How an academy chain's dominance in an area creates a monopoly and undermines parental preference

Bromley Parent's picture
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Parents in Penge, South London, who want to send their child to their local school are being effectively denied any meaningful preference since the Harris Federation now runs the four main secondary schools that serve the area. To adapt Henry Ford’s famous maxim to this area parents can choose any local school they want as a long as it is a Harris Academy.

Harris City Academy Crystal Palace was a former City Technology College and has been long established in the area. The Harris Federation took over Harris Academy South Norwood in 2006 and turned the previous all-boys school into a mixed sex one. Both schools are located in the Croydon borough, both are over-subscribed and both are judged by Ofsted as Outstanding.

Concerns have raised about the inclusivity of both schools. In 2010 Harris Crystal Palace was criticised for refusing to admit a disabled pupil and Harris South Norwood is the top excluding school in Croydon in respect of the number of permanent exclusions, with 10 in 2009/10

From September 2011 the Harris Federation took over Harris Academy Bromley (previously Cator Park School) and Harris Academy Beckenham (previously Kelsey Park Sports College) in the western part of Bromley borough.

Kelsey Park was an all boys school, located in Beckenham but had traditionally drawn it pupils from the West Beckenham/Penge area. The school was recently given notice to improve by Ofsted but had come through that and received a satisfactory Ofsted judgement. Kelsey Park was undersubscribed and the school had been subject to a campaign by parents (Harris into Beckenham) whose children attend local primary schools lobbied for the school to be taken over by Harris. This followed a leaflet campaign by the Harris Federation in the local area.

The Harris Federation had also put in an application to open a Free School in Beckenham, a move which also added to the pressure on the school. The governors were considering various academy options, but were reluctant to join the Harris Federation. However pressure became too great and Kelsey Park’s governors eventually decided to join the Harris Federation and the school became Harris Academy Beckenham.

From September 2012 Harris Academy Beckenham has undertaken a number of measures to change its intake. It has moved from being all-boys school to one that is mixed sex and will admit girls and boys into year 7 from 2012. It has also changed its oversubsciption criteria. The school no longer prioritising siblings in its admission criteria and, despite the consultation responses indicating a desire for otherwise, distance from the school would be measured from the school and not from a point closer to the community it had traditionally drawn its pupils from. The effect of both these measure will be to make it harder in the event of oversubscription for those resident in West Beckenham and especially Penge to be admitted to the school.

Cator Park was an oversubscribed all girls school in West Beckenham. It had an overall satisfactory Ofsted judgement, though within that there were many aspects judged as good. The school’s opted to join the Harris Federation around the same time as Kelsey Park. The school was invited to join when it was still unclear whether or not Kelsey Park’s governors would vote to join the Federation. The proposed Harris Free School would have also affected Cator Park. From September 2011 Cator Park became Harris Academy Bromley.

The head teacher from Harris Academy South Norwood was appointed Executive Principal of both the new Academies.

Once both schools had agreed to join the Harris Federation the Free School application was withdrawn. A more cynical person would wonder whether the Harris Federation ever really wanted to open a Free School and whether it was just Trojan horse to ensure Kelsey Park and/or Cator Park joined the Harris Federation.

Despite assurances given at the time that the schools would retain their autonomy and would build on the work of the predecessor schools both former head teachers have since left their posts and new heads installed. The former head of Kelsey Park left his post before the new Academy opened and the former head of Cator Park left the new Academy only a few weeks into the term. A recent newsletter has shown that at Harris Academy Bromley a further twelve staff left at Christmas

Harris Academy Bromley recently had their Ofsted inspection and it was clear from the tone of that that many parents remain unconvinced about the changes being made to the school.

Some people would say parents here are lucky having their four local schools run by the Harris Federation and no doubt the majority of the children who attend them will receive a good education, as would have been the case in their predecessor schools. However I am concerned about the Harris Federation being the sole education provider in the area for two reasons. Firstly if you do not subscribe to the Harris ethos what options do you as a parent have to express a meaningful preference regarding your child’s secondary school and when one provider has near monopoly status in an area surely this undermines the Government’s stated desire that competition will drive up standards.

Previously parents in this area could express a preference for a range of schools, including ones run by the Harris Federation. They could express a meaningful preference and the diversity of provision helped incentivise improved performance. Under local authority ‘control’ Local Management of Schools meant head teachers were free to develop and run their schools how they saw fit. However when you want your child to go to a local school you want to look at those available to you in your community and decide which has the curriculum, ethos and values that best suit your child. When all the schools are run on the same basis and have the same underlying ethos you are effectively denied choice and any sense of parental preference is rendered almost meaningless.
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Comments

Mr Chas's picture
Fri, 30/12/2011 - 18:22

Good to see a parent backing Gove's plan of a variety of different schools in each area. Let's hope that a free school will soon come in and add to the mix, maybe even a 'satellte' grammar too

Allan Beavis's picture
Fri, 30/12/2011 - 18:34

Try the other post about Finland, Chas - http://www.localschoolsnetwork.org.uk/2011/12/how-finland-really-can-hel....

5th in the international rankings and it offers choice - but the choice is the same type of school. Just excellent non-selective, inclusive, mixed ability schools staffed by well paid teachers respected by the government and the community. Like America, with its plethora of so-called "choice", Britain does averagely. Instead of adopting some of the Finnish methods, Gove chooses the failed American one. You do the math

Tracy Hannigan's picture
Sat, 31/12/2011 - 22:00

Gove doesn't want variety or parental choice - if going on the DfE website he clearly wants to obliterate anything but academies run by companies - it is like LA schools do not even exist!

Bromley Parent's picture
Fri, 30/12/2011 - 19:00

The Finnish model is the model I would prefer, but that's not the world we're in at the moment and in Penge you only have the choice of one type of school and it isn't a Finnish style school. The monopoly situation here means that parents who want to opt for a local community school are effectively denied that preference.

Mr Chas's picture
Fri, 30/12/2011 - 19:27

Bromley Parent speaks wise words. I cannot see any Govt in this country closing down Indie / Faith & Grammar Schools. Blair didn't even touch them when he had a huge majority. So we have to work with what we have. Nobody is ever going to implement the Finnish model in the UK so let's move on shall we ? The Finnish model in the UK is a lefty dream. If you want to influence the current Govt position, and it's looking more and more like a 10 year stint of it imho, you need to get on board and join in the debate. You may then achieve SOMEthing. Having a talking shop on here may be good for your soul, but it won't have any impact..

Allan Beavis's picture
Fri, 30/12/2011 - 19:42

Why should we move on? The absurdity of following a vastly expensive American model that is impossible to scale up to improve educational standards for all children, especially when the current coalition's incompetence in stimulating growth in the economy whilst at the same time enriching the already wealthy, needs to be challenged. Intendant Gove and his eunuchs pontificate about the need to drive up standards yet adopt a policy that, unlike Finland, has done the exact opposite. Perhaps your paucity of imagination and ethics could explain the wisdom?

Janet Downs's picture
Sat, 31/12/2011 - 14:05

Bromley Parent has highlighted an important concern. Mr Gove says that academy conversion will allow schools to free themselves on local authority "control" (despite schools already having a significant amount of control). This freedom is supposed to allow them to innovate and give parents choice. But if all the schools in a local area are dominated by a single chain then they become very similar. They are all the same brand - often even incorporating the brand name into the school's name.

Under the LA system, no group of schools achieved this level of uniformity. Even under a fully-comprehensive system (derided as "one-size-fits-all"), schools can develop their own ethos. But academy chains run the risk of making all their schools the same. This is not choice.

Jess's picture
Sat, 31/12/2011 - 21:35

As a parent who visited the Harris schools at their open evening (one of many thousands of parents who did so) there is no doubt that the queues of parents trying to get places in these schools is serious evidence of positive parental feeling that choice has been much improved. I don’t recall anyone queuing up to get into the predecessor schools just a few years ago. Each of them felt quite different to me in the same way that local authority schools feel quite different. I have to say that your comments about these academies representing reduced choice are very patronising and fly in the face of the evidence of hugely changed and improved parental demand where once there was little.
Or would you prefer that we had a choice of poorly performing council schools which the evidence tells us few actually wanted when that was all there was to choose from? No queues of parents formed then –quite the opposite. But people like you always know better what’s good for us parents than we do.
You are right about one thing. Local parents, fed up with a dreadful local school which has failed numerous times in recent years campaigned to get Harris into Beckenham. They did so because they wanted the school to improve quickly. Instead of a council monopoly which provided poor schools in South Norwood, Crystal Palace and Beckenham -we wanted an organisation which would quickly bring improvement and hope. Our kids get one go at this and we can’t afford to get it wrong for the benefit of apologists for the teachers unions like you. Instead of poor, unpopular and underperforming schools locally we now have outstanding ones and it’s what parents want. Yet you see this as an undesirable monopoly. Monopolies are characterised by poor service levels and underperformance –these were the features evident in the previous situation with monopoly was council control- those schools delivered the poor service and l;eft parents with no choice other than poor schools which few wanted to attend.
Harris South Norwood, Harris Crystal Palace and Harris Purley are all Outstanding schools now and we wanted that for Kesley Park and Cator Park. When you agree to have surgery by a persistently satisfactory (rather than a good or outstanding doctor) then your prescriptions for the kinds of schools that others should send their children to might carry more weight. In the meantime –satisfactory and underperforming is not good enough for the rest of us.
Furthermore you state that the previous schools would have improved anyway. What utter rubbish. Kesley Park achieved the dreadful score of 33% pass rate this year. Cator Park was judged to be only satisfactory for the third inspection in a row (have you been reading the press lately where people are rightly discussing that schools staying only satisfactory over long periods are actually unsatisfactory). Nearly every other Bromley secondary school is outstanding but you want us to send our kids to poor schools because you think having a choice of such schools is a plus????. The performance of Kesley Park and Cator Park speaks poorly of the previous leadership of both schools. Kesley failed –yes it got out of a failure category and then its results fell nearly 15% and they cant get anyone to go there. Cator is oversubscribed but not with local families and is barely satisfactory according to Ofsted. Lament the great leadership they have lost? You are joking surely?
You also make misleading comments about the Harris Bromley ofsted report. Rather than showing problems under the new leadership the report in many places makes oblique references to the unsatisfactory situation beforehand. The inspectors make many references to the clear improvements going on. For example
"The leaders and managers of the academy are bringing about improvements rapidly through a culture of increased drive, accountability and reflection. Improvements are evident in behaviour, punctuality, the quality of learning and teaching, and the attainment and progress that students are making."
And if improvements in all of these things have happened so quickly –what doers that say about the previous situation?
or
Despite being in their posts for a relatively short period of time, the executive principal, the associate principal, and the governing body have very clear ideas of how to develop the academy. They are working well with other senior leaders and have accurately identified where improvements need to be made. Effective steps are now being taken to improve the quality of teaching and learning and middle leaders are playing an increasingly effective role in this. Target setting, monitoring and evaluation have improved already. They are more rigorous and there is an increased clarity about what is expected in the use of assessment to plan effective lessons.
Finally you state
Parents could express a meaningful preference and the diversity of provision helped incentivise improved performance???
Where is the evidence in the performance of Stanley Technical High School – only 20% 5A-c when it became an academy that there was any incentive to improved performance, or Kesley Park fallen to 33% this year with a poor reputation or Cator park only satisfactory for the third time in a row. You are surely having a laugh.
If I get my kid into one of the Harris Schools I will be delighted and mightily relieved that they are there and have replaced and greatly improved what were poor schools and so will be the many thousands of others who desperate for a place and who value having a choice of great schools

Tracy Hannigan's picture
Sat, 31/12/2011 - 21:59

It would be very interesting to see if those who scream 'choice' for 'choice' sake still do so once all schools are run privately (which is how 'choice' is being created) - is it the addiction to novelty that attracts such unthinking adherence to an idea whose truth has not yet come to light?

Guest's picture
Sun, 01/01/2012 - 12:40

Tracey,

I suggest you read the post by jess above. This gives an accurate portrayal of what parents want. For many Harris Academies are giving us real choice for the first time. The choice of a good local school which unfortunately was not supplied under local authority schools in this area.

Allan Beavis's picture
Sun, 01/01/2012 - 14:12

I think it will come to light too late, unfortunately. However, the impact of philanthropy in Charter Schools has not resulted in America's schools improving. What the programme has successfully achieved, however, is to give men of unbelievable wealth influence to shape American education policy and for companies to make huge profits out of a system that has failed many children in America, especially those in under-endowed charters, public schools and those who are not the drops in the ocean in schools run by KIPP or HCZ.

Allan Beavis's picture
Sun, 01/01/2012 - 13:59

I do hope that Jess' and Guest's children are not disabled or have "quite low academic ability" because, if so, there is every chance that they will be rejected by Harris Federation Schools, despite their prospectus claiming it is an "inclusive school with disabled access ramps and wheelchair facilities", adding: "Disabled students, including those in wheelchairs, have full access to the curriculum." This rather unpleasant piece of news was reported here in the Evening Standard in November http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/standard/article-23899215-top-academy-bans...

Jess's eulogy of Harris Schools and her description of the overwhelming number of parents desperate to get their children into them could have been written by their Press Office or Central Government. Clearly the ethos of these schools work for her but they don't work for everyone and many parents will not want their children to be schooled or engineered in the Harris ideology.

Bromley Parent’s post in any case highlighted the fact that Harris Schools’ dominance in the area has revealed the flaws and perhaps the fallacy of Michael Gove’s incantations of giving people “choice”. It seems that in her area, it is Harris Schools or nothing. The local authority’s record in education may or may not be good – I have no idea – but the imposition of an Academy chain sponsored and chaired by Lord Harris of Peckham, a long-time Conservative donor and former party treasurer, has the sniff of the Tory’s returning some favours to their philanthropist.

Academies are not the only solution to improving schools. There are other ways that local authorities and individual schools can work over time to improve. Ten years ago Hackney education was a farce. Today, it has a number of extremely good schools which over this period have monitored and stewarded by the Learning Trust, which is accountable to the council, to parents and to the local community.

If Jess’ children are able bodied and of the intellectual predisposition that suits Harris Schools, then she will have been very fortunate indeed and got what she wanted. I do hope she spares a thought for the hundreds of thousands of children less fortunate than hers who are still being let down by an unequal school system that Gove and the punitive economic policies of the government are in danger of rendering much worse.

Bromley Parent's picture
Sun, 01/01/2012 - 14:27

What annoys me is the arrogant and patronising way some attempt to claim they speak for all parents in this area. You don't. I am a parent, I live in this area and my children will almost certainly go to these schools. I feel since Harris have taken over I now have less choice than I did previously. I don't claim to speak for anyone but myself and would never claim that I speak on behalf of other parents but this is how I feel and how I think. I am angry at attempts to dismiss my opinions as being that of an apologist for the teaching unions. My views are my own and as valid as yours in this debate. Please don't belittle them.

I always felt the campaign to get Harris into Beckenham was always arrogant in its belief that it spoke for all parents in the area. I didn't.speak for me. It may well have voiced the concerns of some parents in the area but it did not represent all. I know parents who were happy with both Kelsey Park and Cator Park schools. What we have got is the tyranny of the majority/those who shouted the loudest imposing its will on the rest by ensuring the same ethos applies to all schools in the area.

As a parent of child with SEN I am genuinely concerned about how inclusive some acdemies are. Given the high national exclusion rates for young people with SEN the high levels of permanent exclusion at South Norwood and the example of discrimination against the young girl at Crystal Palace really concern me in respect of the academies approach to vulnerable pupils with additional needs.

You may be happy for some sort of utilitarian outcome where the needs of a few with additional needs are sacrificed for the benefit of the many and that that is considered a price worth paying. Those are not my values and I am concerned for the future.

Allan Beavis's picture
Sun, 01/01/2012 - 15:08

I spoke over the summer with a parent of a young girl who had started her secondary school in one of the high profile Academies in Hackney. She had a mild physical disability which also affected the speed at which she as able to learn. He also pointed out that there was not necessarily a correlation, but in his case his daughter was clearly eligible and in need of some extra special support from the school. Despite years of pleading with staff and the head, the latter finally told him that the school could not provide the resources for his daughter and that perhaps this Academy was not the best type of school for her. This Academy also claims to be inclusive. The parent not only felt betrayed but was consistently made to feel that he was over demanding and difficult. In the end, he took his daughter to a community school in the neighbouring borough of Tower Hamlets, where she was given extra help and both father and daughter given support and encouragement. She went on to get good GCSEs, A Levels and is now in further education.

What is sad is that government cuts to education will affect mostly the most vulnerable - not just the economically disadvantaged but children in need of special care. It is frightening how the government is not taking the opportunity to reverse decades of inequality in state education but is widening the gap even more.

Guest's picture
Sun, 01/01/2012 - 17:22

Sorry but we live in a democracy.

Your concerns are unfounded and if you approached the school you would be able to put your mind at rest.

Unfortunately the rest of your post appears to be sour grapes.

Alec in Bromley's picture
Sun, 01/01/2012 - 17:41

Guest - you really are one thick, smug, ignorant, patronising, useless, fascist piece of shit aren't you?

Ben Taylor's picture
Mon, 02/01/2012 - 13:45

Can't believe this has got so many likes!

Bromley Parent's picture
Sun, 01/01/2012 - 17:53

I hope you're right and I am wrong.

Like you I want a good local school for my children. Good schools come in many forms to attend however I suspect what you think a good school looks like is probably different to what I think a good school looks like.

Yes we live in a democracy and I accept my views are probably not the majority viewpoint, however democracy is not just about the majority always winning it is sometimes about protecting the minority from the majority. Vulnerable children are not going to be the majority but their interests need protecting.

All views are equally valid, even minority ones and I don't appreciate being dismissed just because people have different viewpoint. I listen to all views and respect people's right to say them even when I disagree.

Allan Beavis's picture
Mon, 02/01/2012 - 10:24

What is so appalling about Guest's comment is that it reveals the sheer callousness of his attitude towards a parent anxious, because of the evidence in front of her, that her SEN child will not get the education she deserves because Harris Schools have monopolised her local schools and have been revealed to discriminate against certain children. This is hardly reassuring and these concerns are not to be casually dismissed as “sour grapes.”

The problem with Guest's comment is that he has not grasped the deeper meanings of democracy -

1. a state of society characterized by formal equality of rights and privileges.
2. political or social equality.
3. the common people of a community as distinguished from any privileged class

He is enforcing his version of democracy in very much the same way that Robert Mugabe conceded to "democracy" when he agreed to share power with Morgan Tsvangirai.

Guest's picture
Mon, 02/01/2012 - 11:31

Allan,
It is no surprise that you have no evidence to back up any of your claims. Harris have an excellent reputation for dealing with children from all backgrounds and that includes SEN. They in fact welcome more children across this spectrum than the school you have chosen for your own children. Facts are difficult for you.

My advice to Bromley Parent was to talk to the schools in question to feel reassured rather than come on here and listen to your views, as they actually know what they are doing.
As Bromley parent acknowledges there was a campaign fought by local parents to convert to Harris so that all children would receive better opportunities. This is local democracy in action.

I suggest you become less reliant on your anecdotes and old Evening Standard articles when forming opinions on a chain of schools doing an excellent job in transforming the outcomes of thousands of children. We support our local schools and do not feel the need to criticise others unlike you Allen.

Phoenix's picture
Sat, 16/06/2012 - 00:56

Guest, you obviously work for Harris and have been brain washed. Live the impact of Harris and then I am sure you will not write such utter rubbish. If you don't work for them, then I really pity you.

Janet Downs's picture
Sun, 01/01/2012 - 17:53

Guest - you are correct, we do live in a democracy. For a democracy to run smoothly the electorate needs unbiased information. But this government is publishing propaganda that says English state education is poor and needs reforming. This reform, the Government contends, can only be done by schools converting to academies, preferably in chains. If English education becomes dominated by a few chains: Harris, E-Act, CfBT, ULT (banned by Labour from setting up more academies because of poor performance but reprieved and praised by Mr Gove), ARK and so on, there will be less choice for parents. Each chain will have its own brand and will be heavily promoted.

John Burn, OBE, who is a supporter of academies, nevertheless warned about academy chains in his evidence to the Education Bill Committee. He wrote that their imposition on schools risked control being taken from the schools and given to a remote, unaccountable body, with money being hived off from education to pay for head offices.

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201011/cmpublic/education/mem...

Alec in Bromley's picture
Mon, 02/01/2012 - 11:42

Guest - you never provide evidence but one hell of a lot of pig ignorant smug fascist crap. I suggest you get yourself [...redacted...] by Jeremy Clarkson in front of your own [...redacted...].

A guest's picture
Mon, 02/01/2012 - 12:13

I read the comments on this site and occasionally comment. I do not think there is any need to write things like this (or your previous comment).

Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 02/01/2012 - 17:35

Alec in Bromley - your comments add nothing to the debate. I often disagree with Guest (and Guest often disagrees with me) but we do manage to discuss things without resorting to abuse.

Rosemary Mann's picture
Mon, 02/01/2012 - 20:53

Guest, facts are facts, but the facts as presented by Bromley parent and the stated and published experience of others do not seem to have any sway with you. You state that your current provision offers choice but I dont think choice is the right word really as there cannot be choice in a monopoly. I felt similarly concerned about a potential lack of choice when there was a free school campaign in my area for a school with a particular philosophy. My view was that this might become my local school and we might be forced to go there as a result despite our concerns about the type of education offered. I dont therefore see that setting up pop up free schools or academies serves the community or future generations of children. Its not democracy or parent power that you are witnessing , but selective promotion by central government as part of a very expensive experiment.

I dont live in Penge but fairly close by and am also concerned about secondary education for my children. Fortunately this is some years away but we are still considering now what the future might hold. I am aware of some concerns in another local area of the Harris chain through other school governor contacts. I am aware of very unhappy parents and very unhappy teachers who are on significantly worse terms and conditions than other teachers at their own school and also compared with local authority schools. And as most LA teachers know, few are rolling in it.
Monopolies are never good not least by private chains and as a parent on the fringes of this kind of debate I am also concerned at what I see emerging.

Everyone wants a good school for their children. I dont think however this necessarily precludes local authority provision as many are becoming soft federations with the exec headship system.

Angela G's picture
Wed, 18/07/2012 - 08:45

Unfortunately, I have had to de-register my daughter from Harris Academy Bromley. She joined at the end of 2011, when it was still Cator Park, and so far, the changes have been disappointing. Many good teachers have left and are still leaving. Discipline in the school is a joke - detentions are given out for every little thing - they now have to use the hall regularly. The school used to be known for it's sporting achievement, but now that's going downhill.The new Harris no-longer supports the netball team, and even though my daughter was part of the girls year eight team that won the London youth games at Crystal Paris this year, they have cut sport as a GCSE for the girls going into year nine in September. And, because sport was the deciding factor in choosing Cator Park, my daughter became disappointed with the choices left. Then her peers started to leave the school. But, the final straw was finding out her languages teacher was also leaving - the only other subject my daughter was good at. So, after looking at the choices, my children will be de-registering from the school system.

Ed's picture
Mon, 21/01/2013 - 06:52

Amazing comment-the Left certainly object to parents having any say in their children's education. What are you saying? Parents should acquiesce and accept poorly run schools where expectations are low? The rise of Harris Academies is a direct result of the poor standards tolerated and fostered in state schools . Exclusions of disruptive pupils is to be commended-far too often the majority of children are seriously disadvantaged by the behaviour of a minority.Let those who want to learn learn and parents who want excellence should have the right to demand it.

Rosemary Mann's picture
Mon, 21/01/2013 - 09:49

Ed, you seem to be suggesting Angela s comment is ' amazing' forgetting thst she is a parent. The reason that Harris are doing so well is due to government patronage, a political decision. I don't see many other academy chains moving in to this area, something I'm sure will be challenged by other such chains within the forseeable future. Harris are muscling in on state schools whether they are failing or not. If you believe that this is done solely to improve state education then you are being misled.

Kelsey park/Harris Beckenham student's picture
Tue, 12/02/2013 - 01:05

I was in year 8 when the letter went out about the change. Since that time I have had inconsistencies in my teachers. I even went a term without a maths teacher. The school has had problems from the start and for a science and enterprise school, science equipment in the school is older than me. Most of my teachers are NQT's and are put in place teaching top set students instead of more experienced teachers. Also, the only change in the school in the way of astetics is a new reception and office for our head teacher and 'Head of school.' I am encouraged by this talk about my school and believe that something needs to be done before me and my year group slip under the radar.

Janet Downs's picture
Tue, 12/02/2013 - 10:42

Kelsey park/Harris Beckenham - it's an unfortunate truth that sponsored academies tend to have more NQTs than non-academies. They're cheaper, of course. And now academies can employ non-qualified personnel as "teachers".

The Government's database of schools (Edubase) says that Kelsey Park Sports College, a boys' only school, closed in August 2011. Harris Beckenham opened on 1 September 2011 as a mixed school although I believe that girls are only in Years 7 and 12. Edubase also says that Kelsey Park had a capacity of 972 pupils and when it closed there were 825 on roll. Edubase says that Harris Beckenham has a capacity of 1150 but there are fewer pupils (760). The number of pupils at the school has actually fallen since it became a Harris academy.

Based on raw results (which isn't necessarily a reliable indicator of the quality of education offered in a school), Harris Beckenham's results were significantly higher in 2012 than Kelsey Park's results in 2011 (53% and 36% respectively). However, the 2012 GCSE cohort would have spent four years in the previous school so any rise in results should be attributed to that school. On the other hand, there was more reliance of vocational exams (so-called "equivalents") in 2012 which could have bumped up results.

Penge Parent's picture
Thu, 14/03/2013 - 10:44

I am also interested that Royston and Malcolm are becoming Harris academies. I have no experience of how they do at primary level so I will be watching to see how they get on. I understand St Johns might turn into a faith academy.

Imelda's picture
Tue, 25/06/2013 - 23:03

For the past 12 years I have worked with young people who have been excluded from Secondary mainstream education; some permanently and some for short periods of intervention in an attempt to prevent permanent exclusion.

My experience of Harris Academies in the borough I work in, is one that can only be described as the opposite of 'inclusive' so I am intrigued to read some of the previous comments.
My impression of the Academies is that because they are so academically driven and are completely focused on 'rankings' and 'results', young people who do not fulfil the Harris criteria or are unable to conform and comply by the Academy rules are pretty quickly excluded.
(Whilst this is not a criticism; Schools and Academies are obviously in the business of education and results ARE the expected outcome. Would we not deem any business which was not meeting a demand or judged to be providing a good service, thus generating a healthy profit, a failing business?)

Upon closer inspection; not just the size of the behaviour log; class exits or Fixed Term Exclusions. Many of the young people I have worked with appear to have an underlying learning/ behavioural/ emotional need.
They are crying out for greater pastoral support or intervention from key professionals. A less academically-driven learning environment or the opportunity to access an individual style of learning may just have re-engaged them and allowed them to avoid the cycle of failure that many have already experienced at Primary school.

However, there appears to be no room in the 'timetable' for such flexibility and assessment needs are often not initiated or addressed before the young person is deemed 'unmanageable' or 'at risk of permanent exclusion'.
The Harris Academies I have contact with seem 'unable to meet the needs' of a seemingly rising number of such young people and this is a great concern considering the monopoly of Harris's which exist, lets face it; in every borough.

I am also a parent of the local area and I am now in the unenviable position of making a 'choice' for Secondary transfer.
If I am honest, I didn't really make a 'choice' of Primary school. I am a working parent who doesn't drive and I needed a school close to home. My Post Code did the rest... Thankfully, our 'choice' turned out to be a good one and we are doing well. My eldest is bright, well- behaved and has a real desire to learn. Boxes ticked. I am told 'she is a pleasure to teach'... Phew!
I now have a second child who is yet to enter the school system. The story isn't over and can certainly never be predicted...

Whilst I am keen for academic achievement for both my children, as I believe an education gives you greater choices as an adult.
I recognise that every child is different and adopting a child-centred approach is key when assessing their needs in order to make appropriate choices for them.

'Choice' is a word I would use very loosely in relation to education. Whilst we would all like to believe that we have real choice in the education we choose for our children, reality tells me that it is in fact our Post Codes and our incomes which truly dictates the choices we make...

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