Thursday, 15 September 2011

Waxman digs heels in under parent pressure on academy ballot

Jeremy Waxman gave an adroit performance at tonight's academy meeting at Kingsbury High School, which was arranged after Tuesday's public meeting, but he left parents dissatisfied. He rejected their call for an independent Yes/No ballot on whether the school should become and academy, and said that the postal survey he was conducting was a more 'nuanced' way of gathering opinion. In the face of repeated calls for a ballot and criticism of the allegedly biased wording of the survey he dug his heels in and insisted that was the form of consultation he had chosen and that a ballot was not a suitable way of gauging opinion. Waxman said he would consider allowing parents to use the Parent E-Mail system to send out information.

Reminded that the teachers unions said they would call off threatened strike action if he agreed to a ballot of parents he said that the teachers' strike vote had been about conditions of service and that the two issues should not be coupled together. He told parents that he was meeting with unions tomorrow and that he was offering a binding agreement that the proposed academy would follow the National Model Agreement on Conditions of Service. Under questioning he said that he was prepared to remove the clause that allowed the employer to rescind the agreement. He admitted that all this was subject to the National Agreement continuing and there were murmers from the floor that Michael Gove wanted to get rid of it.

Waxman went on to say that the school would follow the Local Authority Admissions Code and would be subject to the same rules about admitting SEN pupils as other local schools. He insisted that Kingsbury would continue to work in partnership with other schools and that part of  Kingsbury's academy submission was that it would support The Village School. Its role in the local sporting partnership would continue.

He was strongly challenged about whether he could offer any guarantees at all as he would not be headteacher for ever and government policies and legislation changed.

When parents claimed that the information given out by the school was one sided and that the opposing case had not been given equal billing he responded that after carefully weighing up the options he was doing was what was best for the school. He was unapologetic that his material 'made the case' for academy status because 'that is the stage we are at'.  He insisted that becoming an academy was in the interests of the pupils and the local community. He was challenged that this only meant the pupils at the school now and not future pupils and that his idea of community was only the immediate area around the school: the whole community of Brent should be involved as changes would affect the future of children still in primary school or not yet born.  Kingsbury becoming an academy would take funds away from the central budget so other schools, and particularly primaries would suffer as a consequence.

Time and time again Waxman returned to the necessity of the additional funding to preserve the 6th form as a consequence of the equalisation of further education and school funding. He was warned that as more schools became academies and with free schools being given a disproportionate share of the education budget the funding advantage would soon disappear.

Questioned about consultation with students Jeremy Waxman said that he had held some talks but they were poorly attended but there had been assemblies on the subject. Senior staff had presented the arguments and not necessarily the ones they agreed with. Pressed on the need for a balanced debate he said that there would be two school parliament sessions devoted to the issue for 11-14  and 15-19 year olds.

Waxman said that the academies programme was not one that he favoured politically but the government was committed to all secondary schools eventually converting. and that this was the right time to become an academy. Neighbouring schools in Harrow, and Claremont in Brent,  had already taken the decision and he did not want to be the last to go. The way to avoid what happened to Wembley High and Willesden High when the majority of secondary schools in Brent became grant maintained was for all to convert. . He thought that all the secular secondary schools in Brent would eventually do so and that they watching carefully  what happened to Kingsbury.

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