Headteacher questions why council did not approach school

Wharfedale Observer: Prince Henry's Grammar School headteacher Janet Sheriff Prince Henry's Grammar School headteacher Janet Sheriff

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.

  • What do you think? Write to us at Wharfedale Observer letters, 8 Wells Road, Ilkley, LS29 9JD, or e-mail the editor at george.hinton@gazette andobserver.co.uk.

Comments (2)

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6:46pm Thu 12 Dec 13

Otleyresidentenow says...

I was so pleased to see the piece in your latest issue on the introduction of iPad to students at Prince Henrys. I too objected to this proposed scheme and felt reassured that others felt the same way. I don’t like the way the school has handled the ‘proposed’ introduction of this new IPad scheme. Last month I attended a marketing presentation with a nominal ‘have your say’ at the end that appeared to be purposefully individualised to avoid a fair public debate. Many of the questions people would have asked in the public arena could have helped everyone make more informed choices and support their decision process. However I think the school’s agenda to embrace technology took precedence and parents’ fears that ‘their child will be left out’ will pressurise parents to comply. What follows are some of my concerns.

• Worries about getting children on the consumer bandwagon too early
as we all know there is considerable peer pressure to keep up with other children. I’m sure you can see this in the mobile phone market. Children are pressured to have the latest and most expensive phones as a status symbol amongst their peers. The introduction of the IPad 2 is a school initiated example of this same problem. Ironically the IPad 2 is already out of date, with the 32 gb and 64 gb versions already discontinued and I suspect the 16 gb soon to follow. Applications are developed to keep up with this capitalist consumer society and I doubt that the tablet will keep up with the proposed task. Children will demand new versions and because of peer pressure some will be granted and the rest will have to feel dissatisfied! I don’t want this for my children and I urge you to think about this seriously.

• Cost in difficult economic times
I feel it’s inappropriate to ask parents to contribute £10 per month for 36 months towards the scheme to hire an outdated piece of technology and not even to own it at the end, but then to be charged an additional fee to buy it! Parents with two or more children will be even more out of pocket. We are living through a recession and with many people failing to secure adequate wage increases in line with inflation and some of us having uncertain employment opportunities, we are all getting poorer. I feel it’s inappropriate for the school to expect parents to contribute.

• Inappropriate usage
as we all know our children are more interested in game playing than doing their homework. Well the IPad is a game machine in which developers market addictive moneymaking games at our children. It is my view that many students will predominantly use this tablet for this purpose. The same is true of social networks and with the increasing use of sexting/ cyber bullying the school is proposing to provide every child the opportunity to do this with ease. It is also recommended to keep the use of internet out of the child’s bedroom, but this device is endorsed by the school and is to be ‘used’ for homework. We all know that it is going to be difficult to monitor our children but also get them to stop using it late at night. Yet another thing to remember to remove from them at bedtime.

• Students security
every child will be a target to muggings with a £400 device that is easily sold on Ebay. People already come from Leeds to mug ‘rich kids’ and there has been cases of this in Otley recently where children were asked to hand over their phones. There is also no way of stopping your child being able to see inappropriate material. Many of our children already know how to use computers better than parents and it’s a real hassle to set up security to stop this on children’s accounts, so this device will encourage inappropriate usage.

• What happens when?
- The battery runs out? Do we as parents have to remember to keep it charged?
- Something goes wrong that is technical? Many parents will not know how to fix complex technical problems and this computer in the hands of children will eventually go wrong and will need fixing. Will the school sort this out?
- Becomes outdated (it’s already an outdated technology)

• Why not alternatives (notebook, laptop, Google nexus 10, phones)?
Finally if they do have to be introduced why not use cheaper better alternatives? I work at Bradford University and in my professional opinion a notebook is a much better investment for the development of serious applications. An iPad is a toy masquerading as educational; many of the applications presented on the evening can be equally carried out even surpassed by using a laptop, mobile phone, other cheaper device.
I felt so strongly that parents needed to discuss this openly that I set up a Facebook group (https://www.faceboo
k.com/groups/2187817
94966618/ ) to enable parents to freely share their views and welcome an open public debate. After all we all want what’s best for our children and as parents should have a say in our children’s education, especially when we are being asked for a sizable donation towards it!
I was so pleased to see the piece in your latest issue on the introduction of iPad to students at Prince Henrys. I too objected to this proposed scheme and felt reassured that others felt the same way. I don’t like the way the school has handled the ‘proposed’ introduction of this new IPad scheme. Last month I attended a marketing presentation with a nominal ‘have your say’ at the end that appeared to be purposefully individualised to avoid a fair public debate. Many of the questions people would have asked in the public arena could have helped everyone make more informed choices and support their decision process. However I think the school’s agenda to embrace technology took precedence and parents’ fears that ‘their child will be left out’ will pressurise parents to comply. What follows are some of my concerns. • Worries about getting children on the consumer bandwagon too early as we all know there is considerable peer pressure to keep up with other children. I’m sure you can see this in the mobile phone market. Children are pressured to have the latest and most expensive phones as a status symbol amongst their peers. The introduction of the IPad 2 is a school initiated example of this same problem. Ironically the IPad 2 is already out of date, with the 32 gb and 64 gb versions already discontinued and I suspect the 16 gb soon to follow. Applications are developed to keep up with this capitalist consumer society and I doubt that the tablet will keep up with the proposed task. Children will demand new versions and because of peer pressure some will be granted and the rest will have to feel dissatisfied! I don’t want this for my children and I urge you to think about this seriously. • Cost in difficult economic times I feel it’s inappropriate to ask parents to contribute £10 per month for 36 months towards the scheme to hire an outdated piece of technology and not even to own it at the end, but then to be charged an additional fee to buy it! Parents with two or more children will be even more out of pocket. We are living through a recession and with many people failing to secure adequate wage increases in line with inflation and some of us having uncertain employment opportunities, we are all getting poorer. I feel it’s inappropriate for the school to expect parents to contribute. • Inappropriate usage as we all know our children are more interested in game playing than doing their homework. Well the IPad is a game machine in which developers market addictive moneymaking games at our children. It is my view that many students will predominantly use this tablet for this purpose. The same is true of social networks and with the increasing use of sexting/ cyber bullying the school is proposing to provide every child the opportunity to do this with ease. It is also recommended to keep the use of internet out of the child’s bedroom, but this device is endorsed by the school and is to be ‘used’ for homework. We all know that it is going to be difficult to monitor our children but also get them to stop using it late at night. Yet another thing to remember to remove from them at bedtime. • Students security every child will be a target to muggings with a £400 device that is easily sold on Ebay. People already come from Leeds to mug ‘rich kids’ and there has been cases of this in Otley recently where children were asked to hand over their phones. There is also no way of stopping your child being able to see inappropriate material. Many of our children already know how to use computers better than parents and it’s a real hassle to set up security to stop this on children’s accounts, so this device will encourage inappropriate usage. • What happens when? - The battery runs out? Do we as parents have to remember to keep it charged? - Something goes wrong that is technical? Many parents will not know how to fix complex technical problems and this computer in the hands of children will eventually go wrong and will need fixing. Will the school sort this out? - Becomes outdated (it’s already an outdated technology) • Why not alternatives (notebook, laptop, Google nexus 10, phones)? Finally if they do have to be introduced why not use cheaper better alternatives? I work at Bradford University and in my professional opinion a notebook is a much better investment for the development of serious applications. An iPad is a toy masquerading as educational; many of the applications presented on the evening can be equally carried out even surpassed by using a laptop, mobile phone, other cheaper device. I felt so strongly that parents needed to discuss this openly that I set up a Facebook group (https://www.faceboo k.com/groups/2187817 94966618/ ) to enable parents to freely share their views and welcome an open public debate. After all we all want what’s best for our children and as parents should have a say in our children’s education, especially when we are being asked for a sizable donation towards it! Otleyresidentenow

11:30pm Fri 13 Dec 13

alneedham says...

I totally agree with the above comment. At the so called 'consultation' meeting we attended (no questions allowed from the floor after a very biased series of presentations) we were informed that the driver behind this initiative was to help our kids become the 'leaders of the future'. This sums up the academy mentality we warned about when the school was removed from community control two tears ago- ie: look after 'our' kids and 'to hell' with everyone else. If the use of an IPAD is really such an educational necessity it should be made universally available and funded through general taxation (and not just become a privilege available to some) We have decided not to assent to this scheme but if as a result find our child is in the slightest way disadvantaged within the classroom will certainly not let the matter rest
I totally agree with the above comment. At the so called 'consultation' meeting we attended (no questions allowed from the floor after a very biased series of presentations) we were informed that the driver behind this initiative was to help our kids become the 'leaders of the future'. This sums up the academy mentality we warned about when the school was removed from community control two tears ago- ie: look after 'our' kids and 'to hell' with everyone else. If the use of an IPAD is really such an educational necessity it should be made universally available and funded through general taxation (and not just become a privilege available to some) We have decided not to assent to this scheme but if as a result find our child is in the slightest way disadvantaged within the classroom will certainly not let the matter rest alneedham

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