Friday 27 February 2015

Another Brent battle against forced academisation of a primary school

The impact of Coalition policies on education continues to be a major issue and I hope it will become more prominent as the General Election approaches. Fragmentation, incoherence and a lack of democratic accountability are major concerns.

The opportunistic  forced academisation of schools that get poor Ofsted reports continues depsite a lack of evidence that such a move actually helps schools improve.

In Brent this is now happening at St Andrew and St Francis Primary School.  The Teachers Panel of Brent, comprising the three main teacher unions, has issued this statement:
Teachers Panel Response to the consultation on whether St Andrew and St Francis Primary school should become an academy 

The teacher unions are against any school becoming an academy. We say it is part of the Government's plan to privatise state education just like they want to privatise the NHS. There is no evidence that turning a school into an academy improves the education of the children. The Education Parliamentary Select Committee has just published the findings of their year-long enquiry. Its Chairman, Conservative MP Graham Stuart, said, "Current evidence does not prove that academies raise standards overall or for disadvantaged children". He added that there are, “huge disparities within the academy sector and compared to other mainstream schools". This is a damning report on academies. There are also lots of issues over the financial management of academies and free schools as they are not overseen by the Local Authority. 

St Andrew and St Francis school is being forced to become an academy when there is no evidence that it will benefit the children's education. The school is already making very good progress with its action plan when it is not an academy, both the IEB and Brent Council sources have told us. The staff were given a promise that if they worked hard and improved the situation at the school then the school would not become an academy. For a Christian school to go directly against such a promise to the staff and unions find shocking. 

At the official meeting with staff and unions it became clear that the London Diocesan Board of Schools (LDBS) Academies Trust who is the proposed sponsor would continue to offer all the support they do now if the school was not an academy. Nothing basically would change if they became the sponsor except they would have financial control. So there is no benefit to the school becoming an academy. Though the staff and unions asked what the benefits were no answers could be given. It became clear that it is purely to follow what the DfE is dictating rather than for the good of the school. Even one of the members of the Interim Executive Board (IEB)  made it clear that her school had looked at whether they should become an academy and decided that they would not gain by doing so – it wasn't right for them. It is only the Government and DfE saying it is right for the school. 
Also at this meeting the IEB were informed of the increasing number of Headteachers and Governing bodies who are not allowing the DfE to dictate to their school and have managed to prevent their school becoming an academy even when they have been put in special measures. Turning a school into an academy should be decided democratically by a vote of parents as it was when schools went grant maintained not through force. The staff and unions believe that a new head should be appointed and then given a time-scale to show continued improvement before the question of whether to become an academy or not is considered. 

It became quite clear that the parents are also strongly against the school becoming an academy when Hank Roberts attended the parents meeting. The unions and staff had been banned from this meeting but the parents had asked him to come in. We would again ask why, but it is now clear that it is because there are no proper answers to the arguments being made against an academy. 

The IEB say they support parental choice so they should take account of the views of the parents at that meeting. Staff are totally against this move. Parents and staff should have a secret independently overseen ballot to properly seek their views, after they have heard arguments for and against. The unions have offered to pay for this. In this way the IEB would have the clear views of the staff and parents. If the IEB believe in democracy then they would act on this result.
A public meeting about the forced academisation will be held at St Andrew's Church, Willesden High Road on March 4th at 6.30pm

No comments: