Banbury science school backs down on post-Covid curriculum changes for GCSE pupils after father complains
The reversal in the timetable came following a complaint made by Kevin Kewin, whose son James, 16, is a keen science student at the Futures Institute (formerly the Space Studio) which is part of the Aspirations Academy campus.
Mr Kewin told the Banbury Guardian students had been chosen to go to the school specifically to concentrate on sciences - chemistry, biology and physics - and that they had suffered by the lack of school study while home-schooling during lockdown.
"How can anyone with any compassion and rationale think they've done these children any favours?. They all had to have an aptitude for science and pass an entrance exam to get into this school. My son has been excelling in those core lessons but didn't in Wykham Park Academy (on the Aspirations campus) because his aptitude is not for geography or languages.
"The whole ethos of the school was that some people don't excel in history and geography but they do in sciences; they want to get into the minutiae of chemistry and that is why this school sold us on what they did."
The school sent an email to parents telling them the timetable had been changed to meet Department for Education guidance on 'broadening the curriculum'. But this week they sent a new letter home saying the geography and languages periods would be replaced by revision classes. However additional PE has been kept in the timetable.
Mr Kewin said: "Instead of having nine dedicated science lessons a week, James has eight 'triple-science' lessons. This week he did a biology test in a chemistry lesson and biology revision in a physics lesson. I asked if last year's Year 11 last year had to do this and the head said no.
"The revision periods have turned out to be strictly disciplined and like detentions. The children are not allowed earphones or to talk to each other to discuss the subjects and on Monday the teacher supervising mentioned my complaint to the whole class which I think is inappropriate and I complained. These children have such an uphill struggle to claw back what they've lost through lockdown. They need to be concentrating on what they need for their exams.
"These are the worst affected children because of Covid and now they're having their hands tied behind their back. I'm not the only parent who feels this. Others are of the same opinion. We sent our children to this school because of the subjects that specifically suited our children."
A spokesperson for Aspirations Academies Trust said: ‘’At the start of this term we briefly decided to provide our Futures Institute students with an experience of geography and modern Foreign Languages in order to broaden the curriculum.
"However, the feedback from parents was that they wanted their children to continue to focus on the original curriculum and we responded quickly to resolve this issue by removing these subjects from the timetables..
"Last year our Year 10 students spent two hours a week on project-based learning. Once our pupils arrive in Year 11 this time is devoted instead to catch up lessons or revision. This is a practice that has been in place at the school for years and this year is no different.
"These sessions are not unsupervised but staffed at all times and are tailored to the needs of each student to help them in areas where they need extra assistance as they prepare to sit their GCSEs. The conditions for these sessions are no different to those set for normal/usual lessons – we strongly refute the suggestion that these sessions ‘are strictly disciplined in terms of the usual conditions' .
"Students at Futures Institute continue to have up to nine hours of science lessons - the same number of hours in Year 10. The feedback from parents we have spoken to has been positive and they are happy that the matter was dealt with swiftly.
"This year we have also added one extra lesson of core PE (physical PE), not two and this is due to the Government’s drive to encourage children to exercise more and tackle rising obesity levels amongst youngsters."