HELP ......(part 2)

Sarah Dobbs's picture
Sorry to keep coming to ask for advice rather than tell a story, but.....

I met with one of the heads and vice-chairs of governors involved in the Louth saga last week. Although I have repeatedly asked for them to hold a FULL public consultation, he informed me at this meeting that he could not guarantee that the consultation would be made before the governors vote. I know.....same old sad academy story......

But what makes Louth different IS that we are dealing with the potential merger of 4 institutions. Does anybody have any ideas if the governors are able to agree to MERGE, (not academise!) schools in this way? And can anybody inform me of the process a LA would have to undertake if they wanted to do the same thing? I want to put pressure on the schools that the least they can do is offer the same type of consultation that the local authority would have to if they wanted to merge schools.

Thank you!
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Tracy Hannigan's picture
Tue, 03/05/2011 - 20:24

I am not sure but I would imagine that unless there is some function for the LA to merge them, that they will all individually vote to academise under the same umbrella, and in effect do a 'merger' in that way? Can you call someone at the LA and ask? Or do you have a friendly parent governor who can call the NGA (or whatever they are called now) and ask their advice?

Francis Gilbert's picture
Tue, 03/05/2011 - 21:47

It's troubling that a new, pretty unaccountable tier of bureaucracy is emerging with the academy agenda.

Sarah's picture
Wed, 04/05/2011 - 09:55

The arrangements for amalgamating schools is laid out in detail in the School Organisation Regulations - this is what LA's have to follow if they are reorganising school provision. Unfortunately these regulations have not yet caught up with the reality of Academies (over which LA's have no control) and the government hasn't yet laid out how it sees strategic planning for the provision of school places proceeding in the light of the growth in Academies. The School Organisation website (which can be accessed via the DfE website) lays out in detail the consultation that LA's have to go through when making proposals to change school provision - sadly the creation of Academies and Free Schools have not had the same very rigorous consultation requirements placed upon them.

Essentially to make any significant change to a school the LA has to undertake a minimum of six weeks consultation with a prescribed range of stakeholders before taking a decision whether to publish statutory notices. There is then a further six week representation period where anyone can make further objections. The decision is then taken (usually by the Executive or Cabinet but sometimes by the full Council). The decision is taken in public with all the responses to consultation made publicly available - and it can be challenged with the Schools Adjudicator.

This is the process which Voluntary Controlled schools have to go through to change status to Voluntary Aided - which begs the question why the conversion from maintained school to Academy status is dealt with with so little accountability or opportunity for challenge.

I would contact your LA's School Organisation officer for further information.

Sarah Dobbs's picture
Wed, 04/05/2011 - 16:40

Sarah -
Thank you so very much for that information - it really does give us a standard to measure the proposed consultation by.
I do not doubt the integrity of the people at the heart of this choice for my hometown, but I do question whose best interests are served by the speed in which these descisions can be made.
We are talking about our children, but also about vast sums of public money. The lack of accountability around the whole process is deeply concerning.

Helen Flynn's picture
Wed, 04/05/2011 - 16:43

Sarah, your comment above is very interesting. Does this mean that there is yet another glaring omission in the appallingly rushed and inadequate Academies Bill? I would have thought that given that there is no specific law on what consultation should happen when there is a proposal that schools should be merged to become one academy, the default position and procedure should be the sensible one we currently have which is used LAs. It is hardly arduous or lengthy according to the way you describe it above. To potentially risk so much taxpayer money in this way without proper public accountability seems to completely over-step the mark, and to be potential Judicial Review territory--either as a challenge to the DfE for not specifying a democratically acceptable procedure or to the governing bodies of the merging schools?

Sarah Dobbs's picture
Wed, 04/05/2011 - 17:38

Helen - I could not agree with you more. The LA process should be the default position. All I honestly want is a full and open debate and consultation, with the governors of the schools as active participants and listening to ALL stakeholders.
Is that too much to ask about a decision that will, potentially, effect generations of children in my hometown?
Just 12 weeks......?

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