Saturday, 16 April 2011

William Ellis - one of the worst schools in London?

The litter-strewn wasteland to your right is a section of Hampstead Heath in London that is repeatedly abused by pupils of William Ellis, a comic-book comprehensive school notorious as much for its lack of discipline as for the bright and ludicrously unrealistic picture it paints of itself on its website. Below is a letter of complaint, very moderate in my view, written to the head teacher Jill Hislop by my partner Vicki Carpenter. I am the friend to whom Vicki refers and the world-weary seven-year-old is one of my sons. It is certainly true that the unlovely Ellis louts routinely terrorize each other and the residents of Hampstead and Highgate. My children and those of many others in the area are frightened of these yobs. Elderly people, too, are at risk, not to mention the shopkeepers and restaurateurs to whom Vicki refers. It's about time something was done about this and that the head teacher and governors stop fobbing people off with anodyne excuses. And if Jill Hislop proves incapable of controlling her louts, it might be time for her to give up teaching. If her upbeat introductory letter on the Ellis website is anything to go by, she could always get a job writing spin for Alastair Campbell, whose partner Fiona Millar is Chair of Governors.

Letter to Jill Hislop from Vicki Carpenter

Dear Jill Hislop,

Your introductory letter on the William Ellis website paints an inspiring picture of the ethos of the school and the conduct of your pupils. Sadly this is far from reflected in the behaviour of William Ellis pupils on and around Hampstead Heath.

Recently I accompanied a friend and his two young children on a walk across Hampstead Heath. Unfortunately our outing coincided with the letting out time of your pupils and any hopes of a peaceful stroll were completely squashed. The large grassy area near the tennis courts had been monopolized by your pupils, who were shouting obscenities and behaving in an intimidating manner to each other and to passers-by. The open area near the tennis courts resembled a rubbish dump, littered with beer bottles (many of the pupils were clearly drunk) and pizza cartons. When I remarked on this, my friend’s youngest child (aged 7) shook his head wearily and told me that the Ellis pupils left it like it this every day. Over the road, near Café Mozart and the other restaurants and shops, your pupils were clustered on the pavement shouting and swearing. People trying to relax and enjoy a drink in the sunshine were visibly wincing and shrinking in fear. A local shopkeeper told me that he dreads it when your pupils are on the loose – in the mornings, at lunchtime and at home time – and is seriously considering closing his shop for good. Later, from the window of the C11 bus, I caught sight of an Ellis boy swinging a bicycle chain, surrounded by a gang of admiring younger children.

I suggest that you, as head teacher, are responsible for the behaviour of your charges and that you should put your house in order without further delay. Until you do, the bright and upbeat text on your website will continue to be greeted with skepticism and derision by long-suffering Hampstead and Highgate residents.

Yours sincerely

Vicki Carpenter

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