Sarah Dobbs's picture
This is an appeal for help.

Many of you will know that I am organising a campaign to prevent the merger and application for academy status of four of our local secondary schools.
One of the main reasons for the proposals is the fear that Gove will impose academy status on schools that fall below floor targets. Two out of the schools have, apparently, already had letters from Gove this week threatening to "take them over" should they fall below the targets. However, I was led to believe that if the schools could prove that the pupils had made better than average progress that they would be exempt from falling below the floor targets.
Can anyone enlighten me further on the contents of the letter that went out to potentially "failing" schools last week, and provide any clarity as to how the schools would be able to show this better than average progress?
Thanks very much.
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Andy Smithers's picture
Thu, 28/04/2011 - 08:21


it sounds like you have 2 schools which are failing or in a downward spiral.
correct me if I am wrong but I assume these are local authority run schools.
The question you should be asking is why are both these schools failing under the current system, how many children have they failed so far? Surely they have had years to improve but have been unable.
Time for a change most parents would be correct in thinking.

Remember most parents support academies and Free Schools.

Shane Rae's picture
Thu, 28/04/2011 - 10:29

'Remember most parents support academies and Free Schools.'

They do? That's certainly news to me!

All Raising Attainment teams (or equiv) in LAs were asked by Gove to submit a plan on how they intend to keep schools from falling below the floor. The deadline for submission of this plan was some weeks ago. I'd contact your LA's RA rep and find out what the score is. All of this info is public.

Josh's picture
Thu, 28/04/2011 - 10:39

I just want to say thanks to all the people who set up this site and the people who have written so intelligently and convincingly to counteract the dishonesty of the government in their rush to dismantle the education system. I have been reading it for several weeks now and have encouraged other parents to check the site, which always gives links to newspaper reports and studies which are so useful to get a bigger picture of what is going on.

I find the attitude of people like Andy Smithers so unhelpful, bigoted, just sniping from the sidelines without offering any proof or coherent argument to back up what they are saying.

Sarah - I don't know if this is linked to your problem but I came across this article about small rural schools in Devon and Cornwall who may be forced to close in the rush to set up more Academies. I hope this site will be able to help publicise their desperation.

Sarah Dobbs's picture
Thu, 28/04/2011 - 10:42

Utter and over simplified rubbish Andy.
These schools are good or good to outstanding schools. But we are stuck with selection at 11. The real issue, and the one that seems to be driving out all potential diversity and choice in the education of children in my home town, is the fact that Gove will not move the goal posts on floor targets for schools in selective areas.

Sarah's picture
Thu, 28/04/2011 - 11:06

Sarah, I do not know what the letter said but I do know that Michael Gove is prepared to impose Academy status on schools below the floor targets. 'The new Academies Act enables me to make an Academy Order in respect of any school that is eligible for intervention. This includes, specifically, schools that Ofsted has judged to require special measures or significant improvement or which have failed to respond to a valid warning notice.

I will be ready to use this power in the months ahead where I judge that academy status is in the best interests of an eligible school and its pupils, and where it has not been possible to reach agreement on a way ahead with the local authority, the school or both. Of course, I would hope that I do not need to use these powers extensively as I fully expect local authorities to use their own extensive intervention powers to bring about change in poorly performing schools that are failing to improve. But where there is a lack of decisive action or a reluctance to consider the necessary academy solution, then I will not hesitate to act.'

He wrote to all local authorities in March asking for improvement plans for all such schools and they had to be provided by 15 April. I would assume that the latest letter is the next step from this.

The letter to LAs made it very clear that he expected them to actively consider Academy status for 'failing' schools.

It would be worth asking the LA which maintains these schools what their response was on their plans for these schools.

Sarah Dobbs's picture
Thu, 28/04/2011 - 14:48

Sarah - thanks very much. The head I was talking to (who is very pro-academy) was saying that they had been told that an academy order would be slapped on them regardless, and made Gove sound like an over zealous traffic warden watching a residents parking bay! I just do not think that it even Gove is suggesting something that simplistic, especially because all of the schools concerned have had very recent and very good Ofsted inspections.

Janet Downs's picture
Thu, 28/04/2011 - 15:40

Josh - thanks for your encouraging remarks. I think it's important that as many people as possible counteract the propaganda coming from Mr Gove and the DfE (whose website is a huge marketing campaign for academies and free schools). Mr Gove says he supports localism but is taking powers for himself that will allow Secretaries of State for Education to impose their will on local people. The more people that know this the better.

Fiona Millar's picture
Thu, 28/04/2011 - 17:44

It really is worth re- reading this evidence to the Education Bill Committee from John Burn, former principal of one of the Vardy academies. This man is not an opponent of independent state schools and he spells out quite clearly how the pressure on schools to opt out of the maintained sector and into an independent chain ( which is what a Gove 'intervention' will mean in practice) will lead to less autonomy, less accountablity and more centralised bureaucracy. He even suggests we are not far off a situation where maintained schools will have more freedom than many academies. How long before schools start yearning to opt back into the maintained sector so that they can enjoy the hands off relationship with a local authority and escape the identikit, corporate culture of the edu-chain?

Janet Downs's picture
Thu, 28/04/2011 - 15:57

And here is another example of lack of consultation re academy conversion:

“PARENTS of pupils at a Basingstoke school are today in the dark over its future after the headteacher and fellow governors took a secret vote”

A local Councillor said: ““A small group of people have chosen to give the school away. It’s all been done behind closed doors – what has happened to openness and accountability?”

Andy Smithers's picture
Thu, 28/04/2011 - 19:52


You seem surprised that most parents suppoert both Academies and Free Schools - this was found in a survey by the NCPTA (National Confederation of Parent Teachers Association). It was discussed at length on this site. The bottom line from this survey of parents was a support of Academies, Free Schools and more autonomy for Governing Bodies.
I oppose the blind opposition this site has to all academies and free schools. The Academies in my area out perform similar local authority schools and also greatly improved the schools they replaced. Take Mossbourne Academy as an example.

Josh - you post I am a bigoted. Can you in anyway justify this comment or do you always feel the need to insult people who have a different view to your own?

Sarah - do you represent the majority of parents in your area or is your anti-academy campaign based on a minority of parents ? I am sure you will get support from some of the more militant unions and the anti-academy alliance BUT how many parents in the area support your stance and how many support the need for positive change.
It seems obvious to me that keeping things as they is not a good option for parents whose children attend the poorly performing schools you mention.

Warwick Mansell's picture
Thu, 28/04/2011 - 20:51

Hi Sarah,

Just in terms of your question, yes it is true that Michael Gove has said that schools making better-than-average progess are exempt from falling beneath the government's "floor standards", the statistical thresholds below which he has said schools are particularly ripe for intervention/turning into academies. His letter to LAs about this, from early March (when, incidentally, he said, that he was "delighted that there is so much to celebrate in state education"), is here:
This says that primary schools with pupils making better than national average progress, as measured by test results at 11 compared to teacher assessments at age seven, are exempt from falling below the floor standards. Among secondary schools, those which make better than average progress between key stage 2 tests and GCSE are also exempt.



Andy Smithers's picture
Thu, 28/04/2011 - 21:34


Your last post regarding Everest Community College in Basingstoke is frankly rubbish.

You point to an article in the local rag and a quote from a Labour Councillor.
Have you no respect for the Head and the elected governing body of the school?

The school undertook a full consultation with all the parents - go to the school website and check. In fact the consultation was more than required by law.
Please check your facts.

Tracy Hannigan's picture
Thu, 28/04/2011 - 22:48


I welcome open debate in open forums, but I am curious - why ask for responses (directly or indirectly, when you appear to have so little regard for the views of the majority of posters?

If you feel we're so narrowminded in our views of academies and free schools, why do you bother?

Do you find within yourself any intellectual agreement with any of the points that comprise the 'blind opposition' you speak of?

Or, do you read this board because you are actually open to views other than your own?

I am genuinely interested in those points of agreement, if any - as a basis for creating mutual understanding, if possible.

Orr do you just enjoy stirring the pot?

Just curious, not that it matters in the slightest one way or another.

Sarah Dobbs's picture
Fri, 29/04/2011 - 07:12


The fact is that I have a very active and growing campaign. It is not hard to get support for an anti-academy campaign when alternative thoughts about academies are out into the public arena. The problem is getting that anti-academy message across - most conversions are done so quickly that opposition does not have the time to form. The unique thing about the Louth campaign is that it has the dual issues of merger and academy status. Many, many parents who like the smaller schools here for the wonderful ethos and relationship with the children, as well as the strong academic standards, are very angry indeed that all of the choice and diversity is being removed from the local education system.

The truth about academies is that performance is patchy and that they do no better or worse than LA schools on the whole.

Warwick - thank you for the clarification. I had seen that letter but was unsure what the exact criteria was going to be for exemption from falling below the floor.

However, the head was saying that there had been a new letter which they had received just last week to individual schools about threat of falling below the floor targets.

Janet Downs's picture
Fri, 29/04/2011 - 07:23

Andy – You are very dismissive about local papers – I wonder what editors think about your disparaging comments describing such papers as a “local rag”? And why should the concerns of a local Labour councillor have less weight than those of other parties? However, I checked the facts as you suggested (although you provided no link). This is what I found:

27 February 2011: Letter to parents saying school was following government requirements under the Academies Bill to consider Academy Status. Letter was prompted by a leaflet published by a local Labour group who revealed possible conversion plans.

2 March 2011: Letter to parents telling them that academy option would best serve the school.

10 March 2011: Consultation Booklet listed options – comments biased towards academy status.

21 March 2011: Decision to convert made by Governing Body.

Three weeks – that was all the time from initial letter to decision. Some consultation!

Link provided for anyone wishing to check the facts:

Andy Smithers's picture
Fri, 29/04/2011 - 09:23

The majority of parents support Academies and Free Schools.

The majority of posts on here are by a small minority, however to a casual reader it would appear that everyone is against Academies/Free Schools - they are not.

I ask direct questions when the facts are incorrect and misrepresented.

My question on this thread is can Sarah Dodds show that she is representing the majority of parents in her area.. She has been campaigning for a long time and I would expect across her area her support would by now be in the thousands, is it?

Also when other posters call me a bigot I would like to know why.

Sarah Dobbs's picture
Fri, 29/04/2011 - 12:24

The Louth campaign has been around a long time and has gathered support from around 200 local anti-academiers, (135 FB members, and other people in the community. These include Tory county councillors, parents, governors and staff.) However, we have not started a face to face public campaign yet because of the time scale the governing bodies have been working towards. That starts as of tomorrow. Rest assured, I will let you know how we get on.
I would be 100% behind a plan that saw real democracy in action. Lets have these descisions made by a fair and honest ballot of governors, parents and teachers.
If the powers that be in government and schools are so convinved of the merits of their cases, why such a hurried and in many cases inadequate consultation process.

Janet Downs's picture
Fri, 29/04/2011 - 13:42

It is worth looking in detail at evidence to the Education Bill Committee given by John Burns OBE, an advocate of academies, in which he outlined concerns about academy federations:

“1. I am writing to you to ask you to amend the Education Bill to prevent Federations of Academies from:

a) controlling and acquiring individual Academies in a way which results in individual academies having fewer operating freedoms than ordinary maintained schools;

b) acquiring schools from other Federations without prior consultation with the staff, parents and communities concerned;

c) creating centralised bureaucracies which are imposed upon their schools and paid for by siphoning money away from those schools; and

d) escaping proper scrutiny and accountability through exemption from any form of inspection of the central body.”

These worries are being voiced by a supporter of academies. They are the same worries that are voiced here on this site: lack of consultation; unaccountable bureaucracies; restrictions in autonomy and so on. They should be taken seriously and not dismissed as the views of a vociferous minority.

Matthew McGee's picture
Sat, 30/04/2011 - 13:30

It should be noted that all four academies sponsored by the Emmanuel Schools Foundation, the organisation that John Burn used to work for, are in the process of being handed over to the control of the United Learning Trust, which has been banned from opening any further academies due to concerns regarding educational standards in its schools:

Allan Beavis's picture
Sat, 30/04/2011 - 14:59

Sites like this one exists because they help to give a voice to people who are questioning the motives of the government's education policy and to share information and resources in order to protect their local community schools.

What I have found particularly heartening is how well reasoned and backed up the arguments for community schools have been on this site. Conversely, the arguments for free schools and academies have not been well presented or argued and I really think that this is because the whole policy and implementation of them has been either chaotically planned or deliberately misleading on the part of the government. Shouting down, sneering and sniping is not going to win a debate.

The haphazard nature of these reforms and the lack of transparency is the reason why more and more people are questioning the validity of academies (and I mean those being rushed through as a result of financial "bribery" or "intervention” by the present government, not the ones already up and running under the previous one) and free schools. We are hearing more and more stories, not just on this site, but in the national press, local papers (“rags” to those of a superior disposition) and local opposition groups from parents, teachers and education commentators who are exposing the fallibilities of these so-called reforms. The tide is turning.

Janet Downs's picture
Sun, 01/05/2011 - 15:42

This site allows participants to discuss concerns about government education policy - concerns which are not being discussed throughly elsewhere. The rushed-through nature of these policies is becoming more and more apparent. Here are just two examples:

1 Fiona drew attention to concerns from a supporter of academies about the dangers posed by academy chains (see my post above for details).

2 The DfE changes the rules for free school applications because Mr Gove was in such a hurry to get them established that the DfE had not time to foresee problems. One of these changes is the requirement that groups proposing free schools must now be incorporated. Free schools are supposed to be charities and non-profit making. Incorporation of charities, I have found, means that the liability of the trustees can be limited. I would have thought that the DfE's legal department would have foreseen the possibility of trustees personally shouldering a huge debt if the charity fails BEFORE it encouraged people to take on the responsibility of opening free schools.

I'm not a legal expert, but can an incorporated charity become a profit-making company?

And what other quagmires exist which will bog down those schools who have rushed to convert to academy status? I hope that the comments on this site cause some schools to pause and reflect before following Pied Piper Gove.

Samuel Morris's picture
Mon, 31/10/2011 - 13:12

I think all the debate is fascinating as a parent. I only found this site by pure chance. On the DfE website yesterday was a headline about Academy schools outperforming LA schools im terms of GCSE results. The fact was based on 166 Academies that were converted by Labour (it appears) against what every other LA secondary left in England??? Can someone clarify? What I did note was that LA maintained schools had also improved in the article!!! and were still 10% higher than academies.

I'm not actually against the idea of independent state schools, but I do find the political push for ALL schools to become academies slightly worrying. It does not look very democratic. Also what will happen to a school that stays with the LA because the are happy and meeting al the governments targets as well???

I also took a look at Everest Schools website out of sheer curiosity. They appear to have been on a steady path of improving GCSE results anyway over the past 4 years (when LA maintained) so why did they feel the need to convert? Was it because Mr Gove wrote to the school threatening Academy conversion anyway? I wonder........

Its a bit like Deal or No deal? Is Mr Gove trying to be Noel Edmonds?

Allan Beavis's picture
Mon, 31/10/2011 - 14:51

It's great that you found the site, Samuel! Encourage your friends to come on and talk about the achievements of their local schools. According to the government, unless you are An Academy or Free School, you barely exist....

Fiona Millar's picture
Mon, 31/10/2011 - 17:21

Has anyone taken the time to study how these academies get their rapid GCSE improvements? It would be an interesting exercise and I suspect show a liberal use of the sort of GCSE equivalent qualifications that the Coalition claims to despise.

Samuel Morris's picture
Mon, 31/10/2011 - 19:13

Alan my children are at primary school (yr 1 & 4) Their school is an LA maintaine school currently with a 'good' ofsted judgement. We send our two eldest sons there because its our local school is the reality. Its a nice school we think and in our view it does well for our boys. My chance find of this site was because our feeder secondary is we hear about to convert to an academy as part of a trust. This actually is not in the public domain, and I only know because one of the secondary school govs told me at the local shops!!

Now I'm not going to name my kids school or the secondary. As I said I'm quite open minded to independent state schools as a concept. But it sort of feels a bit cloak and dagger. Should I be suspicious as a parent of a future student at the school. Will being an academy actually mean anything different in terms of two years time?? We do have another secondary school that to my knowledge is LA maintained still and I don't see anything on their website to suggest they are near to failing the new floor targets I have read about.

Am I being a bit too concerned as a parent? I do want all my sons to do well at school both in terms of academic learning and personal development as young boys/men. My worry is Academies could turn out to be exam factories with little accountability.

Samuel Morris's picture
Mon, 31/10/2011 - 19:21

Also Fiona, from my whole three days of searching the web about Academy schools! I'd have to assume these 166 academies got lots of investment that many other schools did not. So it is not really a fair comparison, and not really a great difference in terms of rate of progress between LA and academy schools.

But while my head has all these questions my heart does feel more choice and a bit of innovation in state education is worthwhile.

Allan Beavis's picture
Mon, 31/10/2011 - 19:28

Well I think all parents want the best schools for their child. If you would like more information I suggest you click under "For Transparency in Academies and Free Schools" and under "Academies" in the Categories section accessible in every post. Hopefully, you will build up a picture about the current situation made up from all perspectives.

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