More than 70 concerned parents, teachers, governors, councillors and local people came together in Digbeth, Birmingham, last week to discuss how to get local schools to do better for their underachieving pupils.
The meeting was co-ordinated by mother-of-two Naseem Akhtar, who wanted to see how much community interest there was in an issue she has long worried about. ‘Between 70 and 80 people came, including head teachers, councillors and people who work for the local education authority and there were about another 20 apologies, so people are clearly interested’, says Naseem. ‘We wanted people to come and talk about the problems they were facing with their children’s schools, but also the solutions they had discovered so that we can learn from each other.’
The next step in creating a grassroots pressure group will be to form a committee and choose a name for the new organisation. Naseem is keen to stress that the new organisation is aimed at supporting all children struggling to achieve their potential at school. ‘So far the only thing we’ve achieved equality in,’ she says, ‘is failing all poor working-class boys’. Naseem says it’s not just about underfunding, but a lack of training and development support for teachers once they have qualified and of specialist help for struggling pupils, the difficulty of removing ineffective teachers, and poor central planning by the government.
Naseem says her commitment to better education is driven by civic pride as well as parental concern. ‘Birmingham is Britain’s second city. We want it to be the best second city in the world’, she says. ‘But we can’t do that while so many of our children are leaving school without GCSEs in English and Maths. The industrial revolution’s over, you can’t bash metal anymore, you need qualifications to get jobs.’