I don't want my daughter to imagine that good business trumps good ethics.

Mark Radcliffe's picture
 48
My daughter goes to Hove Park School in East Sussex. The management team of that school wants to turn it into an academy. Parents appear to not want that to happen. We are engaged in a process called consultation which is really a presentation but spelt differently. A process that has thus far amounted to receiving a glossy leaflet saying: ‘We’re thinking academy is the way to go.’ Parents have responded by saying: ‘We’d rather you didn’t.’ And the management team has replied: ‘Shush now’.

I won’t bore you with the frustrations that characterise this process. What I do think is worth reflecting on, though, is the language that underpins it because it seems that modern politics dictates that if you control the language you control the outcome, and it is this which has unsettled me the most.

It began some time in 2010, I think. We went to bed believing that we lived in a country that valued its public services and we woke in a country worried about its public sector. Public services are socially cohesive: we do not simply benefit from what they do (mend us, protect us, teach us etc) but from the civilizing nature of their existence (public services institutionalize decency). But the public sector is a different thing altogether, it is an economic category. It is something that demands resourcing, that drains us rather than enriches us. What can we do? Cut it? Punish it? And maybe we might turn it into a business opportunity? We did it with health care: hospitals are places sick people go. Hospital Trusts are businesses that manage resources. It could work with education. Maybe we might relabel statutory education as ‘the schools market’?

The language and reasoning that legitimises academies is born of economics and market opportunity. Any uncertainty on the part of educationalists is mocked using the words that thrive in the marketplace: choice, affordability, value for money, freedom from regulation. Opposition is marginalized as unrealistic, out dated, naive.

But I do oppose. I oppose the process, the principle and the morality. Our school wants to become an academy, apparently, because it will enable them to access money normally ‘skimmed off by the LEA’. This, we are told is good for us because after all we want the best for our children. Unless we are bad parents, and we don’t want to be thought of as bad parents do we? But I want to aspire to more than that. I want the best for all children. I do not want to be part of a carve up that prevents other local schools sharing funds equitably. I do not want to abandon the collective efforts to improve standards across the whole community. I value the collegiate, I value the morally responsible. I do not want to ‘get in first before someone else does.’ And I don’t want my daughter to imagine that good business trumps good ethics.

Furthermore I don’t like the abandonment of existing regulation. I don’t think regulation is restraining, I think it is reassuring. I like knowing that there are processes that govern and oversee complaints, professional training, admissions procedures and safeguarding.

Our prospective academy is being sold to us using a language that is weighted toward a business model and an awful lot of ‘trust us we know best,’ followed by shrugging. To care one becomes characterized as troublesome or worse, ‘lacking in understanding.’

Whatever happens in the coming weeks the goodwill amongst parents has been damaged as has the faith in the school’s leadership team. That is a shame. Fortunately we have a council (Green as it happens) prepared to support us. One wonders if such things matter. What price democracy if it challenges the more pressing ‘freedoms’ of the marketplace?

Mark A Radcliffe – a parent of a child at Hove Park School
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Comments

Melissa Benn's picture
Wed, 14/05/2014 - 17:56

Great post Mark.

I think you describe the process and true meaning of academisation very well. There is an element of 'every school for itself' - an inducement to parents to forget the common weal. It has now been shown, beyond doubt, that local authority funds have been raided both as a sweetener for academy conversion and now for free schools, many of which lie half empty.

Plus, the process of consultation re academisation appears very undemocratic.


One more point. It's 'every school for itself' - unless or until a chain comes in, and then collaboration - or control - is born within a market model.Some academy chains have their schools on a far tighter rein than any local authority yet 'local authority control', with all its statist overtones, is STILL a charge levelled at the public model of education....

We need more public figures/more in mainstream politics to make the modern case for publicly funded and publicly accountable education boldly and without embarrassment, as you do.

Keep us informed re your school.

rogertitcombe's picture
Wed, 14/05/2014 - 18:20

Well said Mark. You are very fortunate to have a local council that supports you.


Brian's picture
Wed, 14/05/2014 - 18:46

What a terrific post, Mark. You wouldn't like to send a copy to Tristram Hunt would you?


Michele -Lowe's picture
Wed, 14/05/2014 - 19:29

Spot on. I've printed out your post in order to show educational professionals of my acquaintance here in Wales. Please do circulate your post widely.


Gerald Haigh (@geraldhaigh1)'s picture
Wed, 14/05/2014 - 19:38

It's a long time since I stopped being a head teacher Mark, and so I was genuinely pleased the other day to bump into a former senior officer of our local authority. Very typically, he was helping out at a food bank. For me, that summed him up. 'Control'? He'd have scoffed at the word. He was a partner and friend, always supportive and -- this is very important -- totally trustworthy. Headship can be a lonely business and he was someone with whom you could share your fears and worries without the danger of being thought weak or indecisive. Yet he was no pushover. One of my strongest memories is of him saying, gently but firmly, after I consulted him about a difficult issue -- 'Tackle it, Gerald'. (He didn't add, 'And we'll be there when you need us', but I knew that without him saying.) Who plays that role for academy heads? With whom can they confide, or shed the occasional tear? Much more importantly, who can parents turn to when things go wrong?


Michele -Lowe's picture
Wed, 14/05/2014 - 20:25

It occurs to me after re-reading your post, Mark, that language is indeed the give-away: publicly-funded education (where the vast majority of us are educated) is referred to as 'the maintained sector'. That's always implied to me the suggestion of burden. If only people would dig into their pockets instead of just expecting the state to educate their children for free, all would be so much better, it seems to say.


Frustrated Teacher's picture
Wed, 14/05/2014 - 21:19

Fantastic post, Mark. when my children's currently 'requires improvement' primary inevitably starts down the academisation road i will print it out and hand it out to everyone on the school gates.

(You could send it to Hunt, but he won't get it.)

David Barry's picture
Wed, 14/05/2014 - 21:19

Mark


Very well written; I envy you the clarity of your style. I think you may find this quote relevant:



" There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. Nobody. You built a factory out there? Good for you. But I want to be clear: You moved the goods to market on roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces the rest of us paid for. You didn’t have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory…. Now look, you built the factory and it turned into something terrific, or great idea? God bless. Keep a big hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid that comes along."

(From Elizabeth Warren’s 2012 Senate campaign, quoted by John Cassidy in his review of her autobiography, as quoted by prof John Naughton of the Open University)

John Mountford's picture
Wed, 14/05/2014 - 22:07

Thank you, Mark, for helping us better understand what it must feel like to get caught up in the current madness of forced/undemocratic academisation. You are so right to identify the impact that language has. In claiming your own ground in the face of arrogant, dogmatic assertion, language is all-powerful, especially that which is consciously chosen by those in positions of authority to belittle and hence to silence the opposition.

I have been following the story of Hove Park School since it first came to my attention on LSN. With each new development I have become more certain that your story marks a likely turning point, marking the end to political meddling in the people's education service.

You are right to oppose the move to change the status of your school. Far beyond Hove Park, the policy is wrong and will inflict lasting damage if it continues unopposed. National media have failed to report the facts fairly and our elected representatives have failed to question the morality of a policy that inevitably produces winners and losers.

It is my hope that you will eventually receive significant support from the national media and that at the very least, some of our political leaders will see to it that the immorality of so much that Michael Gove is doing to public education is exposed and challenged. Good luck with the campaign.

Kate's picture
Thu, 15/05/2014 - 00:14

Thank you for this post. You've vocalised how I feel exactly. I work for a local authority and am a parent governor. I used to feel proud to work in public services. Now I don't tell people what I do. I don't actually want choice in health or education, I want all hospitals and schools to be great.


Undisclosed's picture
Thu, 15/05/2014 - 07:36

Dear Mark

Fight them with all you can find. Ask them about the tender process? Who else is in the running for the accadmey take over? Who is brokering the deal, how much is the LEA being given for the school? What are the grounds for them wanting to accadamise? What is the name of the brokering advisor / who do they work for? Do they work for Tribal? In the accadamisation process are there any smaller or independant acadmeny trusts in the running or is it just big chains e.g. harris and Ark? Will every penny the accadmey gets to fund the school from the government (your taxes) be spent on the school? What percentage of that money will be syphoned off to funds outside our country? Ask to see the data that proves accadmeys do better than state schools.... There won't be any.

Wish you all the luck with this, don't give in, this happened to our school in the last few years and no one, children. Pupils. Teachers or parents etc are benifiting except a few of the new managers brought in whom are on get out clause contracts and massive salleries while the school is being dragged into 1/2 million + debt, most dedicated staff leaving, off with stress etc, no doubt the school is to be sold back to the government in the future at a massive loss of facilities and land sold off and pocketed by the accadmeny or should Insay business? And who will own the land? This is the wholesale descimation of our hard won public buildings, spaces and education system to corporate business imterests in the name of education but actually for tax avoidance purposes of people such as Harris and Fink and their hedge fund manager friends. 10bn in public assest given to private interests in three years so far..... You must fight this!

Andy V's picture
Mon, 19/05/2014 - 18:49

Undisclosed, unless I am missing something, you appear to have gotten totally the wrong end of the stick. That is to say, this is a conversion with the school remaining in control of itself. Hove Park is not being absorbed into / taken over by an academy chain or sponsor.


Janet Downs's picture
Thu, 15/05/2014 - 08:04

The Academies Commission (2013) heard concerns that the education system in England was becoming fragmented and academies were acting in their own interests.

The money which academies claim was siphoned off to local authorities was to pay for back room services as well as LA statutory requirements re SEN pupils etc. The former still have to be paid for (and are proving a lucrative source of income for companies associated with some academy trustees, the Guardian found) and the latter become strapped for cash if too many schools become academies.

Andy V's picture
Thu, 15/05/2014 - 17:52

I find myself caught on this thread insofar as academies have been around for a very long time e.g. initially as CTCs under the Conservatives then Restart Schools and new Academies under New Labour. Yes, it is accurate to say that the Coalition took it stage further with the launch of converter academies in the early years through to the formal academisation process (aka as forced academisation for schools falling to the then new categorisation of Requires Improvement). The latter falling under the operation of a sponsor/chain.

It is also accurate to say that the initial coalition drive on converters was quite stringent in that schools had to be Ofsted Grade 1. The majority, if not all, of the extra funding came from direct funding to the converter by dint of there being no top slicing taken by the LA involved. The quid pro quo was that the new academy then had to fund all the services it used to receive from the LA (e.g. SEN, Education Welfare, T&L). The introduction of forced academisation served to thoroughly muddy the waters in terms of ownership, funding, curriculum, pupil and parental rights, teachers standards and conditions of service etc. Thus it remains the case that to avoid the potential for becoming part of a sponsored/chain group Head Teachers and Governing Bodies have the attractive option of direct funding (no LA top slicing), a loser curriculum straight jacket and retained school self-management. Indeed, some converters forge multi academy trusts with their some or all of their feeder schools, which offers additional protection from the main sponsor/chain groups.

It is therefore a clear misconception to suggest that the change in attitudes to public services happened over night in 2010:

"It began some time in 2010, I think. We went to bed believing that we lived in a country that valued its public services and we woke in a country worried about its public sector."

I recall that prior to 1979 the nation was worried about the public sector but for very different reasons e.g. almost annual coal and power workers strikes, regular rail strikes, local authority workers strikes, and Labour government that had to go cap in hand to the IMF for a bailout. Post 1979 the nation saw a retraction of its public services under the Conservatives (e.g. the privatisation programme). Post 1997 the New Labour government did not come the rescue of the privatised public sector (rail, coal, utilities) but did slow down the privatisation of local authority operations (e.g.bin collections). What the Blair/Brown era is notable for is its borrowing and PFI programmes to fund BSF and new hospitals alongside working tax credit. The latter effectively allowing employers - private and public - to pay below living wage salaries knowing that the government (taxpayer) would subsidise the families through working tax credits. BSF has saddled the taxpayer with a growing and burgeoning debit for the next 25-30 years (e.g. £300 Billion):

http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2012/jul/05/pfi-cost-300bn

I also find it perplexing to see a link being made between business and ethics. For me the only ethic operated by the vast majority of all companies is that they make a profit. So while I agree that this governments drive on schools being treated as SMEs is wrong headed it is simply inappropriate to attempt to assert that businesses are unethical and school ethical. For me it is better to (a) put a stop to taxpayer funded schools - irrespective of their label - being turned into profit centres (b) as a first step produce a radically changed national curriculum applicable to all taxpayer funded schools (e.g. a reduced core and list of statutory subjects leaving schools greater freedom to construct their curriculum offer) (c) second step scrap or reduce the number of KS4 high value, high pressure qualifications creating time for a qualitative process, and (d) wrest education away from party politics to create stability and long term strategy for the common good of the students and national need.

It is also appropriate to remind ourselves that not all LAs were or are effective in the way they exercise their educational remits. It is also here that one finds the deeply political nature of the Conservative use of Academies and Free Schools to emasculate LAs in their educational role.

We are not in this situation exclusively because of the Conservatives or the Coalition and it did not happen overnight in 2010 as a result of the last general election.

Lisa Pettifer's picture
Thu, 15/05/2014 - 18:36

Mark, I'd echo so much of what you've said here. I find the whole academy AND free school 'diversification' so unethical. At least I'm lucky enough both to send my son to a school which has briefly looked at and dismissed academy status, and to work there myself.


Ben Taylor's picture
Thu, 15/05/2014 - 19:22

There is nothing inherently immoral about choosing to not use local authority services as a school. LAs are not infallible entities to be followed by dogmatic teachers.

It may or may not be a good judgement to use or not use LA services as a school. Why can't this choice be trusted to teachers? There may be a case for mutualisation of resources - it must rest in consent rather than authority unless you are a totalitarian.

Don't be naive to the self interest of bureaucracies.

Janet Downs's picture
Fri, 16/05/2014 - 09:34

Ben - becoming an academy goes beyond not having to buy LA backroom services. It takes schools out of LA auditing. That means it's easier for academy trustees to buy services from companies linked to the trustees as the Guardian found. It also paves the way for schools to be run to make a profit from shareholders as Gove made clear before the last election when he said he would be happy if Serco ran schools.


Andy V's picture
Fri, 16/05/2014 - 12:26

Janet, It has to be acknowledged that Head Teachers with the approval of the Governing Body have been able to allocated funding for backroom and other services for very many years. This is not a new feature nor on peculiar to academies and free schools.

However, what is lacking is a more robust and transparent level of accountability. That is to say, the requirement for value for money has been around for a long time and integral is this is the requirement for services/activities at or above a predetermined cost should have 3 tenders and gain the approval of the governing bodies finance sub committee. In my last full time post in 2011 this was set at £3,000. This mechanism is intended to ensure a level playing field and give the Head Teacher the opportunity to make a case for the a provider who may not be the cheapest but brings added value in other ways. This process creates an audit trail so that value for money decisions can be interrogated and validated.

If this is not happening in any school then the external auditors have the responsibility for highlighting and dealing with it before the accounts can be signed off.

The issue of profiteering is then a complex one. I say that because if big ticket items fail the value for money test then questions have to be raised and dealt with but if the organisation that wins the contract/work successfully negotiated the value for money process then they are the valid provider. It makes no difference then if the latter is part of the sponsor/chain group or an independent external provider. The service is provided and the money paid over. In this way it can be seen that non-LA organisations have been making a profit from providing goods and services to schools for - well as long as I can remember.

It is then too easy to assert that academies and free schools are run for profit but more difficult to prove. Yes, there have been celebrated case but there always will be those who burn the candle at both ends but that does not mean that all non-LA schools are profiteering (e.g. single converter schools almost certainly don't). That said, some LA schools have hit the headlines in the past for misappropriated funding.

rogertitcombe's picture
Fri, 16/05/2014 - 20:43

Andy

"It began some time in 2010, I think. We went to bed believing that we lived in a country that valued its public services and we woke in a country worried about its public sector.”

I think it goes back a decade further to the collapse of the Soviet Union and its empire. This was interpreted as the crucial moral as well as political victory of capitalism over communism/socialism. Public services were clearly examples of the latter. They work on the principle that they are funded on the basis of from each according to their ability to pay taxes (progressive in nature) and to each according to need on a no charge basis.

For total victory this last bastion of socialism had also to fall, hence outsourcing of Local Authority services, Foundation Hospital Trusts, the provider-purchaser split and Academy and Free Schools. This has led to services being quangofied so as to resemble private sector companies in every respect so that they may as well be sold off.

The problem is that as a vehicle for effective provision of public services privatisation fails through perverse incentives, a race to the bottom in staff recruitment, massively escalating 'executive' salaries and bonuses and the spawning of any number of new parasitic private companies all feeding from the public trough. This thread is just another exploration of this process.

What works best is public services being run on one model and capitalist free enterprise being run on another with a clear divide maintained between the two.

From the end of World War II until the fall of the Soviet Union it was called a 'mixed economy'. It worked well. We need to get back to it.

Janet Downs's picture
Sun, 18/05/2014 - 07:34

Andy - the back room services I meant were not those which heads could opt out of buying. They were such things as payroll (staff in LA maintained schools are employed by the LA therefore the LA is responsible for paying wages, tax, NI, pension contributions etc). They also covered statutory duties such as SEN and education welfare. When a school becomes an academy its contribution to these duties ceases unless the academy chooses to purchase them. An academy with few SEN pupils or little need to access welfare may opt out. This leaves the LA with less money to use for these essential services.

You're right about accountability - it's easier for academies/free schools to get away with dodgy payments because their auditors are under no statutory duty to look at, say, value for money, or report dodgy dealing to anyone but the governing bodies (who may have been responsible for the problem and are, therefore, not likely to blow the whistle). LA maintained schools are now included in LA auditing and LAs have a statutory duty to report cases of fraud. LA oversight also makes it difficult for schools to indulge in nepotism (the LA governor would spot a trend to employ family members for example and would likely veto it).

Janet Downs's picture
Sun, 18/05/2014 - 07:37

Andy - I haven't asserted that all academies and free schools are run for profit. However, academisation paves the way. See Policy Exchange/New Schools Network document "Blocking the Best" (page 8) published before the last election. It says clearly there's no reason why schools shouldn't be run for profit - all that's needed is for the schools to be classified as independent.

Academies and free schools are technically independent schools.

Andy V's picture
Sat, 17/05/2014 - 08:04

Roger, I think you'll find that the Conservative government under the late Baroness Thatcher came to power before the collapse of the Soviet Union. I have no desire or intention to get into a political debate over socialism v capitalism either but another viewpoint in the country has been big government with far reaching control versus decentralised government.

For the purpose of this thread lets just leave it the alleged diminution of public services most certainly did not occur overnight at the last general election.

rogertitcombe's picture
Sun, 18/05/2014 - 08:35

Andy - I don't think we are disagreeing about much but although Thatcher's views on public services were clear very little actually changed in the two decades after her election. Even though the 1988 Education Reform Act was a critical turning point, league tables and the potential for competition between schools were frequently ignored by parents and headteachers until after 1997.

Although it pains me to say it, all the crucial damage was done by the Blair governments. I think Thatcher struggled in coming up with political strategies to implement her ideology except of course her biggest, most popular and most disastrous of all - the sale of council houses at knock down prices to tenants.

When it came to education and the NHS all the worst damage was done by Blair's New Labour. The key and most disastrous innovation was to divide state employees and their organisations into purchasers and providers of services. Far from reducing costs to the taxpayer this escalates them in a large number of ways, which is why the costs of public services went up under Labour at the same time as Blair was committed to the Thatcher ideology. The two crucial and most utterly disastrous interventions of New Labour were the Hospital Foundation Trust and Academy schools legislation to which the ludicrous and expensive 'Specialist Schools' initiative was just a stupid sideshow. Thatcher failed to come up with such 'innovative' schemes, but how she would have loved them, as her followers do now, recognising their true power to wreck public services starting by increasing their costs even more, and then deploying the argument that they are so expensive that they are unaffordable and need to be replaced with a fully privatised G4S, Capita, Serco etc runs everything model.

Andy V's picture
Sun, 18/05/2014 - 09:34

Janet, I did not assert or imply that 'you' had said that academies and free schools are being run for profit. If you perceived that I had then I apologise - that was not my intention. Rather that particular comment has been a regular assertion in a range of threads.

It would I think be interesting to remind ourselves of the onset of breaking away from tight LA control that became manifest in the form of Grant Maintained Status from 1988. When New Labour came in Blair said he intended to bring GMS schools back into the LA fold but in reality tinkered with it - leaving it largely unchanged - and we saw the metamorphosis from GMS to Foundation status and then Trusts. Thus from 1988 these opted out schools had far more freedom regarding back office and in particular became direct employers and independent from LAs on recruitment, selection and employment matters. The schools involved had the option to buy the LA services back in on discrete Service Level Agreements (often with annual review and renewal). From this perspective the pre 2010 election rhetoric of PE/NSN was simply an extension of what was already happening/available.

Andy V's picture
Sun, 18/05/2014 - 09:37

Roger, We are indeed on the same broad page in tracking the diminution of and negative attitude to public services to an era that predates the 2010 election by several decades.


Steven Wright's picture
Thu, 15/05/2014 - 23:44

Spot on mark.


Andy V's picture
Sun, 18/05/2014 - 07:06

Mark, While you lucidly detail the reasons for your personal and parental opposition but I am confused by the way in which your portray the approach of the Governing Body and Head Teacher. For example you say, "A process that has thus far amounted to receiving a glossy leaflet saying: ‘We’re thinking academy is the way to go.’ Parents have responded by saying: ‘We’d rather you didn’t.’ And the management team has replied: ‘Shush now’." but a review of the school website paints a rather different picture. It has a page dedicated to the 'Consultation' which has embedded links to 6 documents giving a lot of detail about the proposal and process to be followed:

http://www.hovepark.brighton-hove.sch.uk/academy-consultation

This hardly fits the description you give of parents receiving "a glossy leaflet". It also appears that key reasons cited for wanting to convert to academy are:

* Academy status would allow us to determine how our entire budget is spent, rather than having some of that spending determined by the Local Authority. We would also be able to take greater control of key decisions affecting the school and its students.

* we would be able to apply directly to the government for funds for a range of projects, ranging from the introduction of numeracy coaches to proposals for specific building work, such as a new Sixth Form Centre.

* We would still be a non-selective, community school serving the local population of Brighton and Hove

* We would still have the same inclusive culture and ethos as before

* We would still have the same emphasis on high standards and ‘Putting Achievement First’

* We would still follow the same Pay and Conditions policies as Local Authority schools in Brighton and Hove

* We would still work in partnership with other Brighton and Hove schools and we would remain committed to collaboration

* Schools converting to academy status agree to support at least one other school, but we would like to go further than this. We are proposing that we set up our own family of schools. We already have a successful model for securing outstanding student progress, which encourages resilience and high aspirations. The opportunity to work with primary schools and other secondary schools to spread this practice across the city and beyond is a moral imperative for
governors and staff within Hove Park.

I also note that the Head Teacher, Mr Trimmer, is someone who has displayed a moral awareness in his career e.g.: in 2008 at his former headship at one of Portsmouth singularly difficult 'sink' schools he supported immigrant pupils on the verge of being deported:

http://www.tes.co.uk/article.aspx?storycode=2071090

In June 2013, he federated with a struggling local Primary & Nursery school:

http://www.tes.co.uk/article.aspx?storycode=2071090

The latter sits well with his track record of turning around Mayfield School in Portsmouth, which as I say was notoriously difficult, coming to Hove Park after being graded 3 in 2010 and achieving grade 2 in 2013.

Having read through most of the literature I perceive that Mr Trimmer is trying to cement the progress and make his contribution to collaboration more sustainable through protecting both Hove Park and West Blatchington from external interference. There is also a clearly stated goal of 'growing' the current duo of schools into a 'family' through forming the first non-sponsor/non-chain multi-academy trust in Brighton and Hove.

What I do not find in the consultation literature is any of the issues you rely on when you cite the following in a manner that explicitly implies that this is the attitude and approach of the governors and head teacher:

"The language and reasoning that legitimises academies is born of economics and market opportunity. Any uncertainty on the part of educationalists is mocked using the words that thrive in the marketplace: choice, affordability, value for money, freedom from regulation. Opposition is marginalized as unrealistic, out dated, naive."

Nor did I find the language and thrust of the proposal to be characterised as you have stated. Rather I got the distinct impression that education and well-rounded, well-informed pupils were the heartbeat of the proposal:

"Our prospective academy is being sold to us using a language that is weighted toward a business model and an awful lot of ‘trust us we know best,’ followed by shrugging. To care one becomes characterized as troublesome or worse, ‘lacking in understanding.’ "

From a distance I can only hope that the outcome results in what is best for the pupils and the schools wider stakeholders.

Janet Downs's picture
Sun, 18/05/2014 - 07:56

Andy - the extra freedoms which come with academy status don't amount to much - non-academies can do most things academies can do.

There is no reason why a non-academy shouldn't employ "numeracy coaches".

The proposal for a Sixth Form centre is illuminating. This suggests money will only be forthcoming if the school does what the Government wants. If it doesn't, then money would not be granted for this project. This is made clear in the consultation:

"As a local authority school we simply would not be listened to by central government or other funding agencies."

This is an indictment of the academy process and deserves a separate thread.

Natasha Steel's picture
Sun, 18/05/2014 - 10:02

Please could you explain the nature of the 'external interference' that Hove Park and West Blatchington need 'protecting' from. Do you mean accountability to the Governing Body, parents and the local authority?

Why are we to presume Mr Trimmer and any subsequent head or team or unelected trustees, leading the school without 'external interference' - or accountability - would be best for the school, children, parents and the community?

Andy V's picture
Sun, 18/05/2014 - 07:10

With apologies the link for the June 2013 federation with West Blatchington Primary and Nursery school should have been;

http://www.theargus.co.uk/news/education/10509694.Superhead_Derek_Trimme...

Natasha Steel's picture
Sun, 18/05/2014 - 08:57

Letters that the Hands Off Hove Park campaign group have written to the Governors on behalf of our 160+ members can now be found on our website http://handsoffhoveparkschool.wordpress.com/category/correspondence-with.... In them, our numerous problems with both the academisation plan and the consultation process are explained.

Replies are included where they have been received - not often.

There is also a letter from Unison to the head teacher indicating that staff are being intimidated. Again, no reply has been received.

Andy V's picture
Sun, 18/05/2014 - 10:38

In crude terms a school graded 3 has up to 2 years to attain grade 2 before it faces forced academisation. The latter is not optional to the point that the school involved is given a shortlist of sponsors and becomes absorbed into the overall group/chain (e.g. ARK, AET). It is not unknown for LAs to pressure Governing Bodies and Head Teachers' to adopt position that the latter does not wish for their school.

In terms of MATs there is a more flexible approach to issues of governance than that generally found among the main sponsor groups. This can be addressed as part of the consultation process. In terms of changes flowing from a change of Head Teacher, Governors, Trustees I fear that this is something that cannot be wholly protected against. It is the same at national level. Just look at the seesaw of change at each general election. To a certain extent it is a matter of crafting the best position you can within prevailing circumstances. This includes acknowledging - grudgingly or ruefully - that despite the bluster Labour will effectively change nothing if they are elected.

Faced with this I can well imagine that very many schools will be considering their position: if the Conservatives win its more of the same; if Labour win they will tinker around the edges and effectively change nothing. It follows then a strategist may well advise making the best of what you've got while you are in a position to exercise some say over the direction of travel (i.e. consider MAT). To other option is to maintain the status quo, which carries the risk of potential forced academisation and no effective choice or influence over a schools future direction. This may seem harsh but sadly reality often is. That said there is a potential alternative and that is to opt to form a Learning Community Cooperative Trust starting with Hove Park + West Blatchington with options for others to join:

http://www.co-operativeschools.coop/message/co-operative_trust_schools

https://wathcomp.rgfl.org/WLCCT/Statutory%20Representation%20Report2.pdf

And, yes, it has to be acknowledged that while this may seem a more palatable alternative there is a prevailing circumstances of the Co-operative Group to take into account; though this does seem to affect the banking arm as opposed to the main group.

rogertitcombe's picture
Sun, 18/05/2014 - 16:05

I believe that a Labour government will change a lot more than Andy predicts, and more still in future years. I would strongly advise parents against backing the academy option. The other problem is that all too frequently what Academy Executive Principals think is good education actually isn't, even if Ofsted agrees with them.

My advice to parents however is even harsher than Andy's. Time to find another school for your children? The iPad scheme is a worrying sign of things to come. Up here in Barrow time has shown that moving children to another school to have been by far the wisest choice.

Andy V's picture
Sun, 18/05/2014 - 16:37

Time for a gentle reminder of the discussion on the likelihood of change under Labour and what it might embrace, which was aired at some length here on LSN only a couple or weeks ago following Blunkett's report:

http://www.localschoolsnetwork.org.uk/2014/05/the-blunkett-manifesto-wou...

I believe a fair summation was that very little would change even his suggestion of regional-esque LEAs would be dictated from the centre. This summation is not based on my predictions rather they are arise from the contributions of all parties on the thread.

Hove Park parents seem to faced with stark choices ranging from:

1. Stand and fight (and in turn attempt to maintain the status quo)
2. Fight to negotiate some legally binding guarantees written into the MAT governance documents in return for support
3. Research the Learning Partnership Cooperative Trust model
4. Hope and keep everything crossed that the school doesn't slip from grade 2 to 3 and end up swallowed by a Sponsor/Chain Group

Personally, I don't think the move school option is viable because the prevailing climate means that either a school maintains minimum grade 2 or becomes an academy, so even a successful move could risk the 'jumping out of the frying pan into the fire.'

For me the iPad issue is a something and nothing side track:

1. Schools need to optimise digitization/computers in their teaching and learning strategy

2. Look at the Head Teacher's record of improvement in his last school, which also went down the iPad route. No, I am not saying that they were the reason for a 13% uplift in A*-C (E&M) but they will have played a part.

rogertitcombe's picture
Sun, 18/05/2014 - 17:07

Andy

I have spent 10 years researching 'spectacular school improvement' in terms of %5+A*-C in Eng & Mat. In the words of Shania Twain, 'That don't impress me much'.

The current forced academy scenario that Andy paints is so off the wall and completely barmy that it must fail under the pressure of its own contradictions. This is becoming increasingly evident. Harold Wilson famously said that, "a week is a long time in politics". A year is 50 times as long.

rogertitcombe's picture
Sun, 18/05/2014 - 17:13

On the iPad issue I have very close links with some parents that have had it imposed by an Academy. They report that it is an absolute nightmare. Only anecdotal, I realise. It has little to do with optimisation of the use of computers to benefit learning and everything to do with Orwellian control.


Andy V's picture
Sun, 18/05/2014 - 17:21

I should have known better. Yet again the dialogue descends to a personalised level. This time I have learned my lesson.


rogertitcombe's picture
Sun, 18/05/2014 - 17:40

Andy - I acknowledge that you accurately describe the scenario. Unless you are responsible for the scenario rather than accurately describing it there is absolutely nothing personal implied in my comment.


agov's picture
Mon, 19/05/2014 - 06:10

Roger -

I agree that the ludicrous Academy model will fail eventually (- they can't forever keep giving academies money stolen from other budgets and other schools). Good luck with those hopes for change.

It so happens that should NuLab win the election next May it will have an early opportunity to demonstrate good intentions. To little surprise the ConDems consultation into maintained school governing bodies has ended with the new statutory guidance issued more or less unchanged -


https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/fil...


"All governing bodies of maintained schools are required to be constituted under the School Governance (Constitution) (England) Regulations 2012 or the School Governance (Federations) (England) Regulations 2012, as appropriate, by 1 September 2015."

NuLab could use terrorist legislation to repeal this stuff on the first day of a new Parliament.

On the more likely scenario that the NuLab gang of traitors will maintain their addiction to Tory policies, many schools will have to consider their governance structure. That being the case, it may be that the 'Learning Community Cooperative Trust' model Andy refers to might as well be considered at the same time - around June 2015.

rogertitcombe's picture
Mon, 19/05/2014 - 07:51

Perhaps I should be more specific in my assertion that parents would be very wise not to be guided by School Performance Tables or Ofsted in their choice of schools.

Academies are always very results (C grade GCSE) focussed. Is this a good thing? No. It results in early entry and teaching to the test for English and maths. This hits higher level teaching and B+ grades needed for access to academic A Levels. It also has also resulted in less able pupils being denied access to EBacc GCSE subjects and being forced to take useless vocational equivalents that are vital to the school for league table and floor target purposes. Ofsted inspectors largely make their minds up about school grades before they get through the door and adjust judgements on the tiny amount of lesson observation they do to fit their performance tables based prior decisions. Ofsted insiders on this site have have confirmed this. It is called 'triangulation'.

See http://www.localschoolsnetwork.org.uk/2014/05/outstanding-schools/

Look at the curriculum opportunities offered to 'lower attaining' (SATs L3) pupils.

Ofsted backs results focussed schools without noticing anything else.

A good school would put equal resources into developing the general health, intellectual development and wisdom of all pupils. To find such a school you have look much deeper and be a brave and independently minded parent. They do still exist.

rogertitcombe's picture
Mon, 19/05/2014 - 07:53

Such parents and such schools.


Ben Taylor's picture
Mon, 19/05/2014 - 20:54

Let's acknowledge why Academies sometimes work.

Local authorities are sometimes useless.

Local populations can present certain problems like low IQ, low social capital and low English language ability. This is mainly to do with circumstances rather than inherent characteristics.

It may be debatable why Academies succeed but they seem to sometimes be successful in the above circumstances with specific kinds of operations of teaching.

Anybody who thinks LAs as remote inspection bodies with no incentive to improve performance are a panacea is deluded. For this reason Ofsted is also problematic.

Choice and redundancy are two key components of markets which allow trial and error to create new improved offers. Successful operations are often easily copiable.

Choice does not preclude collaboration between professional entities, such as teachers and schools. User choice and professional collaboration happens in medicine and engineering. Teachers should be professionals not robots run by ANY kind of dictator whether Gove or some drone in an LA who won't even give you their name.

Incumbent state monopolies, such as an LA enrolling children by coercion to local schools, are not only immoral and unlawful, they are also ineffective from the point of view of general improvement. They might be justified in a case such as a national emergency as racial desegregation in 1960s USA: this is an exceptional case - do we consider immigration and social stratification has now caused a similar social divide in the UK?

I don't want bad ethics to trump good schooling either.

rogertitcombe's picture
Mon, 19/05/2014 - 21:06

This is the nastiest piece of utter drivel I have read in a long time.


Janet Downs's picture
Tue, 20/05/2014 - 07:43

Ben - the introduction of so-called "choice" has no correlation with the performance of school systems as a whole (confirmed by OECD after the 2012 PISA results were analysed).

Earlier research on behalf of the OECD found the evidence about introducing market forces (which include choice) was fragmentary and inconclusive. Its findings included:

1 Competition between schools carried a risk of increased segregation particularly when schools set out to attract certain types of students like faith groups.

2 Schools in competition with each other often shifted expenditure from teaching to non-teaching spending such as marketing.

See faq above "Do market forces in education increase achievement and efficiency?" for more information.

The Academies Commission (2013) expressed concern that the academies programme risked fragmentation of the education system with schools acting in their own interests. See here.

rogertitcombe's picture
Tue, 20/05/2014 - 08:03

Ben - First please permit me to apologise for my intemperate use of words.

"Choice and redundancy are two key components of markets which allow trial and error to create new improved offers. Successful operations are often easily copy-able."

You appear to be suggesting that the state should finance an oversupply of schools set up by entrepreneurs with their own educational views in order for some to fail and some to succeed, the successful examples being 'copied' and thereby improving the national stock of schools. This is a nasty idea because it deliberately sacrifices the education and life chances of some children in order to artificially create a market. The other great weakness is that good education is counter-intuitive resulting in parents making bad choices in any such market.

'Low IQ' implies some sort of disease or disability. IQ is continuously variable, and in my view, plastic. Low social capital implies class-based prejudice.

LA's no more coerce enrolment in local schools than the NHS ambulance service coerces you to use it for your first aid and transport to hospital when you crash your car. Both are examples of taxpayer funded rights and entitlements. In both cases you can refuse the service if want to. To describe such public services as 'immoral and unlawful' provoked me to the 'd' word.

I have some sympathy with how you have been led to such views. The free market path applied to public services leads inevitably to such conclusions.

For the state to have the responsibility for providing uniformly excellent public services is not just best for everyone, it is also good economics, this being the most cost effective way of providing them.

I can see where you are coming from because what you are suggesting is actually the basis of Gove's Free Schools, which doesn't make them any less nasty.

Ben Taylor's picture
Mon, 19/05/2014 - 22:03

Roger

Please say why.

I should clarify what I meant by redundancy which was misinterpretable. I mean redundancy of systems not individuals.

Ben Taylor's picture
Tue, 20/05/2014 - 21:06

You are right about IQ but we know in the most poor communities it is lower because people lack skills and knowledge which can be gained through education. It has no value to me as a measure of innate human worth. But it is still desirable to increase IQ..

What is unreasonable about saying that unilateral offers from state entities are coercive? Here is your service, your only choice take it or leave it.

We know that in other states such as France and Switzerland social insurance funds increased redundancy in health care systems. People are prepared to pay more because they get choice and quicker responses.

We can't say for certain if schools are exactly comparable services but the principle could work the same way.

The point about sacrifice of children is not understood. If one thing is better than another is the lesser thing a sacrifice?

agov's picture
Wed, 21/05/2014 - 06:53

You sure you're not off your right-wing message Ben? -

http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2013-01-03/frances-health-care-syst...

Thought you freedom-lovers disapproved of all this tax and overspend stuff.

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