Saturday 16 July 2011

Kingsbury High School Academy Bid - democracy must prevail say unions

Following the decision of Kingsbury High School governors to go ahead with an application for academy status, Hank Roberts NUT/ATL Secretary and Shane Johnschwager NASUWT Secretary,  have issued a statement to Kingsbury High staff vowing to work together so that democratic values prevail.

The Kingsbury decision follows that of Claremont High which was also criticised for failure to consult properly and ignoring the views of staff, parents and pupils as well as the more recent controversy at Holland Park where a consultation and decision took place in less than a week. If Kingsbury High became an academy it would join Ark and Claremont in the north of Brent, Crest Boys' and Girls' in the east and City Academy in the south

The unions' statement says:
·        At the Governors meeting Thursday night (14th July) the Head concealed from Governors the fact that he had received formal notification from the Teacher Unions of a ballot for industrial action if the vote to apply went ahead.

·     In advance of the meeting he refused requests by the Local Secretaries for a meeting to seek a mutually agreeable way ahead to avoid a ballot for industrial action. Even on the day he failed to respond to repeated phonecalls.

·     The Head broke his promise to parents that he would tell them in advance of the Governors meeting whether or not he would advocate a pause in the process and a parental ballot.

·     He misled parents by saying they would be told the result of the staff ballot. They have not been told. They clearly should have been told before the vote to apply.

·     The Head advocated going ahead with no business plan having been provided, with no risk assessments having been done or provided, with no parental ballot having taken place and no proper pupil consultation.

·     The Head of the Finance Committee said that they had 'chosen to have a deficit'. This despite the Head telling parents that the deficit was due to Governors failure to 'grasp the nettle' regarding the school's financial situation.

·     The Head said that becoming an Academy, that is doing what Gove wants the school to do, would put Kingsbury in a better position to fight Gove if necessary. This despite the fact that the Secretary of State will ultimately have sole control of the school and its finances.

·     The Head misled Governors by saying that the staff's only real objections were the loss of the requirement for national pay and conditions and it being part of the privatising of state education agenda. He did not state that the prime concern of staff is the long-term harm this would do to the education of Kingsbury pupils.

·     Unions were accused of scaremongering about the potential loss of pay and conditions.

·     Statements were made about long-term financial gains to the school ('for the life of this Government') on the basis of no supporting evidence.

·      The main and longest speakers at the meeting were the Headteacher (in favour), a so-called 'neutral' advisor (clearly in favour), 'Associate members' of the Governing Body, (members of the Senior Leadership Team - in favour). All of these people are paid by the school. It is not in the spirit of good governance to have non-volunteers with such influence on such important decisions. Those who asked in advance of the meeting to speak against were told 'no'.

We believe a good Headteacher:

·     Would not ignore the views of the overwhelming majority of their staff.

·     Would have properly and democratically established parent's views (as he did teachers) before pressing ahead.

·     Would not have concealed from Governors that the school had received formal notification for a ballot for strike action if the Governors went ahead at this time.

The situation is now becoming ludicrous. How can any school be considered normal, consultative and democratic where a small group of individuals propose such significant changes, without the support of any of their stakeholders?
The literally thousands of staff, parents and pupils who ARE the school

All pretences of consultation and democracy have now been exposed as the sham they clearly always were. For the Headteacher to expect any member of staff to accept his 'guarantees' on pay and conditions when he has acted so dishonourably on this matter would be absurd.

In light of Mr Waxman's behaviour we suspect that he may also:

·        Like Claremont, seek to bring forward the date for conversion despite promises to the contrary.
·        Seek to rush and manipulate the parental ballot (if one occurs at all).
  • Not have any proper and democratic consultative process with pupils
Despite this, we believe, Kingsbury WILL NOT become an Academy. It will  be too difficult to resist staff opposition, industrial action and united parental and pupil opposition.

To press ahead with all their stakeholders clearly and overwhelmingly against would turn Kingsbury into a cause celebre for all those who hold democratic values.  It would be unprecedented – not just in Brent but nationally. To risk this would be a step too far for a Head or Governor who values their reputation in the school and community.

The democratically untenable position of the Head and Governors cannot be sustained. Together we will ensure democratic values prevail.
An e-mail sent by a Kingsbury High School parent to other parents supported the teachers:

As parents we need to strongly support the staff in this, they are the ones who so ably provide our children’s education. The final step towards conversion would happen around October so we need to step up our campaign between now and then to stop this.
The governors have decided to take action that they know a majority of stakeholders are against. Please use the time now to talk to other parents before the public meeting (planned for Autumn term). We can stop the school from going down this reckless path, but to do so parents, staff, pupils and others all need to work together.


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