Guest post by Mistleflower
According to the Brent and Kilburn Times website last Friday, teachers union president Hank Roberts has accused the new management at Copland School of victimisation of union members who have opposed the forced academisation of Copland School and the privatisation of English education in general. As the man who brought to an end (with no help from Brent or the DfE) the financial corruption at Copland which resulted in the upcoming trial on fraud charges of Alan Davies and five others, Mr Roberts knows a thing or two about blowing the whistle on unlawful activity by school managements and the victimisation of union members which results. He and his union colleagues acted, at great risk to their present jobs and their career futures, to stop the haemorrhaging of Brent taxpayers’ money into the pockets of their chiselling bosses. His observations, therefore, carry some weight in Brent and beyond. Despite this, the only response from the new Copland management to appear in the BKT article are these words from Mr Nick John, one of the two new men hired by Brent and responsible for the alleged victimisation:
Teachers and students at Copland Community School are preparing for the new school year, we are looking forward to working with parents and families to improve standards and secure good lessons for all children.
While this is nice to know and possibly entirely accurate it has nothing whatever to do with the serious allegation made by Mr Roberts, which is that Copland’s Humanities faculty has been singled out for ‘special measures’ as a result of its containing 4 union officers and a Teacher Governor each of whom have a high profile in opposing forced academisation, workplace bullying and the recent blatant misuse of capability procedures connected with this . It’s possible, of course, that the words quoted were uttered by Mr John on some completely different occasion about an entirely unrelated matter and that Mr John had, in fact, gone off on his holidays before Mr Roberts made his allegations. Whatever the circumstances though, you would expect that the new management of a school with a well-known history of unlawful management activity (allegedly) would wish to ensure that its conduct now and in future would be squeaky-clean in such matters and perceived to be so by the public. Further, the default position of kneejerk defence of the school management by the governing body and by Brent council is already beginning to remind some observers of the bad old days of Alan Davies and I.P.Patel.
The management’s red herring concerning the English department (that it needs to improve and must therefore be relocated to the remotest and most isolated part of the school) has already been laughed out of court, not least by the English department itself. But there must surely be one member of Copland’s new leadership, or of the newly imposed IEB governing body, or of Mr Pavey’s Children and Families department, who is not yet on holiday and is capable of making at least a partly convincing rebuttal of Mr Roberts’s specific allegations.
On his arrival at Copland, new Head Richard Marshall apparently promised the staff he would not be a ‘Hero Head’ but that he would be ‘transparent’, and transparency is a quality that Mr John, the IEB and Mr Pavey would all presumably like to lay claim to.
However, in the absence of any demonstration of such transparency, staff, students and parents will have to come to their own conclusions as to why the Humanities Faculty at Copland is being selected for special treatment by the new management. Below are 5 points any or all of which currently have wide credence among the staff.
1. Humanities is being targeted as a punishment and a warning to others of the consequences of legitimately exercising legal democratic rights to dissent.
2. Humanities is being targeted as a warning to other staff of the consequences of trade union activity under the new regime.
3. Humanities subjects such as Economics, Law, Psychology, Sociology and Politics are being scrapped in a bid to limit the range of subjects at Copland to the sort of narrow Secondary Modern School curriculum dreamed of by Michael Gove in his Back-to-the-Fifties fantasies.
4. Copland is being set up ultimately to be a ‘Grade B’ (or ‘Secondary Modern’) Academy, catering for those who, in Gove’s plans for a return to selection by national tests ranking children at age 11, come in the lower deciles (10% bands) of ability. A narrow curriculum will be good enough for these kinds of students.
5. Achieving the above at Copland (and also the ‘voluntary’ erosion of conditions of service already suggested by the new head) requires that dissent is neutralised and this requires the creation of a climate of fear among staff. The interviews Mr John conducted with Heads of Faculty shortly after arriving ( in which he demanded they name 2 members of their faculty who they would like to see go, and then threatened that they would be the ones going if they refused) set the tone. Concocted capability procedures against a large number of staff came next. Refusal to communicate with staff through existing and long-established procedures was there from the start and continues.
There is evidence within the school itself and also in the wider political educational context, both in Brent and nationally, for all of these views. In the absence of any contrary evidence, or of any specific denial, by the school management or by Brent, either of Mr Roberts’s allegations or of the 5 points set out above, staff can be excused for coming to their own conclusions.