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A parent’s dilemma: BoJo Academy or Rayner’s Lane?


FOR more than a century the BoJo Academy has been a dazzling beacon in a somewhat dull educational firmament. Renowned for its traditional values and timeless style of teaching, it has attracted pupils from both home and abroad. Recently however, there has been a distinct and palpable feeling that the Academy has somehow lost its bearings, and that Rayner’s Lane Comprehensive offers a better experience for both pupils and parents. TCWDF’s Education Correspondent investigates.

It seems almost sacrilegious to question the capabilities of such a distinguished seat of learning as the BoJo Academy, yet more and more parents have expressed misgivings about the direction of travel this venerated institution has taken. Admired worldwide for its rigorous approach to dispensing knowledge and preparing past and future generations of pupils, it is a great shame that it is now under a penetrating spotlight.

I talk with Mr and Mrs Britten, a couple whose 14-year-old son attends the school. They articulate opinions that they assure me are widely held by parents.

‘Whilst initially we believed what we were told in a pre-admission tour and meeting, we have become increasingly disillusioned with the school. The recent merry-go-round of Head Teachers has done little to settle the nerves of already panicked parents. The differing approach to financial matters from a selection of Bursars has also troubled us.’

I ask Mr Britten if the teaching cadre impressed him.

‘Not at all, I am sad to say. Mr Sunak (current Headmaster) has taken on a variety of second- and third-rate individuals who are patently unsuitable for the task. I don’t know if these appointments were made to save money, or for some other reason, but most, if not all, should not be working in such an environment. In my wife’s opinion they are uniformly deadbeats.’

Has the curriculum changed much recently?

‘Again, yes, but in my mind not for the best. I sent our son there to be given what I thought would be the best education money could buy. Recently he has come home with homework which I struggle to see the benefit of. Whilst dance, film studies and travel and tourism are no doubt important for someone wanting to make their way in the modern world, it seems a pity that this is at the expense of more traditional subjects.

‘Additionally, our son appears to have been brainwashed. He hectors us endlessly about saving the planet. Not a day goes by without him turning lights off, turning the central heating down and returning meat to the supermarket for a refund. Only last week he let the air out of our car’s tyres and to cap it all he threw a tin of soup over a framed photograph of my wife and I enjoying the beach in Majorca. When I asked him why, he gave me an unsettling look and repeated over and over: “How dare you!” It was all quite upsetting, and I blame the Academy for instilling these thoughts.’

Has the Academy any redeeming qualities?

‘In my opinion, none whatsoever. The school is hopelessly oversubscribed yet still insists on accepting more and more boarders whose parents are located overseas. The dormitories are packed to the gunwales, and our son tells me that there have been some quite violent disputes outside the tuck shop. They even engaged a teacher to teach common sense – I mean, really?

‘The fees are exorbitant and they keep escalating each year – but for whose benefit? Mr Sunak has been an unmitigated disaster, but he is just one in a long line of hopeless helmsmen. Nothing works apparently; the whole infrastructure seems irreparably broken. If things don’t change soon, I will have to look elsewhere.’

By that, does he mean Rayner’s Lane Comprehensive or perhaps the newly opened Reform School in Farage Lane?

‘I am tempted by Mr Starmer’s openness and desire to give children a head start in life. My main concern is that the school itself is not exactly an advertisement for that ethos. The ramshackle portakabins strewn across the tarmacked playing fields, the insistence that parents cannot drive on the premises, the questionable practice of allowing boys and girls to share lavatories, changing rooms and showers and the well-documented bullying of the man in charge of school debates is all something my wife and I struggle to understand.

‘I am sure Sir Keir is well-intentioned, and that is evidenced by his willingness to employ people who would patently struggle to gain meaningful employment in the real world. But that goodness comes at a price for the youngsters, doesn’t it?

‘As far as the Reform School is concerned, we just don’t know. The prospectus is undeniably enticing, but there is an awful lot of small print in the last pages that we cannot be bothered with. I just wish there was a good old-fashioned school in the area, one that you knew was straightforward and sensible.’

Difficult times for parents; maybe a new school will emerge along the lines Mr Britten talks passionately about. Or maybe not.

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Alexander McKibbin
Alexander McKibbin
Alexander McKibbin is a retired media executive who worked across domestic and international media.

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