Prince Henry's Grammar School leaders under fire in row over iPads in classroom

Otley Town Councillor Carl Morris

Chairman of governors at Prince Henry's Grammar School, Paul Tranter

First published in Local news Ilkley Gazette: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter

An Otley school has been criticised as “unaccountable” after deciding to press on with a ‘buy an iPad’ scheme.

Prince Henry’s Grammar School announced its decision, despite concerns raised by about 60 parents at a public meeting last week, on Friday, January 17.

Governors have also turned down a requested meeting with parents, deeming it unnecessary since there has already been “ample opportunity” for people to raise questions.

Concerned parents and councillors have expressed dismay, but the school insists it has consulted properly – and been given the backing of the “vast majority”.

It will now implement a scheme that will see parents contributing £360 over three years so that Key Stage 3 students have the use of their ‘own’ – they won’t own them without an additional payment – iPads.

Leonie Sharp, however, who has been co-ordinating parental opposition, said the fight would go on.

She said: “The governors say they do not believe a parental delegation is necessary – this is from governors who are supposed to be accountable to the parents.

“The school announced it was proceeding because ‘91 per cent of those who responded’ have opted in – they have not confirmed that 91 per cent of all parents and carers have done so, which was the crucial figure given.

“In addition, because the school has failed to answer questions posed by the parents from the public meeting and to respond to our request for a delegation to see the governors, parents are angered and are either more resolutely committed to opt out, or changing their minds.”

In their letter to parents headteacher Janet Sheriff and deputy headteacher with responsibility for learning infrastructure, Chris Rowbottom, said they were convinced the initiative would “result in a positive impact for the learning and progress of students”.

They added: “Thank you to the vast majority of parents who have returned their preference forms. Ninety one per cent of decisions are to opt-in, and the high proportion of responses means the proposed iPad scheme is viable.”

Chair of governors Paul Tranter, replying to the request to meet parents, said: “The information already made available answers many of the questions sent by ‘phgsparents’.

“In addition, all KS3 parents and carers have been given ample opportunity to raise specific questions, discuss concerns and share their views. Governors do not believe, therefore, that it is necessary or appropriate to meet a delegation.”

But Otley Town Councillor Carl Morris (Lab, Manor) believes that is simply wrong, and is helping parents stage a further public meeting at Otley Social Club, on Weston Drive, at 7pm on Tuesday.

He said: “This issue is so huge it affects us all. For the first time in generations, children in Otley and the surrounding area are going to be paying for equipment that the school believes is essential for the teaching curriculum.

“This is a fundamental change to how our education system works and it shouldn’t be pushed through when there is so much disagreement.”

Ward Councillor Ryk Downes (Lib Dem, Otley and Yeadon) added: “I am disappointed at the school’s response, because it fails to adequately address the points we made in our letter about parents who have more than one child at school, and still seems to create a two-tier system.

“I am also disappointed the school appears reluctant to meet me – it is a shame it does not wish to engage with local representatives of concerned parents before making a decision.”

  • Parent Paul Kirk has posted a copy of the message he has sent to the school, asking to withdraw from the scheme – despite having originally opted in – due to “unanswered questions”, on the Prince Henry’s Parents for Democracy Facebook page.

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