Tuesday 15 November 2011

Preston Manor High School to take the Coop route to academy status?

Preston Manor All-through Foundation School is considering applying for academy conversion, along with several other Brent secondary schools using the Cooperative Trust model.   They are approaching neighbouring primary schools to see if they are interested in joining in the process.

Matthew Lantos, following in the steps of the headteachers of Kingsbury High and Claremont, is arguing that his school community should not be deprived of the additional £600,000 that conversion would bring. During the debate surrounding Preston Manor expanding into primary provision, he denied that eventual conversion to academy status was on his agenda. I argued on this blog that competition with Ark Academy made that likely and since then Claremont and Kingsbury High have converted.

The argument is of course that schools converting to academy status may gain for themselves but at the cost of the schools remaining within the local authority because the central education fund is cut as a consequence - up to £900,000 per secondary school according to Brent's Budget Report.  Such a loss, multiplied several times over, would severely affect Brent  being able to carry out its role as an education authority.  Ironically one of the arguments put forward for this strategy is that the role of the local education authority has been weakened making conversion more attractive.Conversion will weaken the education authority even more.

If the main reason for adopting a cooperative school model was the adoption of cooperative principles this could have been done without becoming an academy and without the funding implications. By adopting the cooperative school approach of working in clusters alongside academy conversion, academies are extended into the primary sector.

The cooperative model may on the surface look attractive in terms of ethos and values but will need close scrutiny during the consultation process.  Preston Manor's plans should make for an interesting debate when headteachers and chairs of governors meet with Krutika Pau, Brent  Director of Children and Families on Thursday evening.

More on Cooperative Trust Schools HERE


Caz said...

What lies beneath the Ark Academy in Brent?

Email correspondence with Brent Council Planning Department, December 2008.


Anonymous said...

We are living in a very fluid period of education change and challenge. I would expect all Wembley Head Teachers to be looking at all the possibilities that these new policies and opportunities can give to the pupils of Brent. I think that it is imperative that Head Teachers are not weighed down by their own personal political ideologies and that they consider all options that are available.
There may well be winners and losers in this process and my expectation is that the Wembley Heads ensure that they are winners.

Martin Francis said...

With the council's central education budget top-sliced by every academy conversion and a subsequent reduction in funding for local schools it is the majority of the children of Brent who will be losers, as well as a democratically accountable education system.

If every school in Brent became an academy (or a large number)there would be no local education authority to speak of and the financial advantages would disappear in a short time. The academies/free school budget is already under pressure.

Anonymous said...

All this is based on the principle that Brent LA offer the best value for money and have the expertise to help raise standards. This is clearly not always the case.

Martin Francis said...

The education authority has been weakened by cuts, losing many key experienced people, and will lose more if schools opt out and become academies.

I think there is a difference in what secondary schools and primary schools gain from Brent education services and as most secondary schools previously opted for GM and then Foundation status they are already more distanced from the LA.

Your earlier comment about 'Wembley heads ensuring they are winners' betrays an assumption that it is they who make such decisions. This may be true in reality for some (particularly Kingsbury High and Claremont) but in law it is, and I would argue should be, democratically elected governing bodies that make such strategic decisions - informed by the headteacher of course, but also by other factors such as the interests of the borough's residents as a whole, now and into the future.

These factors will include democratic accountability, planning for school places provision, an equitable admissions system, provision for children with special needs, the Brent Outreach Autistic Team (BOAT) and provision of high quality services such as the Brent Music Service.

Becoming an academy for short-term financial gain as Claremont, Kingsbury and now Preston All-through have argued, ignores that fact that the education budget as a whole is limited. As more schools opt our and receive the 'academy bonus' the overall pot will be reduced - eventually giving no advantage and will be controlled centrally by the Department for Education. There will be no local education authority left with any funds or power to provide a buffer between the individual school and the DfE.

Just a last word on money. It now appears that academies are paying well over the odds for items such as computer systems (often via Capita)and insurance and may well face problems with pension arrangements. It is likely that next year Brent's payroll management system may be much cheaper than other competitors.

My message is 'take care': our schools do not belong to individual heads or even governing bodies who by their nature are transient - they belong to the whole community and future parents and children.

Martin Francis said...

Info on insurance costs:

Sarah Cox said...

I'm not surprised that Anonymous is too ashamed of his/her selfish viewpoint to reveal his/her identity. The education of Brent's children should not be a battle to be won by a single school at the expense of all the others. It should be a co-operative endeavour where all are concerned for the welfare and opportunities of every child. If one school grabs extra funds for itself, leaving less for the other (particularly primary) schools, they may find a disappointing drop in the achievemnent of future intakes - a very short term attitude that Anonymous may live to regret.

Jean said...

We know that the pressure on schools to convert to academies is enormous as Gove, Secretary of State will then have the power. Heads and Governors need to wake up to the fact that they will not be independent. Parents in particular need to realise that their only recourse in any problem is Gove, no longer the local authority. Martin is right about the money; already we see private firms involved with more lining up to provide the services. Unlike the LA they are in there for the profit. Some academies are already charging as they realise the finances promised are not what they expected and their costs have risen. The aim behind Gove academies is to give the market the freedom to make enormous profits, have unqualified teachers who are cheaper and pay those at the top vastly inflated salaries. Search for the recent Guardian articles on this. Beware.

caz said...

Updated version of the now rather old video of ARK and the Dutroux scandal, via EIM Group (European Institute of Management):


Anonymous said...

y wld u wnt 2 turn a skl into an academy. der r 2 many acadimies. kmt