Tom Richmond: A lesson in appreciating the work of our teachers

The Archbishop of York at Tickton School.
The Archbishop of York at Tickton School.
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AS the one and only Dr John Sentamu continues his inspirational six-month pilgrimage of prayer throughout the Diocese of York, he is extremely well-qualified to comment on schools – and teachers.

Unlike those Whitehall-based politicians and pontificating policy-makers who only make fleeting and occasional visits to schools, the Archbishop of York undertakes such visits on a regular basis.

And when he implores critics of the teaching profession to “shut up” so uninformed criticism does not have such a corrosive effect on morale, he’s more than qualified to say so.

His comments came after one of the latest legs of his very own Pilgrim’s Progress which began in the East Riding village of Tickton – and continued on foot, through a snowstorm, to the market town of Beverley.

As he wandered into the assembly hall at Tickton Primary School, two things struck me – the rows and rows of perfectly-behaved pupils, 200 at a rough estimate, waiting in anticipation for their VIP visitor and then their enthusiasm when asked by the Rev Jeremy Fletcher, vicar of Beverley Minster, if they had any questions.

I’ve never seen so many hands go up in unison as Tickton’s youngsters asked a series of questions that would have put a proven inquisitor like Jeremy Paxman to shame. They covered the role of an Archbishop – Dr Sentamu likened it to a headteacher – before touching on his upbringing in Uganda and role models 
in society.

When asked about his enthronement, he asked a pupil to kneel before him – just as he had done when given the Queen’s blessing – before telling the girl that she was now the Archbishop of York.

Even when he dropped into a number of impromptu lessons, the quality of the written work – and especially a project on the suffragettes – could not have been more impressive. Tickton’s teachers clearly know how to stimulate their pupils.

Imagine my surprise, and disappointment, when it was quietly pointed out that this was a school which “required improvement” according to its most recent Ofsted assessment – a verdict that had caused much upset.

According to inspectors, the quality of teaching “is not consistently good enough” and “pupils have too few opportunities to write for different purposes”. Really? Not on this evidence – and I was reliably informed that the school’s ethos has not changed.

As such, I sincerely hope that the Archbishop’s words of wisdom can be heeded. Instead of running down teachers at each and every opportunity, how about asking what more can be done to raise standards still further?

It is a lesson that deserves to be learned – it is certainly more effective than forcing every school to become an academy – and it would have Dr Sentamu’s blessing. After all, he’s taken the trouble to listen to the teachers who have to implement Government policy. A succession of Education Secretaries, not least Nicky Morgan, have not.

THANK you for all your messages of support following last week’s exposé of the serial ‘love letters’ from David Cameron / Shameron (delete as appropriate) on tourism – and this newspaper’s decision to spike the Prime Minister’s phoney piece.

The motivation was to reveal the extent to which Downing Street had ignored Yorkshire’s flooding victims – and the open letter published by this newspaper on January 26. If it does speed up a response, and shake complacent Ministers and officials out of their collective lethargy when it comes to the North, it will have served its purpose.

HOW disingenuous can you get? David Laws, if you remember, was the Lib Dem Treasury Chief Secretary who had to resign after just 16 days in office in 2010 when his Parliamentary expenses were exposed.

Yet, despite the infamy of being the shortest-serving Cabinet minister in post-war politics, David Cameron relented when Nick Clegg pleaded for Mr Laws to be given another Ministerial job after 18 months on the backbenches.

If the Prime Minister had showed some backbone, and demanded the highest standards of probity from all Ministers, then Mr Laws would not have been in a position to cash in by writing a ‘kiss and tell’ book on the coalition – and, presumably, make a small fortune from his serialisation deal with a Sunday paper.

As such, I don’t think he is doing himself, or the Lib Dems, any favours.

UNLIKE all those transport schemes in the South that are getting the green light, it appears Tory MP Andrea Jenkyns will have to wait longer for improvements to her local station in Morley.

Despite beating Ed Balls at the last election, Rail Minister Claire Perry is unsympathetic: “It has been put forward several times, but there were many others ahead of it in the queue in terms of passenger footfall – again, we are trying to catch up from decades of neglect.”

Even though the Budget was supposed to get the Northern Powerhouse back on track with a series of road and rail improvements, this response proves one thing: it will be up to MPs, councillors, businesses and campaigners to work together to make the most convincing case possible for any Government
money.

If they don’t, all the money will go on the second Crossrail line in London.

I SEE the Americanisation of Leeds continues to gather pace. Not only does a new sign at the city’s railway station advise passengers to use an “alternate exit” but a notice at Aireborough Leisure Centre’s swimming pool makes reference to “25 meters”. Whatever next? The Stars and Stripes flag flying over the Civic Hall in tribute to US presidential hopeful Donald Trump?

FINALLY, a request to the police. When are you going to start prosecuting those impatient motorists who don’t wait in the rush hour for yellow box junctions to become clear before proceeding? These ignoramuses only make the delays worse for everyone else.

tom.richmond@ypn.co.uk