Why is the government ignoring complaints about academies?

Vicky Mackenzie's picture
 20
Our son was mistreated at his school and we were lied to by the headteacher, (who was also SENCO) for a number of years, she told us for 3 years he was not special needs and needed no support, even bringing in an outside party, not connected to the school to enforce this opinion.

In fact, she was claiming him as a special needs child on paper, without ever informing us nor giving him the support.

When this came to light, we approached the Head teacher who ignored us and our son started receiving unnecessary daily punishment. This along with the bullying that had started and was being ignored, our son became suicidal at the age of 10.

We approached the school to discuss our concerns about the way our son was feeling and we were told he would not be receiving any support from them and any bullying of him, they were just going to class as pranks. They even mocked and laughed at our son's mental state. We were completely shocked by this, especially taking into account the school's outstanding status.

We thought we would follow the correct procedure and make a complaint to the board of governors.
The governors flatly refused to investigate, telling us the headteacher had investigated herself and found she had done no wrong! They would not tell us why, were told we couldn't appeal and whatever the headteacher had done, she had their unreserved support.

Immediately following this we found our sons Educational Record had had documents removed, added and records regarding his special needs had been altered. Lucky for us we already had the originals!

Obviously we challenged this and were instantly met with threats of legal action and union involvement and were bombarded with phone calls and even a visit from a governor to reinforce their threats and the chair shouting at us, telling us our son should get over it, the governor also told us the local authority had told them not to investigate.

We contacted the LEA and were told this was not the case but unfortunately they could not investigate the school.

We contacted the LGO who also said they had no power to investigate the school, they told us to write to the DFE.

The DFE passed our complaint to the YPLA who contacted us, stating they can and will investigate, even sending us a list of where the school needed to be investigated and in some cases where they had acted unlawfully.

For 6 months the YPLA stayed in constant contact, stated they had discussed it with their legal team, it was being "discussed nationally" and they were launching an investigation.

We suddenly received a letter from the YPLA (now the EFA) stating that because of their academy status, they have chosen not to investigate this but still acknowledged they had all the evidence validating our complaint.

After numerous correspondence, which we also sent to Michael Gove, they still flatly refuse to take action.

Now with academies free to regulate themselves in any way they see fit and the governments unwillingness to act in anyway. This leaves the teachers and governors free to conduct themselves however they like, flouting the laws and procedures without any fear of consequence.

Our son has been through hell over the last few years, only just starting to recover from this at a new school, with the help of councilling and support. Our fear is that with the academies new found power and Michael Gove's complete lack of interest, that our son's case will be the first of many (if it isn't already).
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Comments

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Mon, 07/05/2012 - 23:04

This recent conversation might interest you Vicky
http://www.localschoolsnetwork.org.uk/2012/04/parents-lose-their-voiceas...

I'd like to wish your son well in his new school.

Vicky Mackenzie's picture
Tue, 08/05/2012 - 05:27

Thanks Rebecca,
We actually attended this meeting and met some other parents who are in similar situations but with different academies.

Rosie's picture
Tue, 08/05/2012 - 15:54

Vicky,

There are solicitors that specialise in cases such as these... Douglas Silas has an online presence and also the can of worms website written by a barrister.

You may probably wisely choose to put it behind you but , I would at least name and shame the school at the very least.

Vicky Mackenzie's picture
Tue, 08/05/2012 - 17:26

Thank you Rosie, we have had a look at both those websites and hopefully will find someone who can help us, It looks like that will be the way forward, many people have advised this!

Rosie's picture
Tue, 08/05/2012 - 16:08

There is always your MP..that is what they are there for after all..even if they are Tory they shouldn't want to see their "Empire of Academies" dreams fall into disrepute . Don't write go in person to one of their surgeries. Doesn't that Sarah Teether minister have anything to do with Special Needs ?

Vicky Mackenzie's picture
Tue, 08/05/2012 - 17:28

We have contacted our local MP (amongst others) and have heard nothing as of yet.
I haven't heard of Sarah Teether, I will look her up!

Jane's picture
Tue, 08/05/2012 - 16:23

quote from original post : "Obviously we challenged this and were instantly met with threats of legal action and union involvement"

Bit concerned about the threat of "union involvement". I can't imagine any Union would like to be considered as a "threat" by a parent. I'd get in touch with the Union itself clarifying the context within which the school referred to them and they can take their own action.

Above all you need to keep all correspondance calm and purely factual.Re write as a succinct but detailed case study ( too vague above) and submit to appropriate informed people for opinions ( plenty of educational forums on line) . To be honest even under LEA's there is a huge history of parental complaints being ignored within the maintained sector and batted to and fro between LEA's and schools. Not all LEAs but definately some.

Vicky Mackenzie's picture
Tue, 08/05/2012 - 17:35

We get the impression they were trying to scare us, using bully boy tactics.
One of the threats was from the chair of governors, she phoned us and stated "I will tell you the Head has sought union involvement and legal advice to use against you!"
Obviously never having any involvement with The Teachers Union before we were unsure of what she was expecting them to do for her.
We did question this though and were told by the Head, "yes I had to seek legal and union advice, any time there is a complaint made this is what we have to do!"
Now this doesn't sound right to us but obviously we don't know about unions, do they deal with complaints that have been sent to the school?

Janet Downs's picture
Thu, 10/05/2012 - 07:42

I'm not sure that a union would become involved in a complaint between a parent and a school. Unions become involved if there is a grievance (discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation, for example) between a member of staff and his/her employer or when an employer is taking disciplinary action against a member of staff. I'm not sure that the responsibility of a union extends to becoming involved in disputes between a school and a parent unless the parent's complaint results in an accusation against a teacher for, say, assaulting a child. That would then be a disciplinary action between teacher and employer, not an action between teacher and parent.

Rosie's picture
Thu, 10/05/2012 - 20:10

vicky,

Vicky----Follow this link..a consultation on the accountability of academies has just opened and they are looking for views from all stakeholders including parents

http://www.thersa.org/about-us/media/press-releases/new-commission-to-ex...

eJD8owE1's picture
Fri, 11/05/2012 - 13:25

Three years ago the school wasn't an academy, but was still treating your son appallingly. Three years ago the school was in LEA control, but that didn't stop them from treating your son appallingly. That they're now an academy is a red herring: the claim being made against academies is that they are not accountable and can treat parents in a high-handed way. Which is probably true, but being LEA controlled doesn't appear to have helped you either.

As a story to attack the governance of academies, this appears to have the minor problem that it start with a shockingly bad state school behaving badly and the LEA being unable to control it. That doesn't speak well for the pre-academy governance arrangements, does it?

Vicky Mackenzie's picture
Fri, 11/05/2012 - 13:52

I think you are correct, they were treating our son badly, no matter who controlled this school. The problem we have come up against though is this matter would have been investigated and dealt with, by the LEA, were they still a maintained school. It has been made clear from the authorities that purely for the fact this is now an academy, no one has the power to investigate. We also wrote to ofsted and they didn't act either and as this school has outstanding status it is no longer receiving regular inspections.

eJD8owE1's picture
Fri, 11/05/2012 - 15:13

Sorry, so when you write that "We contacted the LEA and were told this was not the case but unfortunately they could not investigate the school." by then the school was an academy, which was why they couldn't investigate? That's not clear from the timeline you outline. When in your account did the school become an academy?

Vicky Mackenzie's picture
Fri, 11/05/2012 - 15:32

Sorry if I did not make it clear in the account, the school became an academy about three Weeks before we contacted the lea and we did assume the lea would look into this but they just flatly told us no. it is frustrating because we sent the governors our complaint and they sat on it for around 2 1/2 weeks before even acknowledging it and this wasted time and within this time, this is when they became an academy.

Vicky Mackenzie's picture
Fri, 11/05/2012 - 16:05

We just feel that our son has suffered because of the actions of the governors and head of this school and they should be held accountable, no matter what kind of establishment they were or are now. It seems as though they have "slipped out" of being held responsible when they changed status and we strongly feel that there should be the same kind of complaints and investigation procedure for all schools, no matter whether they are academies or not.

Clair's picture
Wed, 22/01/2014 - 19:41

Hi, my child is having similar problems with a academy school,. The school have lied, bullied us, covered up bulling. Allowed my child to be attacked by pupils. My child has attempted to take there own life. We just feel helpless. Like yourself we have contact all the above. It is braking my heart seeing my child go through this situation but the school do not care. The academy have let my child down. I felt the governors were not on my side. I felt very intimidated and did not believe thay were taking my complaint serious. I am still waiting for the governors response response. We are at the point of putting a complicate to the funding for academy's, Then a solicitor.The head teacher, has threatened me with police, legal action ect. I am so sorry to read your story, I can only image I how difficult it has been for your son. it is a horrid situation to be in. Academies are getting away with behaviour that is not acceptable and thay know thay don't have to be accountable for it. ( my child in one of many I believe to be experiencing this in my child academy. Iv been lucky anther mother is in same situation, two make more noise than one. Have you or would you go to the papers?. I was wondering wether teachers have a code of practice thay are accountable to ??. Many thanks.

Neil Moffatt's picture
Wed, 22/01/2014 - 20:01

It puzzles me that the head is prepared to risk his reputation and that of the school with this desperately draconian treatment of an SEN pupil and parent.

It exposes a deep flaw in the school accountability mechanisms that was probably engineered this way by Michael Gove. LA's did not always oversee schools with efficiency, by they did provide what is missing here - local accountancy and routes of appeal.

This story is deeply disturbing and warrants front page newspaper coverage.

rogertitcombe's picture
Wed, 22/01/2014 - 21:46

You are right Neil. I have always believed that lack of democratic local accountability is the most serious objection to Academies and Free Schools. As Francis Beckett wrote in his booklet for the Anti Academies Alliance, 'We pay the piper - they call the tune'. I suspect this case is the tip of a huge iceberg.

Neil Moffatt's picture
Wed, 22/01/2014 - 22:48

Thanks Roger, You only have to look at Kings Science Academy to get a feel of what is really happening - it would not surprise me if Gove and cohorts are called to task for criminal levels of negligence. They seemed entirely content that the police should deem a fraud inquiry unnecessary when one did not naturally occur - ideology protection more important than the misappropriation of tax payer monies.

Dani Northcott's picture
Sat, 03/05/2014 - 21:04

Hi Vicky,wondered if u are interested I have set up this group on facebook to campaign against academy conversions wondered if were were interested in sharing your experience to make parents aware of the implications of academies as I feel they don't fully understand or believe the implications. Hope your son is doing well now ,hope to hear from you
Dani Northcott
https://www.facebook.com/groups/281342565372315/

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