Thursday, 4 September 2014

Michaela parent interviews cancelled as school remains a building site

Guest post by Violet Potter

This morning a small group of Teacher Union Officers representing the ATL, NASUWT and NUT arrived at Arena House the 'new' venue for the Michaela Free school to welcome the teachers and explain why it was so important to be in a union especially in a free school.

But it still looked like a building site. 

We checked to see if there were any entrances we had missed. But no, there was only one way in and that definitely looked like only builders should enter wearing the required hard hat. On the Michaela website it had announced that staff would be in from today and parents would be invited in over the next two weeks for interviews. 

On checking the website again today it now says the parent interviews have been cancelled. Oh dear. Does that mean those much vaunted behaviour contracts won't be signed before children are allowed in the school? Will children arrive with the wrong socks and different coloured shoe laces and be sent home before they get a chance to set foot in the door? 

Well, as you can see from the photo there may not be a door ready for them to come in. Wondering what was happening, I checked with the foreman. No-one was expected on site and no-one had requested permission to do so. He was confident that everything would be ready on time for the children in two weeks time (but actually it's only 8 days away) well at least a few rooms on the first and second floor. But ready in what sense? No playground area for sure, not that there will be much of that anyway even when it is finished.  


  1. Sounds like bad behaviour and a report card for Ms Birbalsingh.

    Detention !

  2. In the prospective school's most recent newsletter the self-appointed head teacher said that excellent progress was being made with the building work, and concluded:
    'I look forward to welcoming our Year 7s and their families to Arena House in September (no hard hats required!). Katharine Birbalsingh, Headmistress.'

    As the person who suggested, in a comment on this blog site a few months ago, that hard hats should be part of the school uniform for Michaela pupils beginning in September 2014, I will be interested to see which of the views on hard hats is correct when Year 7 pupils turn up for the start of term at 11am on Monday 15 September, and their parents attend the open evening at 5pm on Wednesday 17 September.

    Given the current state of the building site, which anyone entering Arena House will have to cross, there will definitely be issues of safety which cannot be brushed aside.

    Philip Grant.

  3. One thing that puzzles me.

    Why are they starting lessons 2 weeks after everyone has returned to school ?

  4. Because even Katharine Birbalsingh knows the building site photographed above is not safe for children to enter. It is not clear how they are going to make up the lost 2 weeks. Parents would face fines for keeping their children off school for 2 weeks. Copland just taken over by Ark is also starting late. This mess is one of Gove's legacies with little sign that anyone, Tory or Labour, is going to clear it up. Two other free schools scheduled to open this month in Brent have not opened because they haven't yet found a site.

    1. Copland Ark is starting late for pupils so that teachers can spend the next two weeks being inducted into the Ark franchise's house style and methods. McDonald's never let their new employees anywhere near the customers until they've memorised the correct corporate greeting strategy and had 6 days training at burger-flipping academy.
      Mike Hine

  5. The Route 39 free school that wanted to open a permanent site within North Devons Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty had its planning application rejected yesterday. You can read more at - its been quite a battle and we wait to see what they decide to do next.

  6. Are we surprised about Birbalsingh's failure to get her school open on time? She had been a disaster ever since she tried to set up in Lambeth, moved to Wandsworth and now Brent. Her ego outstrips her competence.

  7. The poor ex assistant head feels victimised. "I regret the speech at the party conference. It ruined my life. I should probably have kept my head down." It couldn't possibly be that she was wrong, could it? I wonder why she left the school she worked in after such a short time? Nothing to do with her speech at the Tory Party Conference, much more to do with making cruel fun of children and showing their images without the permission of parents. Will she behave any more professionally now?