Downhills School - Forced Academy.

Hazel Gould's picture
Earlier this year, Downhills School, N15, was put on a notice to improve - and subsequently is on Gove's list of 500 schools pinpointed to become Sponsored Academies by September. Our school is seen to be failing, but our year 6 results really only tell a very small part of the story of Downhills.
The school is very happy, inclusive, creative and totally reflective of a very diverse community.
The move to become an academy is opposed by all staff, all governors and a large group of parents.
We have now launched a campaign to save our school, we really believe that the best thing for the continuing improvement of the school and the growth of our children is to be a community school.
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Allan Beavis's picture
Tue, 06/12/2011 - 22:06

Hello Hazel

Thank you for sharing your story. I wonder if you would like to post details of how people can support your campaign? A very diverse community usually means that the student intake is very mixed and this can of course lead to a very valid and vibrant school community. Results only ever tell a very part of a school's progress and success - perhaps you would like to share your school's achievements with us and explain why results don't tell the whole story?

Hazel Gould's picture
Tue, 06/12/2011 - 22:54

You're right - our school has a very mixed population. 40 languages spoken - and a lot of kids coming from the Roma and Irish traveller communities - traditionally very hard to reach communities, with whom the school has worked hard to build trusting, positive relationships. 30% of our year six joined the school in or after year 4, but if you look at the cohort who have been in the school from at least year 2, the results are good - 75% of those children are achieving level 4 and above in Maths and English in year 6.
My son is really happy in the nursery, confident, stretched and included. All the kids I know from older years are smart, independent children.

As parents, we are worried that the change to academy status (aside from the fact that I am politically opposed to the academy model) will cause a lot of upheaval in the school, result in more exclusions, and a narrowing of the curriculum (at the moment, there is a lot of art, drama and music in school life). Our school is inclusive and at the heart of a community, and we fear that we will lose that.

In terms of our campaign - we're still really just getting going and making links, although things are moving very quickly, so we need to get our skates on! You can follow us on twitter @Save_downhills.

Allan Beavis's picture
Tue, 06/12/2011 - 23:01

It does sound like the kind of mix of students that is no longer politically correct and difficult to shoehorn into the narrow curriculum and ideologies of the government. Do keep up to date with other contributors here. You may find other articles and other examples of schools who have resisted Academization - and posts on the consequences of it - here. If you type in Academies for example in the Search section you may find resources and examples that could help you.

Fiona Millar's picture
Wed, 07/12/2011 - 10:23

Can you tell us what the grounds for forced conversion are - from your last comment it appears that the school is NOT below the government's floor targets. Is this because of an Ofsted judgement?

Sarah Dodds's picture
Wed, 07/12/2011 - 13:18

I have been running a parents campaign for the last 10 months. Please feel free to contact me - I have some parents surveys ets that you are more than welcome to use. LSN have my personal contact details, or you can find us on Facebook - "Save Our Schools Louth and Mablethorpe." Do get in touch!

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Wed, 07/12/2011 - 20:38

Hazel I think you have the law on your side.
(I am assuming that it is your Ofsted judgement which has led to your forced conversion to Academy status).

If you look at the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Ace (2006) it clearly states that regulatory activity must be 'proportionate'.

Although Ofsted was not initially obligated to this Act it became so in (2009) here:
(look for the number 20 in blue which is about 20% of the way down the document).

Therefore it is illegal for Ofsted to act in ways which bring about disproportionate consequences.

This law was developed specifically to protect organisations against inappropriate consequences of actions by regulators (it came of the detailed Hampton review of regulator behaviour which provides substantial context for it). This would appear to be the kind of situation it was designed for.

Hazel Gould's picture
Sat, 10/12/2011 - 12:12

The school is on a notice to improve - and that seems to be the reason we have been targeted. However, we were not on the initial list of 200 (for the 'lowest performing' schools) it was only when the DfE started looking at results retrospectively that we were included.

Things are moving very quickly here in Haringey. Two schools have been visited by the DFE this week and informed that they have until the second week in January to draw up plans to become an academy or their democratically elected governing bodies will be disbanded and replaced by one selected by the DFE. It is expected that more will follow.

Our governors met with the DFE this morning and made it clear that they want to hold a full and fair consultation with all stake holders to discuss future plans for the school. A full and proper consultation process is in the DFE’s own guidelines about academy conversion. Downhills’ governors also asked that academy discussions be suspended until after the OFSTED inspection due any time from the end of January 2012 to allow staff and governors to focus on this. Governors were informed that they will receive a letter from the Secretary of State stating his intentions.

The school is keen to consult with stake holders because conversion is such a huge, irreversible decision. The governors were informed that they can expect a contract with a sponsor to be for 125 years and, should it prove unsatisfactory, take at least 7 years to dissolve. The governors and Head want to give all stake holders a chance to hear pros and cons about academy conversion, and to have their views taken into account. In any school, particularly one which serves a diverse community in which over 40 languages are spoken, the time scale given by the DFE to make a plan which will affect the school forever is unrealistic. It discriminates against those who need information in languages other than English and/or support to understand the implications of all the issues involved.

We are linking up with other schools in the borough which are similarly under threat. We are hosting an emergency meeting on 12th December 7pm at our school – please contact us for details.

Hazel Gould's picture
Sat, 10/12/2011 - 12:14

Rebecca, Thanks. We have co-opted a temporary member of the Governing body who is a lawyer, who is looking closely at the law surrounding the forced academy issue. We think we have the law on our side, but things are moving very quickly!

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Sun, 11/12/2011 - 17:24

Well done Hazel,

I think this law is the one you're looking for. It was specifically constructed to protect organisations from inappropriate intervention by regulators and the Secretaries of State to whom they are accountable.

I had some friendly correspondence with David Wolfe about the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Act earlier this year and at the time it was an area of law with which he was not yet familiar. I did offer him advice on it should he want it and that offer still stands and I am happy to extend it to the lawyer who is acting for your school. I am easy to contact through (if you have any problems apply to join my group on Math, Math Education, Math Culture and then you'll be able to message me through one of my posts there).

It is sadly clear that a reason that people are unaware of Ofsted's legal obligations is that Ofsted misrepresent them. You can see that happening here - In this blog you will see evidence of Ofsted referring to other legal obligations which override this law but despite substantial investigation and a Freedom of Information request to Ofsted I can find no evidence that there is any truth in these claims. Don't be put off by Ofsted claiming they have to report on quality and that this exempts them from this law. That also appears to be completely untrue as other regulators also have to report on quality and drive improvements in quality and clearly do so effectively within this law. Indeed the law was constructed to improve the validity of the reporting and practice of regulators in this area.

Allan Beavis's picture
Sat, 10/12/2011 - 13:05

Hi Hazel

Do have a look at David Wolfe's website dedicated to the legal aspects of education law here:

He is a leading education barrister. The blogs give invaluable advice.

Janet's picture
Sat, 10/12/2011 - 21:39

Although our school is on a notice to improve, it is indeed improving and was above the 60% floor Maths and English floor target this year and last. Results are predicted to improve again this year.

We've got a good grasp of David Wolfe's blog, thanks, though will look into the links that Rebecca Hansen mentions.

Thanks all!

Janet Lallysmith's picture
Sun, 08/01/2012 - 08:52

Thanks for that, Rebecca! This is the latest on our school...

Public meeting for all concerned about forced academies there 7pm Monday 9th Jan.

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