Parents 'feel worse' after hearing each other's troubled accounts at school in Warwick affected by RAAC saga

It is one of two schools in the town which has been affected by the ongoing RAAC problems.
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Troubling accounts of missed lessons and ignored pleas for help made some parents “feel worse” than when they arrived at a meeting to discuss the crisis at Aylesford School in Warwick.

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Parts of the secondary school at the Tapping Way site have been closed due to the discovery of asbestos and uncertainty over whether RAAC – a lighter concrete prone to collapse with age – is present.

Troubling accounts of missed lessons and ignored pleas for help made some parents “feel worse” than when they arrived at a meeting to discuss the crisis at Aylesford School in Warwick. Photo by Mike BakerTroubling accounts of missed lessons and ignored pleas for help made some parents “feel worse” than when they arrived at a meeting to discuss the crisis at Aylesford School in Warwick. Photo by Mike Baker
Troubling accounts of missed lessons and ignored pleas for help made some parents “feel worse” than when they arrived at a meeting to discuss the crisis at Aylesford School in Warwick. Photo by Mike Baker
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It has left entire year groups at home with frustrated parents claiming online lessons through Teams are not taking place and that when they are, pupils are left to do the work following Powerpoint presentations without the ability to raise questions if they do not understand, leaving some in a distressed state.

The allegations emanated from a meeting set up by Warwick and Leamington MP Matt Western last week to discuss the impact of problems caused by the buildings being closed.

Concerns were raised over what the children were missing out on by being away from the school environment for so long and how they will be integrated on their return.

It was also alleged that children are sent online lesson links for subjects they are not taking and that teachers are conducting lessons through computers that are in close proximity to each other, meaning children cannot hear properly.

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Safeguarding issues, a lack of consistent communication and dead ends when trying to engage with the complaints procedure were also highlighted.

Early on, Mr Western said that representatives of Aylesford School had been invited to the meeting “but they chose not to come”.

After many of the allegations had come forward, a parent of a year eight pupil said: “I don’t know how anybody else is feeling but I feel worse having come here than I did when I started.”

Her comment was met with many murmurs of agreement.

“I am hearing loads more stuff that I didn’t know, which is all a part of the lack of communication,” she continued.

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“Now it feels an even bleaker picture than what I thought it was when I walked through the door – and I thought it was bleak to begin with.

“The school has not turned up to be accountable. What needs to happen now, after this meeting? Who is going to do it? How are we going to make the school accountable? I am not quite clear on what happens next for any change to occur.”

Mr Western replied: “I will be feeding this back to the senior leadership team at the school, including the governors, and also the Department for Education.”

The parent interjected.

“So far nobody is stepping up to the plate, we don’t even have online lessons, there is no communication,” she said.

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“Some of the stuff is acceptable. The school is not at fault over it crumbling and having asbestos but the other bits could still be running.

“If we have no confidence that anyone is doing any of that, how do we have any confidence that anything is going to happen after today?”

Mr Western replied: “I can well understand your frustration and I am sorry you have come to this meeting and feel worse for it.

“The point of this is to hear your concerns and some of the lived examples of what you are going through for me to go back to those authorities.

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“I am pressing really hard. You have hopefully seen the letters I have put out and I am demanding the secretary of state comes to visit Aylesford School to see for herself just how problematic this is and the reality on the ground. She has agreed to do that.

“I am very limited in my powers beyond that but I am pushing very hard.

“What I can say is we will keep up the pressure on the school and the Department for Education to accelerate what they are doing and to expand the number of classrooms.

“They are the questions I have been asking of the government and the government has not been as responsive as perhaps I would have liked.

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“Believe me, we are pushing hard on this. I am a member of the shadow education team and with colleagues, we are really holding feet to the fire to get them to do stuff to alleviate the problems and make sure you have the education that these young people need.

“There is going to have to be some sort of catch-up for them because they have missed so much.”

A number of parents questioned what the teachers were doing with the time that would have been spent delivering lessons under normal circumstances

One, who has two children at the school – one who is able to attend with the other learning from home – said: “It sounds like we are getting at the teachers, we are not, we want to help.”

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Another parent highlighted how he had to abandon a work call to help his son with trigonometry work after what he described as a "10-minute lesson through a Powerpoint presentation".

“These lessons are usually lengthy, an hour in the classrooms,” he said.

"My son was in tears because he couldn’t handle it. I was in my office next door on an important call at the time, I had to drop the call and take the following day off to sit down with him to go through it.

“I am fortunate and he is fortunate that I can do that, that I can teach him what he was trying to learn, but I had to suffer and take a day of holiday to do the teacher’s job for them.

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“Teachers have to be accountable for this and so does the headteacher. Ten minutes and a Powerpoint with no video, no cameras, no audio?

“If you wanted to ask a question you had to raise your hand (virtually), no one answered. He submitted a question online, no one has answered it to this day. What is the teacher doing for the other 40-50 minutes?”

Another parent said she had been involved in helping to set up online learning through Teams in the past and that “we have offered repeatedly” to help this time to no avail.

“I am putting up my hand to say I will do something if we need to do it,” she said.

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She highlighted the problems associated with teachers using computers in the library to deliver lessons, which in turn restricts the ability for year groups who are in school to access or fully utilise the library.

She said her children had described an “uncomfortable “ atmosphere before raising her concerns over the impact the situation is having on the teachers and staff.

The Local Democracy Reporting Service, a BBC-funded team of reporters assigned to various media outlets to cover local government in line with the corporation’s editorial principles, approached Aylesford School to speak with headteacher Tim Hodgson last week. We were informed we could not be put through to Mr Hodgson or his personal assistant but that our messages and details would be passed on.

Having received no response, office staff this week informed us that “at the minute, we are working with the national BBC”.

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The staff member declined to say who had given them that information. When we pressed for an answer, we were told “it doesn’t matter to you who we have been told to say that by”.

We asked again to speak with the headteacher’s personal assistant. The staff member took our details once more but we had not received a response at the time of publication.