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Headteacher questions why council did not approach school
Otley Town Council is calling on the local secondary school to abandon its ‘buy an iPad’ scheme.
The move comes after some parents contacted the council to raise concerns about the way Prince Henry’s Grammar School was pursuing the proposal.
The initiative, if it proceeds, would involve the school buying iPad2s for key stage three students to use in class and at home, with most parents then making a £360 “donation” over three years.
Prince Henry’s insists the change would boost educational achievement and says safeguards are in place to ensure all pupils benefit, regardless of financial circumstances.
The council, however, fears parents are being unfairly pressured and that a two-tier system could result.
The issue was debated on Monday when the cross-party community development committee unanimously agreed to ask the school to reconsider.
Councillor Carl Morris (Lab, Manor) said: “The committee was unanimous in its opposition, with Lib Dem Councillor Pauline Spencer making a particularly passionate argument.
“We felt strongly that the scheme will introduce a two-tier system, whereby some children will be excluded because of their financial situation at home.
“We are calling on the school to withdraw it and consider whether it could be introduced on a universal, free-of-charge basis.
“I completely understand parents will feel reluctant to take a stand by boycotting the scheme – no parent wants to risk their child missing out.
“But I would encourage anyone with reservations to write to the school and contact the town council.
“I would furthermore implore the school to think again. At the very least it should run a proper public meeting where parents can voice their opinion to other parents in an open forum.”
Prince Henry’s, meanwhile, points out that it has already held three consultation meetings.
Headteacher Janet Sheriff said: “It is disappointing the council was prepared to debate this issue without even attempting to speak to the school to get a proper understanding of the scheme that is being proposed.
“Particularly as the proposed scheme has the full support of Prince Henry’s governing body, which includes representation from the council.
“Their main concern seems to centre around the belief that a two-tier system will exist, whereby some children will be excluded because of their financial situation at home.
“This is simply not the case.
“Firstly, this scheme will only go ahead if there is overwhelming support from parents. Of the 300-plus parental responses received so far, more than 90 per cent have been in favour.
“Secondly, the school has allocated funds to support those families in challenging financial circumstances. If the scheme goes ahead then the parental contributions and the Gift Aid reclaimed will be used to purchase iPads for all key stage three students whose parents support the scheme and wish to be part of it.
“No child will be excluded because of financial circumstances. If any parents or carers have any outstanding questions we would encourage them to get in touch.”
The proposal as it stands would see most parents contributing £10 a month for three years to the school’s charity partner, the e-Learning Foundation, which – after administrative costs are deducted – would pass over the money, plus Gift Aid, to Prince Henry’s.
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