Saturday 20 July 2013

Copland’s Summer Bizarre continues

Guest post by 'Mistleflower'

Sources close to my partner tell me that Copland staff are becoming increasingly concerned about the strange behaviour of new Head Richard Marshall. Following the actions set out in recent blogs on this site, Mr Marshall has set aside next Tuesday for a game of musical chairs involving the English and Humanities departments. 

Staff taking students on end-of-term trips have been told to cancel their plans, come to school in old clothes and be prepared to spend the day moving all the English books, resources, wall-displays, stock, personal effects and other paraphernalia out of the English rooms and over to the Humanities block, a separate building some distance away. 

Humanities teachers have been instructed to do the same thing but in the opposite direction. The instruction came out of the blue, followed the new management style of ‘no consultation, no discussion, no sense at all’ and was ‘explained’ as somehow providing some dubious benefit to the English department ( none of whom believe the reason given or want the move). Humanities Faculty teachers have individually and collectively decided to resist the move. This has been met with the immediate threat of disciplinary proceedings which are rapidly becoming the principal means of management communication under Mr Marshall’s headship. 

How did we get to this ludicrous state of affairs? 

For the real motive we need to look not at the English department but at Humanities. The faculty has historically been one of the most stable at Copland and has contained some of the most experienced, most able, most intelligent and most committed teachers in the school. It has a very strong record at GCSE and particularly at A level. 

Particular faculty individuals have worked tirelessly over the years to help Copland students gain admission to the top universities. Faculty members have recently been active on the school’s governing body, in liaising with outside social and cultural organisations, with taking students on visits to English courts and residential visits to European Community centres in Brussels, in forging links with moderate Muslim organisations and in establishing a ground-breaking anti-homophobia group which brought Copland huge media coverage and national recognition and respect; in general, striving to broaden the horizons of students in one of the country’s more deprived boroughs.

It would take very little time or effort to collect tributes from a huge number of former students who would attest, with affection and respect, to the way in which Copland’s Humanities Faculty ‘made a difference’ to their lives. It would surprise no one at Copland if a Facebook page to this effect was under construction at this very moment.

So why would the new Copland management led by Mr Marshall want to attack (and that is precisely how it is being described) this apparently exemplary faculty? 

Here’s why. The Humanities staff’s qualities of care and involvement in the school and the progress of its students are the same qualities which mean that 2 of the school’s Professional Association reps come from the Humanities faculty as does one of the longest serving staff representatives on the school’s governing body. The Humanities faculty was also particularly bravely involved in the risky whistleblowing which resulted in Sir Alan Davies imminent fraud trial. The efforts of these teachers helped halt the alleged hemorrhaging of Brent taxpayers’ money into the pockets of a corrupt management. 

But while they’ll applaud such qualities at a distance, authoritarian managements really don’t like such independence of thought and such readiness to question their ‘tough’ decisions, (especially those which seem to make no sense or to be transparently vindictive). And a vindictive attack on the school’s professional associations is precisely the interpretation of the Copland management’s action which was expressed very clearly at a packed Joint Union meeting of Copland staff on Friday when it was decided unanimously to support the Humanities Faculty in whatever manner was deemed necessary. A vote of confidence in the union reps, their principled resistance to the recent use of bogus capability procedures and the dignified part they played in resisting the recent ‘sickness’ absence fiasco described elsewhere on this site, was also unanimously passed. 

Maybe the new Copland management wasn’t aware of the qualities the Humanities faculty embodies. Maybe they would be more aware if they hadn’t rejected all attempts at dialogue with the staff using the established JCC and other channels which have avoided this kind of unpleasantness in the past. Maybe the IEB or Brent’s Children and Families Lead, Michael Pavey could have a word.

Meanwhile we face the prospect of an undignified standoff next Tuesday between security men and Copland Humanities teachers which would really enhance the school’s reputation and the new management’s respect in the eyes of the rest of the staff. Especially if footage of it were to become the biggest YouTube success since Fenton the deer-chasing dog. The likeliest outcome seems to be that this ridiculous plan will (like Sports Day!) be ‘postponed’ and then clandestinely carried out during the school holidays. As a way of continuing this ‘war against the teachers’ into the next school year, that would take some beating. Which, under the current regime, makes it all the more likely to happen.

It really is time for someone to have a word.


Melina said...

As a former Copland student myself, I am puzzled as to why this bizarre plan to replace the Humanities faculty with the English department is being carried out. Throughout my seven years of studying at Copland,I can safely say that the Humanities faculty and all the staff within it were highly influential in the outcome of both my GCSE and A-Level results. Not only should the teachers receive praise for their constant willingness to improve the education of their students, the Humanities building itself deserves to have its own recognition. Swapping the faculties around comes across as a pointless move to those, like myself, who have experienced the vibrant and enthusiastic atmosphere provided by the Humanities block day in day out. If new management wishes to see positive change within the school, it should start by focusing on areas which actually need improving - not areas which for years on end have done nothing but uphold the Copland name.

Anonymous said...

Well done, Melina. I know, like you do, from experience that what you say is true. I also know that there are hundreds like you who would say the same and I hope that you and they still have enough faith in 'doing the right thing' to enlighten Mr Pavey and the others who are in a position to influence matters. You probably won't have much influence on the new management though. They seem to imagine that the art of 'leadership' consists of faux macho posturing and threats of disciplinary action to anyone daring to question them. Still, fair's fair. They've achieved in 5 weeks what it would tale lesser men an age to manage. A staff which is totally united....united against them. Quite an achievement. But is that really what the IEB want? Or what Brent taxpayers should be paying for?

Anonymous said...

I am a parent of 2 children who went to copland and one who is still at the school and I just don't understand what is going on there. My kids did well there and the school always had good relations between parents and staff. It was a warm and friendly school and the staff made it that way. So why are all the staff leaving and why are the ones who are staying so unhappy. I don't know who these new people are but if they made the teachers so angry about them they can't be very good and don't seem to understand what their doing to Copland. I heard their only there for 1 year anyway so they dont really care about copland its just another job then they move onto do the same thing somewhere else. They don't seem to understand anything about schools except exam results. theres more to education than that

Anonymous said...

As a former teacher at their school I will tell you now that there were a large number of teachers worthy of capability proceedings and this is born out by Ofsted who told of teachers not marking books and whose lessons were unacceptable. This included senior managers at the time with one of them being in charge of teacher training and his own lesson failed an Ofsted.
There are a lot of very decent people and I feel sorry for those but the trouble was caused by a totally incompetent headteacher appointed three years ago. We were told he 'ticked all the boxes' at the time so people of Brent should worry about the quality of those who select senior managers in schools. They appointed a person who had no inner city experience and then proceeded to appoint deputy heads with no real experience and very little managerial acumen. Three have 'gone' but those who remain should be removed asap so the school can start afresh.