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Posted on

08/10/10

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The local school being bullied into becoming an Academy

An anonymous supporter told the LSN this story. It’s a fascinating account which shows how local children can be short-changed when Academies are set up in and around their area.

Here it is:

Kelsey Park Sports College is in Bromley, one of the most well to do of all the London boroughs. It is situated in Manor Way, Beckenham, a fantastically middle class road, in which the cheapest house would cost well in excess of a million pounds.

However, not all parts of Bromley are as wealthy as Beckenham and, as Kelsey is the nearest boys school to the more working class areas of Penge and Anerley to the north of the Borough, historically its intake has been skewed towards these less well off areas. It is ranked by the Department as being in the seventeenth out of twenty-three families of London schools when mapped against various indices of deprivation.

As has been covered in the TES, the school’s GCSE cohort in 2009 was affected by the wholesale import of fifty pupils from outside the school, some of whom had multiple difficulties, in year 9. These children made up a full third of the cohort. As a result, in that one year alone results fell just below the floor target and a new OFSTED inspection regime, clearly undergoing teething problems, were hamstrung by those results to give the school ‘notice to improve’.

These results were an aberration: last year, the school recorded 46% of pupils achieving 5 A* – C grades including English and maths. This would put them towards the top of the attainment tables for schools with similar intakes.

This entirely explainable one-year blip appears to have opened up notions of opportunity amongst academy providers. Harris Academies, who run a number of academies in neighbouring boroughs and whose appetite to take over pastures new resembles that of a wolf salivating over an injured lamb, have expressed an interest to take over Kelsey Park Sports College.

Entirely coincidentally, a group of eager parents, (only two of whom appear ever to have entered the gates of the Sports College; one of whom reported herself “happy” and “enthused,” and none of whom have children at the school), have set up a campaign to have it taken over by Harris Academies. For parents of primary school age students they are astonishingly well informed as to process and, in particular, the plans that the Harris Academies might have for the school. They have amassed an astounding (!) number of signatures on a petition and seek to have the school converted into a co-educational academy, their preferred provider being Harris.

One might make an argument, (and I am sure the campaign group would venture this) that this is local democracy in action. However, it appears to be an example of local democracy that involves a large and well funded organization, who are close to government, the head of whom is a Conservative party donor, ignoring the fact that in a democracy everyone gets a vote.

The likely results of conversion to a co-educational academy are that the catchment area of the school will shrink: by admitting girls, 450 places for boys will disappear over the space of five years. Given that admissions will be dictated by proximity to the academy, the places at the school taken by those boys who live in working class Penge will be taken by students who live nearer the school. Fair enough one might argue, until one examines the impact for the boys from Penge who would otherwise expect to attend the school. If they are no longer allowed to attend their local school, they will be forced into either an eight mile round trip to Ravensbourne or a ten mile round trip to Ravenswood. The demographic of Penge suggest this to be a substantial expectation of working class parents who may well not be able to afford such travel costs; that is, of course, if those schools were able to accommodate the displaced children.

This situation is a powerful argument for families of school being controlled by the local authority, who have a responsibility to educate the whole borough, and the London Borough of Bromley has historically been very good at understanding that the two schools that serve the poorer communities in the North of the borough are valuable members of the family of schools. Recent rushed through policy changes have given the sharp elbowed middle classes a substantially increased sense of their own entitlement. Sadly, this sense of entitlement, does not appear to be complicated by any respect for the rights of working class children in poorer communities to attend their local school.

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Comments, replies and queries

  1. Jane Eades says:

    I note the involvement of Harris. During the Summer Term I was handed a leaflet which the Harris Federation were distributing in Bromley. I checked with a friend and find it was distributed fairly widely.

    The leaflet showed all the locations of Harris Academies EXCEPT their 2 Southwark Academies. Presumably because the Harris Academy at Peckham has been performing very poorly!

  2. I read this with much interest. I live in Beckenham & do not consider myself well off or privileged. I have a son currently in Yr 4 at primary school and am supportive of any campaign that wishes to improve KPSC. I would not want my son to attend the school as it is today for many reasons and if he was lucky enough to be able to get into Ravensbourne I would be more than happy. I say that because you mentioned Ravensbourne in your report. Parents should be allowed the freedom of choice about where their children go to school. Currently there is no co-ed school in Beckenham and if you don’t live near Langley park school you are forced to send your sons to KPSC. Those that can afford to, move to get closer to Langley or Hayes. KPSC does not only cater to Penge, and Beckenham. You will find in the OFSTED report that there are actually very FEW boys at the school who live locally. Most of KPSC pupils are from the Lewisham borough!!!
    Local parents like myself want our children to go to a great school that is local. If Kelsey park doesn’t change in time for my son he will have to make a long journey to school everyday, just so that he can go to a good school. I don’t really want to have to send him miles away to school but I will if I have to. We cannot take chances with our childrens education and should not be asked to.

  3. There is a full and active debate from local residents both for and against the introduction into the London Borough of Bromley of Academies here on our open and free local community website – http://www.beckenhamtown.us/forum/categories/education-schools-courses/listForCategory . Your blog piece does not cover neither the full history nor the many aspects of the campaign you write about, so I hope this comment will be freely published and all parties can read and take part in the full debate.

  4. Only 22 Bromley boys had parents who put KPSC as their first preference on the CAF form last year. The school has places for 170 boys. The relevant numbers for the three preceding years were 22, 25 and 43. Over the last couple of years, almost one third of the new boys had not named the school on their CAF form at all. This suggests to me that parents in poorer communities such as Penge and Anerley are not overwhelmingly confident in choosing KPSC for their sons, any more than those in “affluent” Beckenham are. The reason the school takes boys from a wide geographical area, to the north and west of the school, is down to this lack of confidence in the school felt by Beckenham parents. In the past, many have moved or paid private fees to have a wider choice of secondary school. It’s hardly surprising that in these straitened times, these same parents are refusing to accept the status quo. They want change, and as quickly as possible. The number of signatories to the petition shows the depth of feeling on this subject in this area. And by the way, I HAVE been to KPSC, I appreciate the work they do and I know that some boys do very well there.

  5. Jess Davies says:

    I live in the KPSC catchment area and have two children and, unless we move or an alternative such as Harris comes along, we will be forced to send our son to KPSC as we are not in the catchment area for any other school. I have to say that the comment made about giving the ‘…middle classes a substantially increased sense of their own entitlement’ has enraged me. Surely EVERYONE, regardless of class, is ‘entitled’ to send their child to a school where the results are better than 46% pass rate. By the way, that is the highest they have been in years, not a ‘one year blip’ as suggested in your article. The previous year they were 28%, surely EVERY child can aim for better than that? You say Bromley has been very good at understanding the needs of those in the North of the borough, if that is the case, why have they spent millions and millions on updating Langley Park Boys School which already had an ‘outstanding’ Ofsted status and whose buildings and facilities were already very good, rather than putting that money into KPSC where it is desperately needed. Presumably to keep their ‘flagship’ school one of the best rated in the country, (that was before the update) and keep those in the most expensive part of the borough happy. Most parents I’ve spoken to are desperate for Harris to come in and change the situation, not necessarily because they think Harris is the answer to everything, but because NO-ONE else is doing ANYTHING about it, nor have they for years. And as for parents from Penge sending their boys to Ravensbourne or Ravenswood, they would probably jump at the chance to do that, I would. Sadly, they wouldn’t stand a chance of getting in to either. May I suggest to research your facts a little better next time you write an article on such a subject.

  6. lee quinn says:

    A well argued blog sir. The fact is middle class parents have voted with their feet and left what is basically a sink school, and are now bleating that they dont want their kids to be educated with a load of working class kids. Working class parents have bought into these fears, and think Harris will ride in on a white charger and save them all. Harris though, will be remorseless in weeding out those kids who bring their stats down or arent able to submit to the Harris style of learning, it intrigues me that these parents are unable to to see that perhaps there may not be a place in a rebranded KPSC for these working class boys. Where will those boys go?

  7. I currently go to Harris Academy Beckenham (formally KPSC). I have only been here for two years and already I can tell this Academy will flourish with success. They have employed 24 new teachers all of high standard, and a newly reformed Y7 with both genders. I have found the first 2 years very enjoyable, and I am sure it will be the same in the foreseeable future.

  8. [...] has also got its teeth into Kelsey Park with a concerted campaign to take over the school. They’ve even got their own little campaign [...]

  9. I appreciate that this thread is old and that much has happened in regard to the academy agenda since 2010, but I’m confused.

    I’ve just read another piece by the same author explaining his reasons why he supported his son’s school in Tower Hamlets being converted into an academy. I was surprised to read that it hadn’t been supported well by TH LA as they’re generally very well regarded, but respect the author’s more detailed and first hand knowledge.

    So why is it okay for the author to be a ‘sharp elbowed member of the middle class’ or whatever the phrase and campaign for his son’s school to improve but not the parents whose children’s education will be influenced by whatever happens/ed to Kelsey Park?

    I can’t see the difference in ‘sense of entitlement’ to be honest.

    Or have I missed something?

  10. With havin so much content and articles do you ever run into any issues of plagorism or copyright infringement? My website has a lot of exclusive content I’ve either created myself or outsourced but it seems a lot of it is popping it up all over the internet without my agreement. Do you know any methods to help protect against content from being stolen? I’d truly appreciate it.

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The local school being bullied into becoming an Academy

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