I have got an article in today's Guardian
about how schools, including academies, are forging new relationships with their local authorities and with each other. My piece also poses the question of why we need to re-invent a 'middle tier' when, as the Leader of Lambeth Council Steve Reed points out "We don't need to create a new middle tier. We already have one and its called the local authority."
Sadly too late for my piece, I received an e-mail from Helen Anthony, head teacher of the high performing and very popular Fortismere School
in the more affluent part of the London Borough of Haringey. She wanted to tell me about how passionately heads in her area were about working collaboratively to support all children in their area, not just their own. More evidence that in the face of a nationally led drive for a more fragmented school system, institutions on the ground are actively seeking to create strong, accountable community links.
In particular Mrs Anthony wanted to tell me about how strongly she felt about the way students from the less well -heeled parts of Haringey have been demonised by both media and politicians following the riots last summer and the forced acadamisation of several primary schools when , as she put it: " the young people of Haringey have the right to live and learn without having to deal with the additional stigma of being Haringey residents in general and Tottenham specifically as presented in the press time after time. "
Earlier this year Mrs Anthony wrote to her own school community along the same lines in a newsletter which read:" I am really saddened every time I read yet another negative article about Haringey in general and Tottenham specifically and can only assume that the ‘outside world’s’ view of our special corner of London must be very tainted by now. Readers of the TES (Times Educational Supplement) will have become almost immune to the weekly stories about Downhills Primary and the fact that time and time again, Gove has placed Haringey firmly on the ‘naughty steps’!
"Is this really it? Is Haringey always to be judged guilty until proven innocent? Are we, the people of Haringey, prepared to sit back and let our reputation be dragged through the ‘mud’ in this way time and time again?
"As we approach the anniversary of the events that shocked and saddened Tottenham’s community and indeed the whole country, we are mindful of the damage that did to peoples’ lives, children’s futures and yes, our collective reputation as Haringey residents. My fellow Secondary Head colleagues and I have talked a great deal about the many successes in terms of results, Ofsted inspections and the countless other successes of the students and staff it is our privilege to work with but where is the media coverage of this?"
Now Haringey Secondary Heads , four of whom run outstanding schools, have now adopted the mantra "accountable for some, responsible for all". And at Gladesmore Community School
in Tottenham ( also an outstanding school) head Tony Hartney and his students have put together a song "Everybody Dreams"
, which will be released in August, to try and show a positive side to the area which they love .
The song is being actively promoted by Fortismere because Helen Anthony believes that students and residents in her more leafy part of the borough have a "moral duty" to support all students in Haringey. This chimes with comments made in my Guardian piece today by Alan Wood, now Director of Children's Services in Hackney but who, for the last ten years, has overseen stunning improvements in one of the most deprived boroughs in the country as Chief Executive of the Learning Trust which took over Hackney education just over ten years ago.
Wood has a similar expression he uses about the mix of Hackney academy and non academy schools " They may not be our schools, but they are still our children."When I was writing the article he told me: "Local authorities that are actively trying to push their schools out and relinquish their role are in my view not confident about their moral purpose and responsibility".
In their small way comments like these make me optimistic that, out of the chaos that the government seems hell-bent on creating, a new order will emerge in which people can celebrate success jointly and re-discover that together we can achieve more than we can alone.Do please watch out for and spread the word about the Gladesmore song. It is a dream worth believing in.