Tuesday 29 October 2013

Forced academies: Victory and victims

Parents at Snaresbrook Primary in the London Borough of Redbridge were celebrating tonight after the Department for Education decided not to intervene in their school.  After being judged 'Inadequate' and put in Special Measures the school faced being forced to become an academy, a fate that has befallen Salusbury Primary School in Brent and is being challenged by parent campaigners at Gladstone Park Primary.

Unlike Salusbury and Gladstone Park, Snaresbrook and its parents had been strongly backed by Redbridge Council.

A DfE spokesperson said:
Our policy remains unchanged - we cannot stand by when a school is judged inadequate and believe that becoming an academy with the support of a strong sponsor is the best way to ensure rapid and sustained improvement.

Snaresbrook Primary School does not have a history of underperformance and has made significant progress after being judged to require special measures by Ofsted in June. We therefore do not plan to intervene to convert Snaresbrook to an academy.

However, being judged inadequate by Ofsted is extremely serious and we will continue to monitor the school’s progress in coming out of special measures.
Gladstone Park Primary too did not have a history of under performance and previously had a 'Good' Ofsted rating. Its results are still above the national average at Key Stage 1 and Key stage 2.  However despite passionate requests from parents Brent Council did not get behind their campaign or make strong representations to the DfE. Governors are currently consulting on an academy sponsor.

Meanwhile Roke Primary School (now Harris Primary Academy) parents are facing the consequences of the Croydon school being taken over by the Harris Academy chain in September.

Inside Croydon LINK reports than 1 to 1 SEN support has been removed in a move that some parents interpret as an attempt to reduce the number of SEN pupils in the school.  Children and parents were in tears after the news.

In a further move showing disregard for parents and pupils, the management  closed the Bourne Children’s Centre, which ran toddler and parents’ groups.  The building into a storeroom, causing a marked decrease in provision of service for families with children at the school.

Parents also accuse the academy managers of manipulating pupils attainment data in order to create the impression that the new academy is out-performing expectations. Parents report that pupils previously said to be exceeding levels in face to face meetings with teachers are now categorised as below expectations, enabling the school to claim vast improvement at the end of the year.

Inside Croydon reports:
Harris has provided each child with targets for the next half term, yet many parents said these had already been achieved in the last academic year when the school was still Roke Primary. The headteacher sent a letter telling parents that “previous levels you have been given may vary slightly to the levels recorded on this report”.
A spokeswoman for the Roke parents’ group told Inside Croydon:
We predict that results will now show remarkable improvement during the first year of the Harris academy and be used as a false benchmark of their success in turning our school around, as well as legitimising contentious forced academy policy.

Academy status and the new management have had to apologise for mistakes in homework which appeared to be cut and pasted from American websites and for unzipping 5 year old girls' dresses to check that what they wore beneath met the new school uniform requirements.

The Snaresbrook victory, along with the news from Lewisham, should reinforce campaigners' determination to fight for our public services. Let's hope Brent Labour will get behind them.

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