Louth - Part Two

Sarah Dobbs's picture
As those of you who are LSN regulars will know, there has been a strong anti-academy group in Louth for over a year. We have had some success, promoting a series of meetings and conferences and promoting a much higher profile about the academies issues then would otherwise have existed.

Our new campaign is very close to home - the primary school my children go to and that I used to teach in is seeking to convert. I love the school. Very, very much.

We first got wind of this when SOS heard that a vote for academy status has been passed on 19:1:12. After 3 weeks of not hearing anything as parents, but with the stories still persisting from a variety of sources, we proceeded with a press release asking the school for confirmation. We were then told by the head the school were considering it, but that discussions were still in the "early stages."

A couple of weeks ago we got a letter home saying that the school was starting a consultation period.

(The details of the consultation can be found here on the school website. Go to latest news, academy consultation.)

We were sent a 5 page letter home with the reasons why the school wanted to convert. The real "take your breath away moment," was that the parental feedback form was six small lines printed on one third of a sheet of A4 paper, and we were told that no other submissions would be allowed! There were no plans for a parents meeting. Parents were also not told that a vote had already been taken.

A new Louth group very quickly sprang up after we held our first public meeting. This group (Parents of Kidgate Primary) are NOT anti-academy, but are just concerned about the process and want a full public meeting. They have proved to be a tenacious and feisty bunch, and although the school have not agreed to hold a full public meeting the group have succeeded in getting the school to hold "governor clinics," extend the consultation period by a week, but they are holding out for a full public meeting.

SOS had been given a copy of draft minutes which stated quite clearly that the governors had voted in favour of academy status back in January. We have been strongly criticised by the school for leaking these minutes to parents as this was just a preliminary vote. However, my reaction to that is that all schools can choose how to interact with parents. Many schools start consultation immediately after that vote - Kidgate could easily have done the same and there was nothing in the minutes to suggest that this was an initial vote - there was no mention of consultation at all.

The worst thing in all of this is the defamation of the SOS group. For a year we have been trying to hold a full public meeting in Louth that engages the whole community and puts the PROS and the CONS of the issue forward. We have been the ones trying to engage in a rounded debate. However, the school sent a letter home to parents last Monday. In this letter, (which you will also see on the website under "Parents Letter, 12th March) you will see that they accuse us of having put out "false statements." They then go on to accuse of wishing to distort the consultation process, and claim that "this whole episode has once again called into question the integrity of a small group of people who drive a political agenda." Parents are then told that they only way to get "undistorted information is through asking the governing body."

I am not going to pass any comments on this, other than to say that I insisted on an immediate retraction and apology which has not been forthcoming. Having left it for a week, I have placed a formal complaint with the school and am taking legal advice about this matter. It has been, quite frankly, heartbreaking that the school which cares for my kids every day could make utterly false accusations about a parent.

If academy status for Kidgate depends on trashing reputations of those who are asking legitimate questions and requesting and promoting debate, then I think the school has reached a very tragic point in it's wonderful history.

I am proud of the work SOS have done. It may make things uncomfortable for head teachers and governors at times, but I am not going to apologise for calling them to account for dismantling an education system under our eyes! And I still say the same thing that I have always said. If, after a full public meeting, the whole community of a school - teachers, parents, governors - believe that academy status is the way forward then so be it. I will walk away with head held high, knowing we gave it a go but reassured that it was a clean fight! Until then, the bad news for Kidgate is that we are not going away.
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Janet Downs's picture
Sun, 18/03/2012 - 17:28

I note that the consultation document says academy conversion for the school would result in an extra £140,000 which the school says would be spent on enhancing provision for the pupils. What it doesn't seem to make absolutely clear is that the school will have to use much of this money for those services now provided by the local authority and it will be responsible for all administration, legalities and finances.

It does say later it will be able to "cherrypick" services which it considers to be the best value for money and that they might be bought back from the LA. However, later it says that the more Lincs schools become academies then the less likely the LA would be to offer services to its schools.

It's difficult to see how Lincolnshire could opt-out of providing back-room services such as pay-roll, legalities and so on to its non-academy schools. However, as we know, Lincolnshire wants all of its schools to become academies - this would mean it would not have to provide these services, and the back-room staff providing them could be sacked.

The schools also says it will have the power to alter the length and timing of the school day - it already has this power. It says it can offer an innovative curriculum which matches its pupils - it can already do this. What extra subjects would it provide that it doesn't do now? Which ones offered now would be dropped?

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