Thursday, 17 May 2012

Queens Park parents voice concerns over academy conversion

Queens Park Community School is currently balloting on a possible conversion to a Cooperative Trust Academy. A group of parents have put  forward their views:

Message to All Parents and the QPCS community from Parents with deep misgivings about conversion to academy status:

14 May - 2012

Many parents, long term enthusiastic supporters of QPCS, are deeply concerned at the prospect of our school becoming an academy.

Our main concerns are:

o Academies are less democratic than the current arrangements, and rules regarding oversight of governance and finance are significantly less rigorous than for Local Authority schools.

o Academies are not required to follow national guidelines for Teachers’ pay and conditions. While we do not suggest conversion would impact teacher remuneration or conditions immediately, there are no guarantees that fair pay and conditions for teachers, who are the bedrock of QPCS, can be secured.

o Brent schools – including those within the Local Authority and those with academy or foundation status – currently work together with the Council to address borough-wide educational issues. There is no certainty this will persist long-term as academies develop independence, to the detriment of the school community.

o Conversion to an academy may put the current QPCS ethos at risk because it is impossible to guarantee that future management teams will maintain values of inclusion.

o Any financial gain to the school will be short term: we shall be averting a crisis now only to encounter one in a year or two

o There is no guarantee we will get the large sum stated at the meeting with parents. Recently, the Financial Times pointed out that the Department for Education has overpaid £120 million to some schools converting to academies and those schools now face a repayment crisis – the “bribe” has been overestimated and is not sustainable. What’s more, a recent Government consultation paper suggests that the cost of academies is already £600 million more than estimated. Consequently, there is now no guarantee that schools converting will receive any additional funding at all. If the money stops next year, QPCS will have cast itself adrift in a potentially dangerous situation.

We are trying to find another way through this crisis and will meet the leader of Brent Council, Ann John, this week. We will ask Brent to explain its future policies and funding, and whether it believes it can offer an effective alternative strategy to the academies. We are also taking a letter of opposition to the Department of Education on the morning of Friday 18 May, and have also asked the secretary of state, Michael Gove, to meet us.

QPCS been transformed by the efforts of the current and previous head teacher, with tremendous support from the teaching staff, the governors, pupils and parents. We are now concerned that our high-performing and immensely popular local school is being driven down this road just because our governing body feels it has no choice.

We are also concerned that many teachers feel bad about the situation, even though they may vote for conversion in the face of threatened redundancies. Brent has not been regarded as the best borough in providing services to education. But the pressure should be on provision of better services, not privatizing the schools in a world where the comprehensive ethos is thrown out of the window!

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