Heath Old Boys Association


News and events


An interview with Lynnette Cassidy Head of Crossley Heath

In last year’s Crossleyan magazine Lynnette reported on her first year at Crossley Heath. We thought that it would be a good idea to meet up and interview her rather than ask for another annual report.

My fellow interviewer, Grayham Smith of Heath Old Boys Association and I reassured her that we were not from the John Humphrys/Jeremy Paxman school of interrogation and we proceeded with a very enjoyable discussion on matters which we thought would be of interest to our readers in the two Associations.

We explained to Lynnette that Grayham and I were contemporaries and rivals at Heath and Crossleys in the 1950s and we wanted to know how the school had changed and how it was evolving to meet the challenges of today.

Experience

Lynnette has had a very wide range of experience in the world of education and, apart from a brief dalliance with Natwest Bank’s graduate trainee programme, has spent all of her working life in teaching and education. She graduated in geography and taught at Ashton under Lyne for five years after obtaining her PGCE. This was a tough introduction to teaching but she moved on to other challenging schools in Bradford and Batley before moving away from the chalkface into working in advisory education and planning roles with the local authorities of Calderdale and Kirklees. In 2011 she returned to school teaching where her skills and experience proved very effective. Before becoming head of Crossley Heath she was Deputy Head at Bacup and Rawtenstall Grammar School.

Change

We talked about how schools had changed from the days which Grayham and I remember in the 1950s when they were virtually self contained in the sense that they could teach almost what they wanted and how they wanted to teach, provided they didn’t break the law. They were not consumed with the tight financial regulation we have today and which has led to a system which is governed by significantly reduced funding over the last few years administered directly through the Department of Education.

As a grammar school, the very academic curriculum is traditional. The curriculum is under regular review; the Head would like to extend the arts and sporting opportunities; however, she sees no likelihood of greater funding to enable this — all of which adds to her, the staff’s and Governors’ burden.

Lynnette thinks that in the 1960s there was a growing awareness that the then national system of grammar schools, technical colleges and secondary schools was not the best way to educate children and help them to achieve the best they could. The eleven plus test divided children into different career paths and social groupings which could govern their whole lives.

This gave rise to what became a tidal wave of reform driven by Government, including the Comprehensive system and the National Curriculum. Some reforms were beneficial, some less so. A number of strategies and reforms were tried, found wanting, but have come round again! Those grammar schools which survived, such as Crossley Heath, have had to adapt to meet these challenges whilst still retaining the core values of a grammar education. Lynnette believes that grammar schools have a place within a mixed economy of school types.

Funding

Lynnette explained that it is the per capita funding system which has probably has the greatest influence on how the school has to run nowadays. Each student has a notional sum of money allocated to them by the government for their education and this is the main income source for running the school. There are variations in this per capita allowance which is dependent on where the school is situated and the social needs of some of the students. It is government policy that schools must teach certain key subjects, notably STEM subjects which are Science, English and Maths at GCSE. Humanities and Languages are also compulsory subjects at the school as part of the academic grammar school curriculum. This inevitably leaves reduced resources to deliver sports, visual arts and performing arts.

Crossley Heath has very successfully joined an organisation of local schools called C6 whereby sixth form students are taken by taxi to one of the schools in the group which teaches an A level subject which Crossley Heath doesn’t currently offer.

The question of sixth form provision is a great cause for concern at Crossley Heath. We remembered the transition from fifth form to sixth form, from being under authority to being in authority, when you were expected to take on responsibilities such as prefect duties, house captains, running school societies, sports captains and coaches. There are still students who wish to take on these roles but the attraction of new sixth form colleges is becoming more and more tempting. They can offer a wider subject range and up to date facilities for studying. There is also the temptation of wanting to get away from the junior school and associate with your contemporaries. A reduction in the number of sixth form students would reduce the per capita income stream and this would place pressure on the financial viability of the sixth form.

The School

The School has increased its intake to 180 in 2015 (six classes of 30 per annum) which is seen as a possible lifeline — with consequent additional funding. The school offers the prospect and attraction for A level students of two more years in a well respected and renowned place of learning which is producing a high level of academic success .

Entry to Crossley Heath at age 11 is determined by success in the entrance exams which means that those parents who are able to may make sure that their children are tutored to pass the exam. There are advantages and disadvantages to this for children. For example, a child could be admitted because they passed the exam but might struggle to cope with the wider demands of grammar school life. It also means that children whose parents cannot afford to pay for tuition are at a disadvantage. Lynnette explained that the governors are aware of this and are exploring ways the school can engage with primary schools to see how the problem can be addressed and enable more children of the required ability to have the opportunity to study at Crossley Heath.

This is a taxing problem. Talented children may be overlooked for want of specialist tuition. It is acknowledged as problematical for grammar schools nationally but without a current solution.

Managing Crossley Heath, which is now a business as well as a source of education and opportunity for future generations, requires a leader with a wide range of experience and ability. Lynnette appears to be filling that role admirably.

We had a most enjoyable discussion but before we left we had one final question. What do you do in your spare time. If you have any?

I run 10 Ks and half marathons!

Good luck for your next race, Lynnette!

The School is in the hands of a good settled staff led by an impressive, purposeful Head teacher.

Michael Denton and Grayham Smith [Heath 1952–1959]

Reprinted with permission from the Crossleyan.