsters had joined the school since September as parents have heard good things.

Miss Hamilton said Stamford was in a unique situation being close to the Rutland border and that it did not have a state school which catered for 11 to 18-year-olds, something she believes people in the town want.

The school works with New College Stamford and the endowed schools in the Stamford Education Alliance but does not have a sixth form.

She is also calling on the county council to look at the provision of post 16 education in the town.

Queen Eleanor has had its best GCSE exam results over the last two years.

The school previously had more than 40 per cent of pupils gaining five A* to C grades but this rose to 68 per cent last year.

It is hoped that this latest batch of Year 11 pupils will increase this to 70 per cent.