Sunday 10 March 2013

Parents unite against Michael Gove's bullying

"If every school did the same as us...." another step forward
Parents have called  for a public enquiry into bullying behaviour endemic in forced academisation of school. They state that that parents from schools that have experienced bullying from the DfE are fighting back and launching a new campaign group - Parents Against Forced Academies (PAFA). This arose from the frustration parents feel at not being listened to on key decisions about the handing of our schools by rich businessmen running academy chains.

PAFA was born at a half term meeting by parents at several primary schools across London, where they decided to join forces in condemning what they perceive as extreme bullying tactics by Michael Gove and his academy brokers.

Governors and head teachers who resist forced academy are routinely threatened with the sack and in some cases this has been carried through Interim Executive Boards with no previous knowledge of the school or the community   Fake consultations with parents are being run after decisions have already been made and controlled by the academy chains who stand to gain most. The conflict of interest could not be clearer. In the case of Downhills Primary School in Haringey 94% of those taking part in the consultation did not want the school to become an academy sponsored by the Harris Federation. On the same day the consultation was published and available to parents the Secretary of State handed the school over to the Harris Federation. The DfE had funded the consultation to the tune of £50,000 of public money.

Parents are repeatedly being met with rude, abrupt, dismissive and patronising responses from DfE officials when they make a reasoned case for proper consultation and genuine choice over their school’s future. The behaviour of the DfE contravenes key principles set out in the government’s own legal advice and other government agendas such as localism, Big Society and community rights. When making a decision that will impact on the general public, Civil Service Departments are required to meet a series of tests in measuring the lawfulness of an exercise of public law, PAFA believes that Michael Gove is ignoring these basic rules of public life. It is more like dictatorship than democracy.

Parents from schools facing forced academy conversion are joining forces to call for a public enquiry into the decisions made about our schools behind closed doors and the privatisation of our education system by stealth. ‘We know that we are not alone in resisting the forcible academisation of our school,’ says Maria Bache, 40, an HR manager for a media group who has two children at Gladstone Primary in NW London. ‘We stand united with other schools across the country in publicising the unfair treatment we are being subjected to by the DfE.’

Another Gladstone parent, Zaman Wong, said : ‘The decision by the DfE to impose academy status on Gladstone Park Primary is a grossly disproportionate course of action, ignoring the many strengths of our school identified by Ofsted, the indisputable achievements of our pupils and the wishes of the parents. The entire process has been unjustified and artificially rushed, with a complete lack of transparency or any consultation with parents and governors’ The father of two children at the school, one in Reception, concluded: ‘Even a Year 3 child will tell you a choice with one option is no choice at all. ‘ 

PAFA is protesting against these illegal tactics. Key members along with Gladstone Park include protesting parents from high profile schools: Roke Primary in Croydon, and Downhills in Haringey. Other schools protesting schools include Calder High in Hebden Bridge and Thomas Gamuels in Walthamstow.

Angeline Hind of Roke Primary said: “We expect more and more parents and schools to join us as with Ofsted shifting the goalposts once again, there will soon be a torrent of schools subjected to the bullying and underhand methods we have experienced. At times it feels surreal like we are living in Communist China. Our schools are at the tip of a tidal wave to come as more and more schools are forced to convert. This is not about standards but political ideology and privatisation by stealth.”

The test measuring lawfulness of exercise of public law:
  • Legality -  Departments must act within the scope of any powers and for a proper purpose; not  acting in a hasty and disproportionate fashion.
  • Procedural fairness – for example giving the individual or individuals an opportunity to be heard.
  • Reasonableness or rationality: including the principles of proportionality and the ‘Wednesbury principle’ (when making a reasonable and rational decision all relevant factors must be taken into account and all irrelevant factors omitted). Compatibility with the Human Rights Convention rights and EU law.
·        Parents from Downhills School were involved in working with filmmaker Rhonda Evans in a film about forced academies available online

These principles are all described in the Judge Over Your Shoulder (JOYS) document issued by the Treasury Solicitor:

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