Letter: Negative portrayal angers disadvantaged school pupils

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Sir: As a 'besieged' member of Dyke House school staff, still reeling from the findings of a recent inspection by Ofsted, the new standards agency, I find your article 'Under siege since the middle class went elsewhere' (27 May) offensive. Having been a member of Dyke House's teaching staff since 1978, I am aware that standards, for whatever reason, have declined. I know that the Ofsted inspection, although insensitive in its style of reporting back, was accurate in many of its judgements and findings.

I, and the rest of the staff, make no excuses or denials. The report's findings were not the reason for the pall of disbelief, dismay and anger that hung over the Dyke House staffroom. Instead, I refer to the damning and inaccurate descriptions of the catchment area's residents. I quote: 'The estates are home to vandals, criminals, drug- takers, the poor and the illiterate.'

I wonder how the area's residents have received that? I know how their children received it this morning, as I read the offending passages to my tutor group of 13-year-olds. Many were deeply hurt. The majority were angry that your reporter could write this and insult them further by calling their homes 'a mixture of drab and battered private and council housing'.

Then there is the accompanying photograph to consider. Obviously your photographer looked for one of the worst classrooms in the school and took the bleakest shot he could to illustrate his colleague's flawed article. A class of 13-year-olds demanded to know why this room had been chosen from the dozens of well-appointed classrooms the school has to offer. Yes, I admit there are a couple of bare, cheerless rooms, but why focus on this negative minority, totally ignoring the 30 or so welcoming learning bases, whose walls display pupils' work of all levels of ability? Unfortunately, this is what journalism of the Nineties thrives on.

I am fast reaching a point where anger begins to colour rationality, but hope that I have voiced the feelings of many parents, pupils and residents of Dyke House school and its catchment area.

Yours faithfully,


Dyke House School

Hartlepool, Cleveland

27 May