I have been pleased that I have been pointed in the direction of all sorts of schools with a mixture of styles, abilities and challenges. This was my first visit to a secondary school in my recent tour of the county.
I was met by Ben Slade, the principle. What a fine example of an inspirational leader dedicated to driving up standards in a pragmatic way. He was also excellent company.
I had a chat with a group of mixed aged children and discussed a range of issues. I found them polite, restrained (no one grabbed any of the biscuits on offer, although I was not able to resist) and all smartly dressed in uniform. Ben was keen that he was not in the room so I could hear the children with out any influence from him. I was surprised how shy they were.
We discussed how difficult they felt the transition to a secondary school was, how they like attending a relatively small school and how difficult it felt when everyone felt that Arbury was a rough place to live when it fact the opposite is true.
The teaching seemed lively, interesting and so much better than the chalk and talk techniques that I remember from school.
Ben was so obviously proud of the school and with some reason. This school continues to improve and felt like a good place to send a child. This is reflected in the growing number of parents who are registering their children for the Manor.
I left thinking that this school is suffering, as are the children, because of a prejudice. A prejudice against a community that feels wrong. Compare Arbury with any number of cities around the country and it could never be classed as rough.
I have pledged to do what ever I can to support this school and community.