Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Parents Demand a Voice in Claremont's Future

Despite short notice and a clash with a school production, concerned parents  of Claremont High School students attended a meeting tonight at Kenton Methodist Church Hall about the possible conversion of the school to an Academy.

Parents reported that they had heard little about the proposals and were surprised to hear that a decision may be made tomorrow. One parent reported that he had e-mailed the school with six questions on the issue but had received no response. He had rejected sending his child to Wembley ARK Academy because he had reservations about the academies programme only to hear that the school where he had eventually sent her may itself become an academy.  Another parent commented that 'surgeries'  with senior staff and governors on the issue had been held when other meetings were taking place. There were also complaints about the difficulty of accessing the academy documents on the school's website. One document had a list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) with no answers. A letter that had been sent to parents on February 1st had not reached all the parents present and was not seen as even handed in its presentation of the case.

An exchange of opinion and information took place during the meeting and Hank Roberts of the NUT and ATL, two of the unions that had called the meeting, said this was precisely what the education unions wanted.  All they were asking was that parents should have the same opportunity as staff:  to hear both sides of the debate, time to make up their own minds, and then have the chance to express their views in a ballot. A teacher remarked that if the school leadership was so proud of what they were doing in seeking academy conversion why had they not proclaimed it, rather than be secretive. A parent asked why the school hadn't used recent parent meetings to inform them about the issue.

There was general agreement that parents should contact the school by e-mail to say they had not been properly consulted and asking for a delay in the decision so that parents could research the issue, attend a debate representing the case For and Against the proposal, and then cast a ballot. Some parents would attempt to speak to governors before the meeting.

Hank Roberts said that if there was a fair debate and a ballot that went against the unions' point of view they would accept that was the view of parents. The governing body would have to weigh up the views of staff and parents in considering whether to convert. He emphasised that it was all about democracy and that there was the possibility of legal action to ensure the fairness of the process.

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