Friday, 10 July 2015

Crest Academies to go co-educational from September

Crest Academies confirmed this morning that classes will be mixed gender from September. There was some confusion because the school website had an undated posting that said that although the staff of the hitherto separate Girls' and Boys' Academies will be united, girls and boys would contionue to be taught in separate classes.

The school will be updating that posting to reflect the decision to move to mixed classes.

The decision is controversial as some parents chose  the school originally because they were separate single sex schools.

There is a petition on Change.Org against the decision LINK. It states:
In June 2015, parents were informed of a proposal to fully implement and deliver mixed-gender education. The school leadership has not provided any conclusive evidence that a mixed school would better perform and provide equality for all.

Parents are highly concerned and are openly seeking to resist this draconian measure in the school’s delivery of learning and teaching.

 As the petitioner and as a Crest Academy parent I urge you to sign this petition in support of the above facts and information. As parents we have the right to exercise choice for our children, however, in this instance we have not consented to any changes nor been fairly consulted.

The London Borough of Brent’s schools are already impoverished and heavily oversubscribed.
 In final summation, oppose the plans of The Crest Academies (managed by E-ACT) for the following compelling reasons:

1. Sign, say ‘no’ and stand against the imposition of our school becoming a mixed-gender school
2. Sign, support us and show your dissatisfaction with such a short time to consult, in contrast to two months of consultation in 2013/4
3. Sign, share and speak the truth that we do not have a comparable girls’ or boys’ school in Brent for our children
4. Sign, stand together and support all the poorly served and let down children who have no choice or a voice
*Crest Newsletter - Edition 5 (published in year 2013-2014)

Phil Hearne, Executive Principal CONSULTATION RESULTS

“The formal consultation ran from 25 November 2013 to 24 January 2014, and an overwhelming 80% of those responding said they support the continuation of single-sex education. One of the issues that has concerned people though is whether girls and boys will mix. They will not: both classes and social time will continue to be single gender at all times.

The changes we are making are all about making the Crest Academies the very best single-sex school in the area. We want Crest to be the school of choice for any parent who values girls and boys being taught separately. This is something that both I and the Board of Governors are extremely passionate about Crest to be the school of choice for any parent who values girls and boys being taught separately"
At the time fo writing the petiton had only 219 supporters.

Phil Hearne has been replaced as Principal by Mohsen Ojja who told this week's Kilburn Times:
Our outcomes are significantly low. We have to do something about it. The two factors driving this change - a duty to ensure every single pupils can access the best education possible by managing the performance of teachers appropriately, and recruiting better teachers and leaders - and our duty to prepare pupils for life in modern Britain.
Single sex schooling is often controversial. In this case added to the arguments that mixed schooling during adolesence means loss of academic concentration, that girls suppress their ability in order not to 'show up' boys, that girls are used to 'soften' the behaviour of boys, that girls are more likely to opt for non-stereotypical subjects in girls only schools are religious arguments in favour of separation.

Some of the arguments in favour of girls' only schooling can be found HERE  Significantly, far fewer people argue in favour of boys only schooling, and it is often said that single sex schooling is 'Good for girls, but bad for boys' LINK

In Crest's case what is likely to be most significant is whether the school is able to make progress after its Ofsted failure.  The latest monitoring report dated June 2015 notes progress and says of the new Principal:

As Principal, you and the vice principal who was at the academy at the time of the Inspection have worked swiftly to begin to address the areas for improvement. Your own determination to improve the quality of teaching and raise students’ aspirations and achievement is very clear. Now that there is a full exec utive leadership team and other senior leaders have been appointed the academy is ready to build on the foundations laid in the post inspection action plan.
On the co-education issue Ofsted say:
The academy is currently undertaking a consultation with parents and carers, students and staff regarding a review of the provision for boys and girls. This has a clear focus, quite rightly, on ensuring equality of opportunity in the curriculum for all. There are already assemblies and some aspects of personal, health and social education that involve boys and girls learning together.
An  issue that will concern teaching and not-teaching staff is whether the changes will mean a reduction in staffing in a school that has already experienced  considerable job losses. LINK

There are two remaining single sex secondary schools in Brent which are both Roman Catholic as well as the fee paying (£6,700 per year)  Islamia Girls School. LINK

Gladstone Secondary Free School, a co-educational school in the same broad area as Crest, has failed to open as various sites have fallen through but still expects to open in September 2016.

Its website LINK still lacks certainty:
The Department for Education (DfE) has been searching for land or buildings to enable our school, a parent-led school, to provide places for Brent parents who might otherwise need to search for school places out of borough.

We have a temporary site suitable for at least three years, ready for development into a great building. We have lost out on four great locations for our permanent school site in Brent, as property developers have snapped up suitable accommodation for residential use. This has created an even greater squeeze on school places, and reduced further the availability of site options for our school. This has led to deferrals meaning over 200 families have lost out on their prefered choice for a place at Gladstone School over the last two years.

The DfE is looking for suitable sites right now, for our Autumn recruitment programme. Help us to help them find school sites.


Anonymous said...

Oh my word. It beggars belief that parents get so uptight about mixed schooling when the bigger picture is actually the utterly atrocious results that the school turn out. Local parents have little if any choice about secondary schools in NW2 and the surrounding area and if it wasn't for the massive over investment into the ugly building I'd suggest demolishing and starting over.

Anonymous said...

Gladstone has their own ideas about gender such as "softer sports for girls".
How about spending money on good, mixed primaries and secondaries instead of these crazy schools?
Gladstone Free School now claims to be "community-led" on their website. Errr...what community is leading them?

Alison Hopkins said...

Anyone who thinks "girls sports" need to be softer has never seen the viciousness that can be women's hockey. ;) Seriously, what blasted century are they living in?

Having said that, I'm a bit dubious about what Crestt are doing. Many Muslim parents chose the school because it has partly separated education. Whether or not you agree with single sex schools, this will effectively force some children into faith schools, thus reducing their interaction with the wider community.

Jason Harborne said...

The school is not a Secular school though and as such keeping it single gender teaching when it's legally already a mixed school and has been for 12 months before the new head joined, makes zero sense. The school needs our support. I love near it and wouldn't send my kids there but if it was good I would. New head seems sharp and knows his stuff. Let's support it and not be so negative. If muslim parents want single sex then send them to the RC schools.

Anonymous said...

Final sentence: absolutely. Minority views should be taken into consideration as long as they don't try to limit the operation of a secular liberal democracy. RC views on separate education have that effect and should be resisted. Some muslim views on single sex education do also. There is no absolute obligation to respect any minority view. If there were we might find ourselves having to accept Salafist schools promoting the most reactionary social, religious and political bigotry.

Hameed Al-Jafari said...

I think that the mixing of the school is positive. Please do not hold the view that Muslim parents all want single sex teaching, this is not true. It just so happens that a zealous group of devout parents do, the majority, myself included want to send our children to our local school. In this instance Crest, but it is imperative that if it mixes or not, that Mr Ojja and his staff ensure that exam performance rises dramatically.

Martin Francis said...

Thanks for your comment. I accept that there are Crest parents who want mixed classes, including Muslim parents, and of course supporters of single sex school include non-religious people(they even pay for private single sex schooling) as well as supporters of the separate Convent of Jesus and Mary and Newman Catholic College in Harlesden. There is also a boys only Jewish Primary in Brent.

However I think it would have aided transparency if Crest had held a ballot of parents, staff and students on the issue. Even if in the end they went against the majority view they could present a reasoned case for rejecting it. All schools need the confidence of their parents, staff and students if they are to progress.

Despite my doubts about academisation I do hope the school establishes a trajectory of improvement for the sake of its students.