Tuesday 9 April 2024

Byron Court Primary: Lead Member says Brent Council's hands are tied over 'illogical and punitive' forced academisation


Matt Paul, parent and one of the coordinators of the Save Byron Court campaign, yesterday presented a 1,300 signature petition to Brent Council Cabinet opposing forced academisation and calling for the Cabinet’s.


He spoke about staff and parent concern over how the inspection had been carried out by Ofsted, the minimal parent involvement and the failure to take into account the instability of the senior leadership over a four year period.


Over two-thirds of parents and a majority of staff in a survey opposed academisation and wanted it to remain a community school.


There was particular concern that the Harris Federation had been named to take over the school given that it is led by a Tory donor, has a CEO paid half a million a year, is  known for poor industrial relations and a has problematic approach to pupil behaviour management.


He asked that the Council in line with Labour policy:


1.Provide and support the recruitment of additional members of the school leadership team, recognising the immediate lack of capacity and significant pressures faced by existing staff.

2. Ensure the work by the Rapid Improvement Group is succeeding and being monitored – something that does not appear to have been happening for some time.

3. Push the Department for Education and Ofsted to reinspect the school to reflect improvements and its upward trajectory and thus delay the academy order being implemented.


Cabinet Lead Member for Schools, Cllr Gwen Grahl’s response was interesting and seemed to reflect an inner battle. At times there were passages that sounded like cautious officers’ briefing notes on the legal position followed by passionate political comments,


She said she understood how parents would feel that it was unjust that they had not had any say in what happened to their school. That is why she had written to the Local Advisory Board urging them to consider delaying academisation but disappointingly had received no response.


On the Rapid Improvement Group (RIG) she said:


The local authority has been aware of inadequacies in some areas of the school for several months and indeed established a RIG back in September 2022 [more than a year before the Ofsted Inspection] which was chaired by Shirley Parks. The group has provided detailed and structural support across many areas and that includes early years. Safeguarding. SEND, leadership and pupil progress. In addition, we’ve helped to recruit three really experienced school governors following the resignation of the chair and vice chair.


It was our hope and our best intention that this support would in time be successful in resolving the problems, leading the school towards resilience and a high quality of leadership and attainment.


Addressing the campaigners’ first demand she said:


On your first request I can confirm we will be building additional leadership capacity at the school, and I think we can assure you that will be in place following the Easter holidays. We have been providing substantial support through monitoring and challenge and are meeting really regularly with the senior leadership team and the governors.


Stressing that academisation was not a local authority decision, in a key passage that will disappoint campaigners, she said:


However strongly parents and pupils feel committed to Byron Court remaining a community school, the academy order makes it clear that local authorities must take all reasonable steps to facilitate academisation. It’s for that reason that the Cabinet, officers, and the local authority as a whole cannot oppose or even delay this decision. We have very little input into the timing of academisation or indeed when the school will be next inspected.


She went on to express her political views:


This process has no doubt been a heart-breaking one for parents and at the political level I feel that it highlights a number of areas where education policy has been undemocratic and highly counter-active to delivery of high-quality education for pupils. First of all it highlights the lack of trust in the chronic problems of the current Ofsted system which we know places undue pressure on staff and simplistically, at times cruelly, reduces the complexities of running a school to a single word judgement. The tragic death of Ruth Perry is emblematic of how brutal this process can be for hardworking teachers as well as for the wider community.


I have long argued that the inspection framework is not fit for purpose and Labour have already pledged to abolish single word judgements and to bring about a much needed overhaul of the system. I will continue to make these argument and emphasise that teaching staff deserve better. It also lays out plainly how illogical and punitive forced academisation is, tying the future of the school to an inspection system that has been so openly discredited, naturally feels draconian.


Cllr Grahl went on to promise to carry on the fight for inclusive education at the school even when academisation too place.


She finished:


If you do have any specific questions or concerns do please email me and I will respond. I am happy to meet up with you separately as well.


Cllr Gwen Grahl’s contact details:

Correspondence address: 
c/o Labour Group Office
Brent Civic Centre
Engineers Way

Email:  Cllr.Gwen.Grahl@brent.gov.uk

Mobile:  07741767590


 Cllr Grahl's tweet sequence after press coverage:




No comments: