Parents lose their voice,as are unable to complain above academy schools

Dani Northcott's picture
My daughter was repeatedly placed into isolation in error & also for petty reasons on a daily basis, this caused her to become depressed,even though our doctor &myself made the school aware of our concerns about her state of mind they continued to place her into isolation,on one occasion because her shoes were the wrong shade of black they then failed to contact me & kept her in isolation the entire day did not allow her to have her lunch or drinks & then gave her an hours detention on top,even though I had complained tirelessly they continued to make her school life a misery. I managed to change her school through appeal.

I then made contact online with other parents of pupils that are suffering at the basildon academy,I have now arranged a meeting with MPs & other organisations to voice our concerns so something is done as due to its academy status no one is able to intervene,the YLPA can only deal with complaints once the have been through the entire complaints procedures but most parents are unable to even start this as calls go straight through to voice mail & are not returned,teachers/ staff are not available when you go directly to the school,so as You can imagine this is exstreamly frustrating for parents & student alike.
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Janet Downs's picture
Sun, 22/04/2012 - 16:12

The difficulties faced by parents who wish to complain about academies are one of the huge downsides to academy status. It doesn't help that government advice is so difficult to find. The link below to the Young People's Learning Agency YPLA says its procedure for complaints about academies was superseded in October 2011. It helpfully provides a link to the new rules but the link doesn't work. If a parent googles "ypla academies" the top result is the Department of Education with sub-headings about setting up academies, the benefits of academies and so on which are NOT what you want.

The website of one law firm which offers to handle parental complaints about academies said that once the YPLA is abolished [April 2012] "the responsibility for handling complaints will return to the Department for Education, either within the relevant Policy Directorate or a future Executive Agency."

The Education Funding Agency (EFA) takes over the funding of academies. It's unclear whether EFA will also deal with complaints.

The Department for Education (DfE) website is unhelpful. It refers readers with complaints about schools to the DirectGov website. This says that parents should ask the school for its complaints procedure and follow that. DirectGov does not mention academies. It does, however, give a link to the DfE complaints page which links to advice about complaining about a school. This links to the DirectGov website.

And so we go round and round.

This demonstrates again the muddle (chaos would be a better word) which surrounds the DfE. It's too concerned with promoting academies and free schools than ensuring that it's put in place a procedure for dealing with problems concerning these schools.

As Dani says, it's extremely frustrating. It's also a sign of incompetence.

Adam's picture
Sun, 22/04/2012 - 16:18

May I ask whether you are absolutely sure of your facts Dani? Is it at all possible that you might have been manipulated by your own daughter? I have dealt with similar claims from parents on many occasions which, upon investigation, have turned out to be completely baseless. It is perfectly natural for parents to believe their own child tells them and to immediately leap to their defence but, in my considerable experience, children are not repeatedly isolated for no reason.

Janet Downs's picture
Sun, 22/04/2012 - 16:29

Adam - whether Dani is being "manipulated" is not the question here. It should be possible for parents to complain about academies easily. Even if a complaint turns out to be baseless it is still necessary to investigate complaints fairly and efficiently. This is less frustrating for all concerned.

However, as my post above illustrates, the complaints procedure surrounding academies is impenetrable. Local authorities can't help and the DfE doesn't have an easily accessible way of complaining. This problem will only get worse as more academies are established.

At the very least, academies should have their complaints procedure on their website. This doesn't seem to be the case with Basildon.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Sun, 22/04/2012 - 18:50

Have you taught in a school following these kinds of policies Adam?

Would you agree that there do need to be systems and processes (such as the traditional LA systems) whereby complaints like this can be investigated so that parents can know whether their concerns are justified or not?

Dani I really hope your daughter thrives in her new school.

Dani Northcott's picture
Mon, 23/04/2012 - 20:56

Hi Adam,
yes I am sure about my facts as the school confirmed the reasons themselves why my daughter had been placed into isolation.
Other parents are experiencing the same issues. The school keep changing their policies on uniform & equipment but fail to update their website or send out letters to make parents aware,this beyond ridiculous, they have now introduced a pencil case policy & children that have used a purse or small bag as one have been told its not good enough & placed into isolation, & the more parents I speak to the more it confirms that these policies are becoming more ridiculous. I wasn't anti academy as I choose this school for my daughter as my son attended before it changed to an academy & I had a great relationship with the school,but did not expect to have these problems, as I'm sure you wouldn't,I'd understand if she was misbehaving or deliberately disregarding the schools policies but she has done nothing wrong & been placed in there in error but no one was held accountable.
I wanted to work with the school even wanted to join their PTA but they seemed to dismiss me & my complaints even though agreeing that they were wrong to place her into isolation but it continued even when her doctor contacted them with his conserns about her state of mind due to their consistant errors,I know it sounds exstream & unbelievable but this is not an isolated incident as I am now discovering after making contact with other parents.
Academies should still be accountable & should adhear to their 'duty of care' & if not there should be someone who can intervene,children have the right to an education & in a safe non hostile environment.

CharlesFisher's picture
Tue, 23/04/2013 - 07:46

I myself have found this to be equally as true over here in Leeds where my daughter receives the same treatment [along with many other pupils].

The reply you are giving Adam is the same as all academy teachers give in response to any claims of unfair treatment, etc and shows it is not an isolated occurrence, hence not a made up statement from our lying children as you so clearly mean.

I would like to point out that i do not believe all children behave well enough, but to tar all children with the same brush is a step too far and also when, as in my case, my daughter was a very bright, self-motivated student until she started at the academy, it is more than clear that self-regulating academy attitudes are blanket enforced, out of touch and power mad.

I for one have witnessed the ridiculous nature of such rule, pulled those in question up on their rulings, reasons, etc and in response got nowhere even though i showed them they were wrong, very similar ducking tactics to politicians in my opinion and i for one am totally fedup with the constant problems my family has with our daughters schooling.

Simply put, these academy attitudes are destroying any confidence parents have in their child's education, losing touch & respect from the pupils and this is wrong, very wrong.

Adam's picture
Mon, 23/04/2012 - 21:04

They should certainly still be accountable.

I hope your daughter likes her new school better.

Dani Northcott's picture
Tue, 24/04/2012 - 07:30

Thank you Rebecca, she is doing really well & her new school has been fantastic as they have quite a few 'ex' Basildon academy pupils with similar experiances.

Dani Northcott's picture
Mon, 23/04/2012 - 21:12

She is doing really well in her new school,Im just doing my bit to help /support other parents who's children are going through these problems as feel someone has to realise the problems that can arise when schools become a law unto themselves,it is fine if their a good school but when things go wrong they need to Have something in place

Adam's picture
Sun, 22/04/2012 - 18:22

Apologies Janet. I thought LSN was about "supporting your local school" not using the internet maliciously to seek out anyone with a grievance against them or anyone with an anti-Academy axe to grind.

Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 23/04/2012 - 09:47

Adam - Dani's post was not just an anti-academy grip. Dani was using personal experience to draw attention to a wider point - the difficulty that parents have in complaining about academies. My reply dealt with the wider point and shows how difficult it is to find reliable information about how academy parents can complain once they have exhausted their academy's complaints procedure.

Parents of children in local authority (LA) maintained schools can take unresolved complaints to the LA as long as these complaints aren't about the curriculum, sex education or religious worship. Complaints about curriculum in any maintained school in England must now be made to the Secretary of State. It's unclear who deals with sex education or religious worship.

Adam's picture
Sun, 22/04/2012 - 19:14

I haven't taught anywhere as Draconian as that Rebecca. Dani has done the right thing - if a parent fundamentally disagrees with the values and ethos of a school, they should, of course, educate their child elsewhere. I agree that the Complaints Procedure should be transparent and accessible and it is reasonable to expect it to be downloadable from the school website. I don't agree that the Local Authority needs to have a role here at all.

K Campbell's picture
Sun, 22/04/2012 - 21:03

When children from this academy are permanently excluded, who will be responsible for their education?

With Gove proposing a 'no-fault' permanent exclusion policy, this kind of situation is going to get worse.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Sun, 22/04/2012 - 21:30

"I don’t agree that the Local Authority needs to have a role here at all."

I've never really thought about this but school issues do get discussed at local consultations and you can chat to the councillors with oversight of LA activity and I do like that. Anyone can do it so if you're competent on education issues and want to get an informed view on an issue like this you can chat to your councillor and get it - or if they're not informed at least draw their attention to the concerns being raised so that they can keep an eye/ear out regarding possible issues.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Sun, 22/04/2012 - 21:41

As I've said before - in natural systems in challenging areas you tend to end up with a 'boot camp school' alongside a more liberal school. The boot camp school is effective and efficient and great for a lot of kids but it doesn't suit them all and you need somewhere to put the kids who are excluded. Most kids will settle in one or other environment and having them existing close to each other is healthy, especially if teachers chat and take from each other whatever positive learnings they can which work without compromising their own cultures. Some kids need strict boundaries - some need some mental space. Most kids are fine with either if it's well done and it's easier to do it well if other schools exist in contrast to it and different types of schools in an area work collaboratively to ensure each child finds a coherent way through school life.

Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 23/04/2012 - 09:49

The DfE published an updated "Complaints Overview" on 12 December 2011 which, again, does not mention academies even though Mr Gove was boasting about how many secondary schools had converted by this date. The updated advice relates to the Education Act 2002 which required all maintained schools do develop and publish a complaints procedure.

Alex D's picture
Mon, 23/04/2012 - 20:24

"If you have a complaint about an Academy and want to submit this after 1 April you can e-mail or post it to Academies Central Unit (Academy Complaints), Education Funding Agency, Earlsdon Park, 53-55 Butts Road, Coventry CV1 3BH."

This was posted on the old YPLA site and referred to complaints about appeals for academies. It is not clear whether the EFA will deal with other sorts of complaints about academies as the YPLA used to...

Vicky Mackenzie's picture
Mon, 23/04/2012 - 21:00

We are also in basildon and have had a very similar problem (with a different academy though).
We have been through the whole complaints procedure, up to and including the YPLA/EFA and like you have been told, because of their academy status, no one has the power to investigate even though we have evidence.
We would be very interested in attending this meeting you are organizing as we feel very let down by the system and think this could help us parents greatly.

Dani Northcott's picture
Mon, 23/04/2012 - 21:15

hi vicky, our meeting is on Saturday 5th may 1pm-3pm at pitsea leisure centre, 1st floor room 2 ,hope to see you there

Vicky Mackenzie's picture
Mon, 23/04/2012 - 21:33

Thank you so much Dani, me and my husband will definitely be attending. Look forward to seeing you there!

Dani Northcott's picture
Sat, 05/05/2012 - 19:43

Hi Vicky, hope you are getting some help now after the meeting, sorry I didn't get to meet you, we felt I needed to be at Dr Fox's as he wouldn't come to ours. Feel free to contact me. We also have a Facebook group (lower academy problems) I have placed the link below. Take care ,dani northcott

Janet Downs's picture
Tue, 24/04/2012 - 15:40

According to the Independent, MPs have raised concerns "that a government quango responsible for investigating complaints against academies is failing to do so."

The chairman of the Commons Education Select Committee said that the Special Education Consortium (SEC) had "suggested that the EFA [Education Funding Agency] appears to be unaware that it should be investigating complaints about academies."

So Mr Gove abolishes the Young People's Learning Agency (YPLA), sets up another body under the auspices of the Department for Education and that organisation seems to be "unaware" whether it should be dealing with complaints other than ones concerning Independent Appeal Panels. Mr Gove told the Select Committee that he was confident that the YPLA had been dealing effectively with complaints up to this point (although this seems contradicted by the Basildon parents) but he had a "duty" to look into the concerns voiced by the SEC.

It's to be hoped that Mr Gove performs this duty sooner rather than later.

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Wed, 25/04/2012 - 14:08

Steady on, Janet. Don't rush to judgment or you'll have Gove on here complaining "You gave me a detention for nuffink!"

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Wed, 25/04/2012 - 14:15

I'm sure he treat his responsibility to ensure there are proper avenues through which parents can pursue concerns about schools so flippantly Ricky.

I think he's been seriously misled by people with no real insight or relevant experience but I don't think he doesn't care.

dave's picture
Wed, 25/04/2012 - 22:43

as pupils of the basildon academies are asked to follow the school charter how can the headmaster iniate saturday morning detentions without the said saturday morning detention being stated in the school charter for the 2011-2012 curriculum year.

Vicky Mackenzie's picture
Sat, 05/05/2012 - 22:03

Hi Dani,

Thanks for your message, hope it all went well today, we felt better after speaking to your dad and alasdair from AAA, sorry we didn't get to meet you but we didn't feel right going to the lower academy today, as we have had no involvement with the Head there. Iv'e joined your group on facebook and you have our full support. Keep us updated on how you get on and keep in touch! x

Fiona Millar's picture
Wed, 09/05/2012 - 09:47

I went to the launch of the RSA Academies Commission yesterday. .
The chair Christine Gilbert seemed keep to hear from parents about their experiences in academies in particular how easy they find the relationship with the school especially when it comes to raising concerns and having their voices heard without a local authority as a point of last resort.
The LSN will be giving evidence to the Commission so if you would like us to pass on any comments, please contact us at the e-mail below. Alternatively you could ask to give evidence in person by following the link above.

kirsty's picture
Fri, 06/09/2013 - 15:33

any advice it happening to my child too and its really pissing me off

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