Teacher Talk

Sir Kevin Satchwell is the head teacher of Thomas Telford School in Telford, which came sixth in the national league table of secondary comprehensive schools, published last week
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What do you think about league tables?

What do you think about league tables?

I've never yet met a parent who, when asked how satisfied they are with their child's school, says "just let me go and look at the performance tables, then I'll tell you." The league tables are a necessity, but they're also a very small part of what people take into account about schools. There's a lobby that complains they're too complicated, but they're not if you look at them properly.

How do you explain your school's success?

We have the highest teaching scores on record. Our parents get 10, hand-written reports about their child each year. At the end of each of those reports we ask the parents how satisfied they are with their child's education. We've created an ethos where it's not taboo to succeed. The culture of the school is very positive. We have no punitive sanctions, no detentions or extra work as punishment.

What do you think of the emphasis the league tables give to vocational courses at the expense of academic subjects?

We pioneered courses such as hospitality and management or ICT, in the early 1990s. We're often told that it's easier to find a lawyer than a plumber in London nowadays. There is a desperate need for these skills. You can't even get a tyre changed these days without using IT, for example. It's permeated every part of life. It's as important a subject now as maths and English. Everybody takes a vocational course. Last year we sent four of our pupils to Oxbridge, all of whom followed vocational courses alongside their academic studies.

What do you think of Ruth Kelly's emphasis on schools being run by companies or co-operative groups of parents?

It depends on the expertise of the parents. The best people to run schools are head teachers, the more power given to them the better.

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