Saturday, 17 September 2011

Angry Kingsbury parents denounce consultation 'sham'

Kingsbury High School Parents Action Group, who are leading the fight to prevent the school converting to academy status have suffered another 'kick in the teeth' in their fight to secure a full and fair consultation process with the school Governors.

On Tuesday 13th September they organised a public meeting to which representatives from both sides of the debate were invited to speak. Many different groups turned up and offered speakers, but Mr Waxman, the Headteacher at the school, and his Governing Body were notable by their absence. So, once again, instead of a debate we were given only one side of the argument, albeit ours!

The meeting heard that teachers at the school will be taking industrial action after having their voices ignored, but were told that this would be called off if the school chose to offer parents an independently overseen secret  YES/NO ballot, something we have been asking for since last term when we heard (but not from the school) that Governors were looking into academy conversion. We have since heard that Mr Waxman has turned down this offer from the teachers, which was presented to him by their union representatives on Friday..

The meeting on Tuesday 13th voted unanimously on a resolution as follows:

“This meeting supports the teachers of Kingsbury High School. We request an independently
overseen secret ballot of parents’ views on academy status for KHS where parents vote YES/
NO after hearing unbiased arguments for and against. We also request a consultation of the
wider community, including feeder and other local schools, councillors, local residents and
students. We request that there is a pause in the academy application process to allow this
full and thorough consultation to take place. We declare that if our request for a parental
ballot is not met, then we will be supporting the teachers who decide to take strike action.”

This was then sent  to the school Governors but has so far not been acknowledged.

That very same evening Mr Waxman sent out an email to parents offering to meet with them on Thursday 15th September to answer any questions that may have resulted from our public meeting. Members of the Parents Action Group took him up on this invitation and turned up to hear, yet again, his refusal to grant their wish for a simple ballot. Under further questioning as to the reason for this refusal, he eventually admitted that the so-called ‘consultation’ process he set up never had the intention of listening to stakeholder’s opinions with a view to changing the Governors’ decision. He said it was an exercise designed to find out our worries, so that we could be persuaded to change our minds, or, if he couldn’t do that, then to reassure us! We fear he has failed miserably on both these.

It was pointed out to Mr Waxman and his Chair of Governors that they have a massive advantage in that they are able to communicate with all parents via the school’s Parentmail email system and give their side of the argument, whilst parents themselves have no way to widely present their case. A request was made that he offer the parents the chance to do this so that stakeholders could present their views. This has also been turned down.

When asked whether students at the school would be able to air their views after hearing both sides of the argument, he said that this would be the case, but that those presenting the anti-academy view would not necessarily be people who believed in what they were presenting. Students at the school have already organised a petition and refused to attend lessons in an attempt to get their voices heard.

Parents are becoming increasingly worried that Kingsbury High, which under its previous Headteacher was a school renowned for its willingness to engage with stakeholders, is becoming more and more aloof from them. The ‘Kingsburian’ ideals that everyone was so proud of for so many years seems to be disappearing fast, a chasm is opening up with Governors and senior management on one side and the school’s staff, parents, pupils and local community groups on the other.

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