Friday 1 February 2013

Gladstone Park parents rally to protect their school from DfE dictators

Parents and carers are determined to make Michale Gove listen
 The parents campaign against the forced conversion of Gladstone Park Primary School to a sponsored academy swung into action this week.  A website has been set up HERE  and a Facebook page HERE

Brent Green Party has written to the campaign pledging its support and stating: 
We believe that  the DfE’s action  is disproportionate, destructive and  dictatorial...We wish you well in your efforts to  retain Gladstone Park Primary as a well regarded, democratically  accountable,  local authority school at the heart of the local community.
Save Gladstone Park Primary School  has published the press release below setting out their case:

Gladstone Park Primary School in Brent (North-west London) is being strong-armed into becoming an academy within weeks of receiving an ‘Inadequate’ Ofsted grade despite inspectors recognising some areas of strength. Staff and parents were told in January that the school, which had had its previouly ‘good’ performance sustained by Ofsted in 2011, will be fast-tracked for academy conversion after being judged as ‘inadequate’ just before the Christmas holidays, under the new Ofsted rules introduced in September 2012.

A letter from the DfE’s ‘Brokerage and School Underperformance Division’, dated 24 January, informed School Governors that an academy sponsor would be put forward by 11 February. Consultation will only take place
after the deal with the Department’s nominated sponsor is secured.
Tactics employed by the consultant contractor working for the DfE include a forced withholding of the sponsor decision for five weeks, during which pressure was brought to bear on the school governors to convert; extremely short deadlines being imposed and a refusal to consider any involvement by the Governors or the school on potential sponsors. Parents, of course, have not been consulted.    
Parents, carers and staff at the school in Dollis Hill have launched a campaign against what they perceive to be a politically-driven, disproportionate and undemocratic rush to academy conversion. They argue that the school had already identified the areas of weakness referred to in the Ofsted report and was already addressing them (a point Ofsted also mentioned in their report), and that it is important for the school community to have final say on its future governance. 
Ishani Salpadoru, parent of an eight year-old pupil at the school said:
We do not recognise our children’s day-to-day experience in the Ofsted report. Over 90% of parents said they would recommend this school to others in the Parentview survey. We feel we’re being steamrollered into academy status, with no influence whatsoever on our children’s future.’ 
Other parents are concerned that forced academy conversion will create unnecessary upheaval and uncertainty, and are sceptical about academy status providing a panacea. Greta Kemper, parent of two children at the school commented:
We chose to send our kids to this school because it was a good community school. We liked the ethos, and we believed – and still believe – that it is a good school. Now a seismic change is being forceably imposed on the school and we are excluded from the decision being made and will be completely cut out of any future involvement if the Academy goes ahead. We feel that the DfE is not acting in “good faith” in their approach.’
The ‘Save Gladstone Park School’ campaign is making links with other well-performing schools that are being forced down the same route, like Roke Primary in Croydon. LINK
Parents believe popular schools like these are being deliberately targeted for academy conversion, as they are likely to improve in the medium-term, whatever their governance structures, and thus prove the government’s ‘Academies are better’ ideology correct. 
Gladstone Park is a large, thriving school in one of the country’s most multi-ethnic boroughs. The main body of pupils at Gladstone Park enters the school well below the national average for numeracy and literacy, with many pupils having English as an additional language. The school has shown that pupils make good progress across the early years (Nursery and Reception). It has SAT results above the national average, and twice the national average at level 6, so pupils leave well prepared for secondary school. 
The National Audit Office has already stated that disadvantaged children do less well at Academies which is an issue for most inner-city schools. 

Parents and staff at Gladstone Park Primary all want school improvement. But ownership of this process must rest with the school and its local community. We will not let it be dictated to us, top-down by faceless bureaucrats. 

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