Monday 8 July 2024

Save Byron Court campaigners call on Brent Council to review school governing bodies to ensure adequate parental representation and share best practice around communications between parents, schools and LA

 The delegation speaks to Full Council and Cllr Gwen Grahl, lead Cabinet member for schools,  responds

Transcript of Save Byron Court campaigners' delegation to Brent Council July 8th 2024

We're from Save Byron Court, campaign fighting against the Government driven forced academisation and takeover of Byron Court Primary School by Harris Federation. Ours is a collective effort by parents, community members and school staff, including many who have taken 15 days of strike action so far and are prepared to keep going.

Our campaign has highlighted many injustices baked in to a system that is designed against state schools - chronic underfunding, a punitive inspection regime, a national rush to privatise education despite widespread opposition and no opportunity for school improvements to be made, and a worrying lack of transparancy and impartiality with the decision making regarding the future of Byron Court. 

We've received invaluable support by Barry Gardiner MP, Cabinet member Gwen Grahl, and local politicians and candidates across the political spectrum, now it's imperative that the new Govt urgently intervenes in our case if they are indeed serious about both protecting and wanting all state schools to flourish. We need a renewed commitment to our community schools.

It is little coincidence that the recent turbulence and perceived issues in our school have occurred with  within the Governing Body. In the current academic year, we've only had 1 parent governor to vocalise and represent our views and interests. Yet only a few years ago there were 5 parent governor posts, these were subsequently cut by the Board without the consent or even consultation with the parent community. Successful governing bodies must act as custodians connected to and not untethered from parents and the wider community. Of course it's important that volunteers are found outside of the school community to ensure a broad range of skills and experience, however for too long there's been an imbalance and to our detriment.

Will the Council agree to undertake a review of school governing bodies across the borough to ensure adequate/sufficient parent voice and share ways of encouraging both more and a diverse range of parents and carers to step forward?

We've also experienced poor level of communications. 

  • This is exemplified by the fact the Ofsted report was published in February

  • A major concern brought up by the parent body at the time was the lack of meaningful communication from the school.

  • We were told at the time that more open communication would happen in the form of meetings and emails.

  • We met with council officers in April along with Cllr Grahl, where we were assured that the improvement initiatives at the school would take precedence and would be prioritised over the academisation process and its related admin.

  • On multiple occasions we have reached out to Gillian Barnard (CoG) and J. Parry (Interim Executibe Headteacher ) as well as directly to council officers.

  • We were advised 1st July the focus on communications out of the school were to be around the strike action.

  • Irrespective of political leanings, views on academiation and even the integrity of the OFSTED inspection and report itself. Byron Court is a school that was rated “inadequate” under the Local Authority. Byron Court  is still under local authority remit . The parents and carers deserve to be informed by the LA and the school  about any improvements and initiatives that have been introduced and implemented to improve their children's learning journey and schooling experience. 

  • We have been told that Byron Court is an anomaly and that Brent has 96.7% of its primary schools rated as good or outstanding.

  • Many of the problems at Byron Court have been brought about through lack of engagement, communication  and transparency between parents, LA/ school.  

  • What lessons can be learnt from Byron Court’s journey post-inspection that can ensure that other schools won't be met with the same possible fate.

  • It would be useful for the Council to benchmark, develop & share best practice around communications

Cllr Grahl referred to DfE Guidance on Governing Bodies. This is the Guidance updated in March 2024 (after the publication of the Ofsted Report). My emphasis in bold. LINK

The total membership of a governing body must be no fewer than 7 governors and must include:

  • at least 2 parent governors, elected where possible, otherwise appointed
  • the headteacher (ex-officio), unless they resign the office of governor
  • only one elected staff governor
  • only one local authority governor, nominated by the local authority and appointed by the governing body
  • foundation governors or partnership governors where appropriate, as specified in the School Governance (Constitution) (England) Regulations 2012


The governing body can also appoint co-opted governors as permitted by their instrument of government and as it considers necessary. The number of co-opted governors who are eligible to be elected or appointed as staff governors must not (when added to the one staff governor and the headteacher) exceed one-third of the total membership of the governing body (Constitution Regulations 2012 – Part 3 regulation 13)



Anonymous said...

So now what? Just over two weeks left of term and the long summer holidays. Are we now expected to just "watch this space," and wait and see what happens? What do we tell the poor kids? I wonder how many of these teachers have already handed in their resignations and won't even be returning in September? Apparently, we'll be able to meet their new teachers on the 17th July...

Vina Vekria said...

I tell my kids that we are fighting for their school community and for their teachers, that this uncertainty is hard but that it's better to try and fail then not to try at all. I tell my kids that fighting for what you believe in, for what is right, is always worth it - win or lose. I'm sure lots of teachers (as well as parents) will have decided to find other schools and that is their perogative, I fear the teacher turnover will be even higher with Harris, who do not have a great track record with industrial relations. I understand your frustrations and concerns, they're mine too, but I'm less certain about why you are directing your frustrations at the Parents' Campaign group. Perhaps you can explain further?

Anonymous said...

The more disruption there is, the less focus there is on improving the school. How can you improve it if you keep disrupting the process? The campaigners obviously don't care about the effect it is having on children. And the most vulnerable children, including send suffer the most. As well as the parents who don't have the privilege to keep taking days off. Morally, how can it be justified to prevent children from having an education? It's too much.

Anonymous said...

Very sad

Anonymous said...

The LA haven't provided a great education and in contrast, the academies have great Ofsted results- regardless of that, the kids get an education. Which they are missing with strikes. It isn't clear why the campaign group want to stick with something that isn't working. There are lots community schools that are good in the area. Why not allow a change to see if the school can improve with an academy. Things might turn out to be better. Certainly that's the case in other schools that had strikes but when the process went through the school improved. The LA hasn't been able to do that for years. It's not working.

Anonymous said...

The school community? There are over 1000 parents. The campaign group doesn't represent the community. Or care about the education of almost 1000 kids.

Anonymous said...

All the time spent on meetings and writing letter could instead b spent on teaching & improving the school.... do u want them to focus on parent complaints vs actually getting on with the job....

Anonymous said...

The kids get one chance at an education. Not like teachers who have the choice to move to a school that suits them. The kids are most important. Teachers move on, change jobs, move country etc all the time. Not so easy for kids who will feel the impact.

Anonymous said...

In a world where people don't have access to education, we're lucky to benefit from free choice. Will the campaigners recognise their privilege and travel an extra 10 minutes to an la school if they don't want an academy. Do they want parent voice? What about the parents not given a choice about strike action or those who have no say about their kids not going to school? Do their voices count? Not sure they are being silenced really given how much we hear from the same set of 10 people.

Anonymous said...

The following comments explain perfectly where I'm coming from! Where else is there to direct our frustrations? Why do our kids need to "fight" for their teachers?! What do the kids believe in? Has anyone even asked them what their experience has been, going to a failing school day in, day out?

Anonymous said...

The idea that the best outcome can be had by simply accepting academisation and minimising strikes is just wishful thinking. We need to push for a solution that is fit for purpose and convenient not just for this term but for the school as a whole l, for the local community and for its staff, who are important stakeholders. The previous headteacher, governors, LA and DfE have not dealt with this situation in good faith and we need to call them to account. Even now they are resisting proper parent representation on the governance team. Why?

Anonymous said...

The time spent in protests and strikes in mainly by the Save BC movement and not by the school or SLT so the idea that this using up time or resources that could be used by the school to improve doesn't seem to hold water.

Anonymous said...

How do you run a school without teachers if they are striking.

Anonymous said...

Or based on evidence of other schools that rapidly improved under an academy? Aren't majority of adacademies in the chain good or outstanding whereas previously failing? LA or academy what matters most is kids having access to good education

Anonymous said...

Sadly this campaign has been led by Teachers who simply do not like Academies because for ‘political’ reasons rather then genuine concerns about the education of the children - who have now lost a lot of schooling because of the pointless and education damaging strikes. It was the former Blair Labour Government which passed the law that failing’ schools had to convert into an Academy. The new Government would need to change the law to change the position as Byron Court is probably not the only school in this position. Barry Gardiner posturing will not be enough. Ofsted which is independent of the school and Brent School carried out an inspection and the 5 Inspectors decided that the school was inadequate of 5 different measures of performance. We cannot change that assessment. Schools that do not perform as well as they should do receive extra support from the Council. The worst thing that could happen now is for parents to take their children elsewhere as reduced pupil numbers meets less funding leading to further spiral of decline. The Government now needs to make a quick decision one way or the other - proceed with the Academy option or give the school a final time limited chance to improve. The education of up to a 1000 children is it stale and their deserve the best possible education from September. More pointless strikes is not the answer.

Anonymous said...

Is it easy to improve the teaching of children when the kids aren't present in school? ... due to strikes. The argument that strikes don't take up resource is counter to logic and common sense. Disruption to normal service is literally the point of any kind of strike action

Anonymous said...

What is the impact of children missing days intermittently and having no routine? Children need consistency and routine. Do you think it impacts on their ability to learn? Of course it does. Time for some hard truths.