Parents share honest view of secondary schools

October 30 2015

MYTHS and prejudices were dispelled about two local secondary schools last month at a ‘meet the parents’ event.

MYTHS and prejudices were dispelled about two local secondary schools last month at a ‘meet the parents’ event.

The evening was organised by Next Steps Horfield, which was established last year by local mum Helen Thomas to create “positive change” in secondary school education in the area.

It was set up in response to parents expressing dissatisfaction with the local secondary school provision.

Families from Orchard School Bristol – formerly Monks Park – and Fairfield High School, both in Horfield, attended the panel discussion, and were asked challenging questions from primary school parents across the area.

Redland Green School declined the invitation.

Topics discussed related to transition, bullying, parent communication, student representation, and support for learning difficulties.

Parents spoke honestly and openly about the schools, highlighting their high quality education, cultural diversity and community engagement. They also spoke positively about their childrens’ experiences.

Sue Loffler, an Orchard School parent who went to Monks Park, spoke about her initial concern of sending her children to the school.

“My children really wanted to go to Orchard, but I felt quite negatively about the school because of my experience of Monks Park – but this was before I had even looked around.

“When I went to the open event, I was totally taken aback. It was so different and the facilities were absolutely superb.

“My children achieved fantastic results, there were very happy there and never not wanted to go to school. There were lots of opportunities, they made lots of friends, and had such fabulous supportive teachers. I have had no complaints about Orchard School.”

Alima Ouebanji, a parent at Fairfield High School, said: “I’ve never been to a school where the pupils are so passionate about the school, and I thought that if a school can fire up teenagers with so much enthusiasm, then that school must be doing something right. That was the biggest reason why I chose Fairfield – it was the students themselves.”

Feedback gathered from the evening was “very positive”, says Helen Thomas, and revealed that 80 percent of the parents who attended were “more likely” to visit the schools, with the other 20 percent saying that they would have gone anyway.

Prospective primary school parents attended from Bishop Road, Sefton Park, Ashley Down, Brunel Field and Horfield CEVC.

One primary school parent, Richard Wills, who went to Orchard School’s open evening two days before the event, spoke about how the night dispelled his negative perceptions.

He said: “Orchard School is not Monks Park, and it’s important that parents understand this. I went to their open evening with pre-determined ideas, but I was really impressed. My child came home saying that they really wanted to go there.”

Helen Thomas said: “I've had really good feedback from the evening.  The parents on the panel did a great job in answering the questions openly and showed how their children are thriving in these local schools. And the pupils themselves were so proud of their schools!

“No secondary school is perfect but what this evening showed is that curiosity combined with open discussion can really bust a few myths and give people a sense of what a school is like today.”

She added: “I hope that events like these can bring communities together and let everyone discover the assets and potential they have on their own doorstep.

“A little bit of community support can do wonders for the success of a school and ultimately this gives parents positive choices that they never thought they had.

“Hopefully the parents who attended will spread the word.”

Bishopston councillor Tim Malnick, who has been involved with the campaign, said: “This was a fantastic event – informative, positive and all about the community sharing questions and experiences on the stuff that matters.

“I’m looking forward to supporting Next Steps North Bristol to develop more of these events. We hope to run them in the summer term next year at a number of primary schools, to help parents who will be making decisions about secondary choices next autumn.”

Meet the Parents event