Why we should support the feisty parents at Downhills Primary School

Fiona Millar's picture
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Last night I went to speak at a public meeting at Downhills Primary School in Tottenham. The school is being faced with ‘forced academisation’ by the government even though according to several external indicators (an HMI visit and league tables) it is starting to improve.

The meeting in the school hall was packed with well over 500 parents, governors, heads and teachers from the school and neighbouring schools. The parents at Downhills are clear – they know their school must improve but they want to continue that process within the local authority family rather than outside it.

At the start of the meeting local MP David Lammy asked how many people in the hall were parents in favour of school improvement – nearly every hand went up. I think it is safe to say that these parents are not happy with failure, as Michael Gove tried to suggest last week.

David Lammy, who made an excellent rousing speech and who will be raising this issue in the House of Commons this week, also pointed out that there are over 20 schools below the government floor targets in Michael Gove’s Surrey constituency yet he is choosing to ignore those and used Labour Haringey Council, which has clearly been through a difficult period following the death of Baby P, as a political football.

I went to the meeting for two reasons. Firstly in solidarity with the parents and governors.My children’s primary school was named and shamed in the early 90s. No such thing as forced academisation then – even the Iron Lady couldn’t dream up something as undemocratic as this.

But we were faced with a situation where we had to turn the school around in the face of repeated HMI /Ofsted visits and the introduction of league tables (we were at the bottom). I won’t pretend that it wasn’t a long and at times hard struggle because there are no quick fixes in real school improvement.

But we did it –without a sponsor, without changing status, without changing our intake ( in fact that became more not less challenging due to our poor local reputation) but with a strong head, committed governing body , supportive parents and within the local authority family. Downhills is in a much stronger situation – we were on a downward not upward trajectory

So my first point was that schools don’t need to become academies to improve.

In fact in our local authority (Camden) nearly every primary school is judged good or outstanding – none is an academy so it is nonsense to suggest that independence is a necessary pre –requisite for success.

But perhaps the more important reason for attending last night’s meeting was to salute the Downhills community for so effectively exposing the government’s deep intellectual dishonesty on this issue. They are intellectually dishonest for several reasons.

They pretend that only autonomous status leads to school improvement. But in countries where this experiment has been tried in the past the results – like Sweden and the USA –results have been mixed.

Some schools have improved but often at the expense of others or by changing the pupils they admit and getting rid of those that don’t make the grade. Here the government uses the example of the rapid improvement in some secondary academies GCSE results as justification for its forced academy programme.

But any close analysis of those results will show that much of this improvement is based on gaming – the use of qualifications the Coalition simultaneously argues are second rate - or because they have changed their intakes

Successive annual reports from Ofsted suggest that there are a higher proportion of satisfactory and inadequate academies than of maintained schools. This week’s Financial Times reported that in the last 18 months alone the DFE has spent  £10.7 million bailing out eight academies that have run into financial difficulties since going it alone.

These stories will continue to seep out over the next few years. And we will gradually see that the false polarity of   “free schools academies good/ maintained schools and local authorities bad” is wrong.

The second piece of intellectual dishonesty is for Gove and Cameron to pretend that they believe in parent power or a “big society” where local people determine the future of their institutions and community.

If they were serious about that they would allow the parents, governors, teachers and local people at Downhills  -  a very good and feisty example of Cameron’s ‘little platoons’- to decide how they want to develop their school.

After all they are happy to give entirely new institutions to parent groups who have little or no experience of education. The community of Downhills is already demonstrating that it can make progress yet, unlike the free school proposers, they get nothing but brickbats and smears from the Secretary of State who appears to trust some parents, but not others

The final piece of intellectual dishonesty is to pretend that these ‘independent’ state schools are actually free. They aren’t free at all. Stand alone academies are tightly controlled by central government via their Funding Agreements.

Those that are run by chains – as Downhills will be if it loses this battle - will probably be less autonomous than the average maintained school. Most are wholly owned subsidiaries of  corporate pseudo charities which may well have headquarters in another part of the country, or even the world. Those chains impose identikit curricula and management practices and the actual governing bodies – appointed by the chain – are usually puppets.

As my article in the Guardian this summer explained chains rake off money from the budgets of all their schools – in much the same way as local authorities are condemned for doing. Some pay their executives very handsomely with money that could be invested in the schools and they are now exempt from Charity Commission regulation which means their accounts don’t need to be published so we can’t see how individual schools are funded.

This is the very opposite of freedom and autonomy. It is also deeply un-transparent at a time when the government claims to be putting more information into the public domain

However it is not surprising that so many organisations keen to get into this market. Some chains are raking in over £100 million a year. Think how much more lucrative that prospect will be if a future Conservative government gives them the power to make a profit.

Over time we will see a complex web of networks and big corporations running are schools – a far cry from the localism of the Coalition rhetoric.

Finally the deeply dishonest Mr Gove likes to paint anyone who opposes his autocratic rule as being for failure/against progress and ideologically motivated.  But as one of the speakers last night pointed out – maybe he should look in the mirror. He is the ideologue, presiding over a government that says if a community needs a new school it can have the choice of an academy...or an academy. As Sir Peter Newsam, a former Chief Schools Adjudicator, pointed out recently in an excellent letter to the Times (unfortunately behind a paywall)

The defining principle on which schools in England are to be run, according to the Secretary of State and now the Chief Inspector he has recently appointed, is that no elected person, other than a Secretary of State appointed by the Prime Minister, should have anything other than a cosmetic part to play in the English school system.  This is hardly the 'new thinking' referred to in your Leader.  The definition of 'totalitarian' in the Shorter Oxford Dictionary is 'a polity which permits no rival loyalties or parties'.  There is nothing new about thinking of that kind.  This country fought a war against it some seventy years ago.

But if we are to oppose this – and this is a more general political point – we must re- assert continuously what it is we are for rather than be forced into arguing what it is we are against.

I am for school improvement, for good local schools, for an active role for local authorities, not running schools but planning places, holding schools to account, supporting the needs of pupils with SEN, ensuring that admissions and exclusions are fairly managed.

Let’s build new schools if they are needed but let’s ensure they are established in co-operation with all local people rather than in opposition to their wishes or parachuted in from on high.

And let’s make sure all schools are funded fairly, without the bribes and top ups that some academies are receiving and with all schools obliged to make public their budgets in the same way.

 The parents at Downhills are fighting for all these things. If Gove crushes them he will win a small battle but at the same time expose his contempt and mistrust for the parents he falsely claims to support.

 
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Comments

Janet Downs's picture
Tue, 10/01/2012 - 14:29

Academy conversion is not the only way in which achievement can be improved.

Monson Primary School was singled out as a rapidly improving primary school by Mr Gove. Monson Primary no longer exists. It closed in 2008 after being given notice to improve and became part of Haberdasher’s Aske’s Hatcham Academy. In 2009, 66% of its KS2 pupils gained Level 4 in Maths and English. This fell in 2010 to 56% but rose to 76% in 2011. Mr Gove praised the school for this outcome which, he said, proved that academy conversion raised results. 10% of the 2011 KS2 cohort had SEN statements or were on School Action Plan, and 50% of disadvantaged pupils gained Level 4.

Another Lewisham school, Brockley Primary, was placed in special measures in 2010 following poor KS2 results in 2009 (42%) and an unsatisfactory Ofsted rating. This school did not convert to academy status. In 2011, 88% of Brockley’s KS2 pupils gained Level 4 in Maths and English despite 38% of the cohort having SEN statements or being on School Action Plan. 85% of disadvantaged pupils achieved Level 4. In October 2011, Ofsted rated Brockley as a satisfactory, rapidly improving school. Brockley’s results exceed those of Haberdasher’s Aske’s Hatcham and show that academy conversion is not essential to raise results.

I hope that Mr Gove will praise Brockley Primary School for its splendid achievement.

http://www.education.gov.uk/cgi-bin/schools/performance/school.pl?urn=13...

http://www.education.gov.uk/cgi-bin/schools/performance/school.pl?urn=10...

Nicola Brown's picture
Tue, 10/01/2012 - 19:07

If Downhills and its parents win the fight against forced coversion to academy status that will be wonderful, for all the reasons enumerated above.

I do feel, however, that Downhills will be the exception rather than the rule. How many schools have a high profile MP with good media contacts among their former pupils? What about those schools which struggle to get any kind of parental involvement at all?

My prediction is that if this policy goes ahead, most of the targets will not be high profile ones within the London area which are easily visible to the London based media, and they will not be ones that can draw 500 parents and assorted commentators to public meetings.

They will be isolated; they will be outside London; they will be in catchments with a high proportion of disaffected, marginalised parents; they will be without good media contacts.

I think the real question for campaigners will be how to support these kinds of schools -- not the schools that have the resources to do it themselves.

Marigold Doyle's picture
Wed, 11/01/2012 - 00:48

Thanks, Fiona for attending the meeting and your great piece above. I'm a parent at Downhills School and I agree with Nicola about the demographic of targeted schools. Our school has many, many marginlised parents, nearly 50% FSM (and many Eastern European families not entitled to benefits so below even that poverty line), over 40 different languages spoken, high pupil mobility, 10% Roma/Irish traveller families. It's been very fortunate to our campaign that David Lammy attended the school and is behind us. Also, that we have a very well respected Head, a united governing body, enough parents who care passionately about the school and have a knowledge of the UK political system, and the support of the NUT and local councillors. These are the resources we have.
There were many strands to the meeting last night, and one very, very often stated one was that our campaign isn't just about our school. It's part of a Haringey wide campaign (see hcaa.org.uk - Haringey Campaign Against Academies) and we have become a national test case for Gove's forced academy agenda. What happens to our school will potentially affect the fate of 100s of others.
Since the national media coverage, we have had messages of support from other schools, ex-pupils and teachers and members of the public. Some of these other schools have been under threat themselves, and it has felt positive to make contact and share what ideas and resources we have. We want very much to continue doing this - the blockage of FoI requests as to the targeted schools has prevented schools from working together and, I believe, attempted to suppress the fact that all these schools are in exactly the areas that Nicola describes. Our e-mail is savedownhills@hotmail.co.uk and any school under threat is welcome to contact us.

Marigold Doyle's picture
Wed, 11/01/2012 - 05:37

Been thinking about Nicola's points, which I completely agree with.
I want to make very explicit that, for David Lammy, his old school being one of the first targets of the Secretary of State's forced academy scheme has become something very personal between and Gove about who Gove is choosing to 'pick on'. I'd like to separate our campaign out from that a little. In addition to being opposed to to forced academy status for Downhills, we are also opposed to that action being taken in other schools too.
As Nicola points out, most threatened schools won't have an articulate MP as an ex-pupil, or be in the London media spotlight. Gove's bullying of them is absolutely no less acceptable and something we need to keep in focus as much as possible.

Fiona Millar's picture
Sat, 14/01/2012 - 17:19

Since speaking at the meeting and writing this post I have discovered that the Downhills KS2 SATs results improved by 24% between 2009 and 2011. If this school was already an academy, coming from a similarly low base, that achievement would no doubt be hailed as a great success.

Janet Downs's picture
Sat, 14/01/2012 - 17:31

The percentage of Downhills pupils gaining Level 4+ including Maths and English was 61% which is above the Government's floor target. 70% of pupils made the expected progress in English, and 75% in Maths.

In September 2011, Ofsted said that Downhills was “addressing the issues for improvement and in raising the pupils’ achievement” and that the local authority, Haringey, had provided good support. So much for the Government's contention that Haringey fails to give support to its schools.

Compare Downhills' results with the Key Stage 2 results of an all-age academy, the Steiner Academy in Hereford. 0% of its pupils achieved Level 4+ in English and Maths. Perhaps the Government should be concentrating on the dire performance of this academy at Key Stage 2 rather than enforcing academy conversion on those Haringey schools the Government has targeted.

Leonard James's picture
Mon, 16/01/2012 - 06:48

I agree with you about the Steiner school and I'm starting to lose my patience with Gpve but are'nt KS2 scores teacher assessed these days? Hardly an unbiased measure of quality one would think?

Janet Lallysmith's picture
Mon, 16/01/2012 - 07:17

Leonard, KS1 (year 2) scores are teacher assessed (with rigorous internal and external moderation). KS2 scores are estimated by teacher assessment but the actual 'scores' are the results of tests sat on a couple of days in May and marked externally. Every year when schools receive their results, there are a substantial number of requests for remarking by schools and there seems to be increasing lack of confidence in the transparency and consistency of the marking of these papers.

Given that the educational terrain is currently looking like a ten-pin bowling game in the ball of Ofsted goes hurtling through a borough, a number of skittles get knocked over and the private sector swoops to whisk them away, this is obviously very concerning.

Just on Downhills, our scores are actually a few percentage better than the current official target. There were 2 children whose SATS results shouldn't have been included; the DfE have agreed that they will remove these and alter the data, but it's taking them rather a long time. Since May '11 to be exact. This will put the L4 E & Ms at about 64%, and increase the progress scores correspondingly.

Another of the threatened schools in Haringey has reported similar attempts by the DfE to manipulate data.

Janet Lallysmith's picture
Mon, 16/01/2012 - 07:18

KS2 tests are sat by year 6 in the last year of primary school.

Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 16/01/2012 - 09:12

Leonard - I'm surprised that you as a teacher are unaware of how Primary School pupils are assessed at the end of Key Stage 2. Surely your secondary school knows the SAT marks for its incoming pupils? SATs in English and Maths are taken in England in Year 6. They are uniform and externally marked. Teachers also assess the pupils but it is the SAT score which is included in league tables. You can access both the SAT scores and teacher assessment on the DfE website. Only KS2 information is available for 2011 but secondary data should be published shortly - screaming headlines in the media will tell you when the info can be viewed.

Use the link below and type in the name of the school or local authority. You should find the info you want. However, there are quirks with the way the database works (I do hope you're not going to accuse me of being selective again when I warn you of difficulties). In order to access the full info about a primary school including teacher assessment you need to select "primary" as well as insert the name of the school. If you don't you may find that you are taken to a page which includes SAT results only.

http://www.education.gov.uk/schools/performance/

Leonard James's picture
Mon, 16/01/2012 - 17:33

Thanks for the information but I'm up to speed now - I was getting confused between the abolishment of external assessment at KS1 & 3 and primary schools refusing to partake in the KS2 tests in protest.

I don't take much notice of KS2 results to be honest. Like many Secondary schools mine retests Year 7 as soon as they arrive and uses that data as a starting point for measuring progress instead. KS2 data may come into play when we report official 'two levels of progress' type targets but at the moment I am more interested in meeting FFT targets for the end of each Key Stage and I have other targets to worry about that revolve around my particular role in school. This could all have changed by tomorrow morning of course on the whim of one Michael Gove.

Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 16/01/2012 - 09:31

Fiona makes a valid point about the rate of improvement at Downhills. If Downhills had been an academy and made a similar rate of improvement the school would have been received fulsome praise from Messrs Gove and Gibb.

In Rutland there is a village primary school (non-academy) with a spectacular rate of improvement. In only two years the school's SAT results have improved by over 100%. In 2008 the SAT score was 68%, in 2009 it fell to 42%, in 2010 it rose to 77% and last year it rose further to 85%.

Why was 2009 such a bad year? Because in 2009, only 12 pupils took SATs and one-third of these were SEN. A blip, perhaps? Not according to Ofsted who gave the school notice to improve. Judged by its SAT results it has done so.

Messrs Gove and Gibb boast about how the rate of improvement in academies is higher than that of other schools, so by their analysis this small Rutland primary school must have one of the highest rates of improvement in English schools.

So let's hear it for Ryhall CofE Primary school, one of the most improved schools in England, and it's a lovely little village school as well. It always was. And it's not an academy.


http://www.education.gov.uk/cgi-bin/schools/performance/group.pl?qtype=G...

Janet Lallysmith's picture
Mon, 16/01/2012 - 11:46

To pick up on Fiona's point about the improvement at Downhills... Montgomery primary in Birmingham is also targetted by the DfE, is an improving school and has a strong parental campaign against forced conversion.

One of their key arguments is that part of the DfE's strategy is to target schools that are already on an upward trajectory, so that if they are forced to convert this can be attributed to the academy magic wand.

I have seen no evidence to dispute this argument.

Janet, yes, your point about the problems of applying percentages to small numbers is a very important one and one that often gets overlooked. Given Gove's determination to keep adjusting floor targets and a 'one year below the floor target and you're out' approach to privatisation, this is a significant worry to those of us who would like a reasonably coherent and thought out approach to improving our schools.

Fiona Millar's picture
Mon, 16/01/2012 - 16:25

I thought the government has now accepted that school performance needs to be judged over three years because the results of a single year cohort ( especially in a small school) are not necessarily representative of longer term progress. It would appear that over a three year period quite a few of these so called failing schools would be showing signs of improvement.

Marigold Doyle's picture
Tue, 17/01/2012 - 13:12

Please share widely our community response to Michael Gove

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bqg-NUWgGSU

Thanks!

A guest's picture
Tue, 17/01/2012 - 13:24

Gove has now ordered an OFSTED inspection of this school.

Marigold Doyle's picture
Tue, 17/01/2012 - 13:58

Inaccurate, Guest. Ofsted were due back any time between 12- 16 months after their visit in January 2011, so they're due back anyway.. The school were told that it would be the same inspector as undertook the monitoring visit in September - this hasn't been confirmed.

In the meantime, there is a new framework hadn't been written when the school was set goals in January or completed by the monitoring visit in September.

To add to the mix, the new head of Ofsted is the ex-director of ARK (an academy chain), and half the board of Ofsted seem to be ex-employees of ARK.

And this is all about improving educational standards? Really?

A guest's picture
Tue, 17/01/2012 - 14:04

I was passing on what I had just read on the Guardian education site. Maybe it is wrong. I have read that the school was awaiting an inspection. I actually think that it is not right that Gove has done this if it is true.

Allan Beavis's picture
Tue, 17/01/2012 - 14:13

Marigold

Wilshaw was on BBC Breakfast this morning. He was rather unconvincing!

Marigold Doyle's picture
Tue, 17/01/2012 - 14:08

I'm a parent at the school. The facts of the situation are that Ofsted put the school on a Notice to Improve on 26th January 2011. They had a monitoring visit on 15th September, which noted that the schools had received good support from the LA and that they were satisfied with improvements made. The school were informed that the same inspector would undertake the full inspection in 2012.

Ofsted are then due back 12-16 months after the 26 Jan visit ie any time from the end of next week.

I agree that ;it is not right that Gove has done this'.

Janet Lallysmith's picture
Tue, 17/01/2012 - 14:36

Allan, I didn't see it. Was he talking about the new framework or forced academies?

Allan Beavis's picture
Tue, 17/01/2012 - 14:38

Ofsted not being happy with just satisfactory and unannounced inspections....

Janet Lallysmith's picture
Tue, 17/01/2012 - 14:46

Was there any debate? Where are Labour in all this? Teaching unions?

Allan Beavis's picture
Tue, 17/01/2012 - 15:02

Sadly not. It came over as an opportunity for the government to "talk tough" on low standards. What was even worse than Wilshaw on BBC Breakfast was Newsnight last night which showed a rather good short film on how Academies - Harris Schools were discussed - were "nudging out" undesirable pupils who were going to drag down league table statistics. I thought Kirsty Wark dealt with Vic from Passmore Academy and Birbalsingh from some Free-School-in-an-office-in-Tooting-Wandsworth-Lambeth-Wherever rather well. Both were unconvincing and somewhat incoherent.

A guest's picture
Tue, 17/01/2012 - 15:06

The bit ( on Newsnight ) I did not understand is why academies are not entering as many students for English and Maths. If these students are going to count in your figures why would you not enter them?

Janet Downs's picture
Tue, 17/01/2012 - 16:16

The Newsnight report and interview are available from the link below. A summary of the report is available from the second link. One interviewee said that as academies were "high stakes institutions" then it was tempting for them to use "dark arts" in order to remove children likely to bring down league table results.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b019x3jf/Newsnight_16_01_2012/

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/newsnight/9674889.stm

Janet Downs's picture
Tue, 17/01/2012 - 15:35

Information re re-catagorising "satsfactory" schools as ones which "require improvement" on link below. The trouble is that Ofsted keep moving the goalposts. The parent on the Woman's Hour interview (link below) said that her school had been judged by Ofsted to be good with outstanding features but when the criteria were changed the school was judged poor. When the new framework was published in 2009 it caused anger among heads (see TES article below) with many schools previously graded good being judged "satisfactory" despite displaying the same qualities as when they were graded good.

So in just a few years "good" had been downgraded to "satisfactory" and "satisfactory" has been redefined as "unsatisfactory". But then Sir Michael Wilshaw has said that when he was a head he knew he was doing something right if staff morale is at an all-time low.

Mike Kent, retired primary head, wrote in TES (13 Jan 2012, not available on-line) that "Children can thrive only in schools where staff morale is high... passionate about the excitement of learning. And for Sir Michael to make the comment he did is both insulting and demeaning."

I'll second that.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-16579644

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b019f8b9/Womans_Hour_Academy_School... (about 24.40, available only for 7 days)

http://www.tes.co.uk/article.aspx?storycode=6025100

Fiona Millar's picture
Tue, 17/01/2012 - 15:39

I thought changes to the Ofsted framework were a matter for Parliament? Can someone confirm that. If so , and the new framework has just been consulted on, published and brought into force, does the HMCI have the power to change it overnight or will there be another consultation?

Janet Downs's picture
Tue, 17/01/2012 - 16:38

In September 2011 Ofsted announced the new framework for inspections. This comes only two years after the last change which Mr Gove misleadingly said resulted in inspectors poking around in pupils' lunchboxes. Therefore, he said, they needed to change. Again.

http://www.ofsted.gov.uk/news/shape-of-school-inspection-2012-0

http://www.localschoolsnetwork.org.uk/2011/01/how-fair-is-ofsted-goves-c...

Allan Beavis's picture
Tue, 17/01/2012 - 19:39

Here is a report in tonight's Evening Standard headlined "Michael Gove has launched a surprise move in the battle to turn a failing school into an academy by ordering an early Ofsted inspection."

http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/standard/article-24028456-goves-surprise-m...

It's surprising news to me but according to Gove's mandarins in the DfE, the Standard quotes them as saying

"Academies are proven to work. They have turned around dozens of struggling inner city secondary schools across London and are improving their results at twice the national average rate."

Are they proven to work just in London or around the country? Does anyone have concrete proof that they work? And if they do work, do they work because of the application of the dark arts of "nudging out" which according to Newsnight last night, may be contributing to the results success of Harris academies by ensuring that children who won't pass the standardized tests are "removed" from the school so as not to drag down results?

Janet Downs's picture
Wed, 18/01/2012 - 08:42

The Ofsted inspection that Mr Gove "ordered" was due any time in the next 12 to 18 months. Mr Gove is trying to demonstrate his "tough" side by over-ruling Ofsted's judgement re the timing of its next visit.

As I said in an earlier post, Ofsted said in September 2011 that Downhills was addressing the issues for improvement and in raising the pupils’ achievement and that the local authority, Haringey, had provided good support. The school's 2011 SAT results exceeded the government's own benchmark.

Yet according to Gove Downhills is failing even though Ofsted has said it's improving and its results are above the benchmark. According to Gove the local authority is being intransigent and unhelpful yet Ofsted praised Haringey's support.

But then Gove knows best, doesn't he?

Allan Beavis's picture
Wed, 18/01/2012 - 09:17

This diktat from Gove to Ofsted does make one wonder just how impartial and independent Michael Wilshaw is going to be as Head of Ofsted. The politics of education in this country appears to be concentrated more and more in the hands of a small "mafia" of backslappers and backhanders with Gove as the "capo".

I wonder if Ofsted will have the stomach to not overturn their original findings and take into consideration the enormous challenges deprivation brings to an area and to its schools? There should be no excuses, of course; but we have to listen to explanations.

Marigold Doyle's picture
Wed, 18/01/2012 - 19:38

I'm concerned about the evident governmental influence in Ofsted ie Gove writing to expediate the inspection. Shouldn't Ofsted be accountable to its own frameworks, not ministerial pressure?

Also very concerned that Ofsted won't be the impartial needs-analysis that it is designed to be. Wilshaw's position as ex-Director of ARK (an academy chain) throws his hat very clearly in the ring as to where he stands on academies. The new Ofsted Chairperson is Sally Morgan, who is an ARK adviser. ARK like to benignly describe themselves as a "charitable trust", but omit the fact that they own several profit-making subsidaries eg teacher training and construction/building.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/276114265773841/doc/302335089818425/

Also concerned about the new Ofsted framework, which clearly discriminates against schools in socially and economically deprived areas, and has a clear agenda to categorise as many schools as possible as 'failing' ie 'ripe to convert to academy status'.

Janet Downs's picture
Wed, 18/01/2012 - 09:09

The Standard article says that Ofsted is redifining "satisfactory" as "failing". According to my Pocket Oxford "satisfactory" is defined as "acceptable - not outstanding or perfect." As the category "good" could also be defined as "not outstanding or perfect" then when can we expect Ofsted to say that "good" actually means "not good enough"?

I can see the tabloid headlines now: "All schools must be outstanding!" But if all schools are outstanding, then no school will be outstanding because outstanding means "exceptionally good" (Pocket Oxford defninition). Not all schools can be the exception because that means "unusual". So outstanding will become the new "usual" which reduces outstanding to average ....which is only satisfactory... which is failing...

Listen for the collective scream from all schools: "We're all doomed!"

Janet Downs's picture
Wed, 18/01/2012 - 09:40

Allan - see my post above (17 Jan at 3.35). Sir Michael Wilshaw sees himself as a lone hero fighting for righteousness. However, forcing any vision of righteousness on to others who may reject the vision borders on fundamentalism. Such is Sir Michael's eagerness to wage war that he has to cast around for victims. Not enough schools are really "failing", so let's drag more into the failure category by redefining judgements. By this measure, the Rutland primary school (my post above 16 Jan 09.31) which increased its SAT score by over 100% in two years but is judged by Ofsted to be "satisfactory" would in Sir Michael's eyes still be "failing" despite the SAT score being 25% above the government's own benchmark.

http://www.tes.co.uk/article.aspx?storycode=6071840

http://www.tes.co.uk/article.aspx?storycode=6070585

Alasdair Smith's picture
Thu, 19/01/2012 - 00:07

You can support the parents at Downhills School by joining the Haringey Demonstration Against Forced Academies Sat 28th January Assemble 12 noon at Keston Rd (near Downhills School). You are encouraged to bring your own banners and placards with messages for Mr. Gove. You can download the flier here: http://www.hcaa.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Demonstration-Flyer.pdf

Jake's picture
Thu, 26/01/2012 - 09:19

Here's one for all you lefties to enjoy over your morning frappuccinos and copies of Socialist Worker.

What I find entirely predictable about this polemic, is the old far-left agitprop that because the Downhills pupils are either high FSM and/or EAL, that they cannot be expected to do as well as others. This is what is meant by the famous quote "some say it is unfair to hold disadvantaged children to rigorous standards. I say it is discrimination to require anything less–-the soft bigotry of low expectations."

No doubt I am in a very small minority on this site when I say that the loony left are so wrapped up in their 'class war' shtick, that they conveniently absolve the teachers of any respsonsibility whatsoever when they say that "The notion that lower educational achievement is caused by bad teaching, poor leadership and the wrong structure has been so widely peddled by successive governments since the 1980s – in particular under Tony Blair – that many assume it must be the case." So under the ultra-left recipe for educational improvement, lets all just ignore anything to do with bad teachers, leadership and structure. Right on brother!

The article reaches a crescendo of class war nirvana by concluding "Militant parents, union activists, the local Roma and other communities will be joined by the London Gay Men’s Chorus who are backing the campaign". Good luck with that.

http://socialistresistance.org/3085/tottenham-marches-against-school-pri...

Janet Lallysmith's picture
Thu, 26/01/2012 - 09:47

Wow, Jake, I'm impressed by your reading of Socialist Resistance. I'm a parent at Downhils and of the left persuasion, but your link is the first time I've come across this publication.

There are lots of inaccuracies in that article - I really wouldn't believe everything you read.

Jake's picture
Thu, 26/01/2012 - 10:15

Marigold, when it comes to the rantings of the loony left I rarely do believe what I read. Still, its good of a Downhills parent to confirm a number of inaccuracies in the lefty article. Who'd have thought?

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