One of Gove’s Seven Samurai commits hari-kari

Janet Downs's picture
One of Gove’s “Magnificent Seven” superheads, Greg Wallace, executive principal at the Best Start Foundation (BSF) has resigned, the Independent reports.  This follows his suspension in July during investigations into the award of a contract to a computer firm owned by someone closely connected to the Wallace. 

The Independent says Hackney council has withdrawn “power over financial and staffing matters” from the Federation.  A local paper reported a spokesman from Hackney Learning Trust: no compromise deal had been agreed with Wallace.

Wallace became head of Woodberry Down in 2001 after it amalgamated with another school.  The first Ofsted* in 2003 found “serious weaknesses” but by 2005 it had become “very good” on the seven-point scale in operation at the time.  It was judged “Outstanding” in 2008 and again in 2012.

Three Federation schools improved while Wallace was executive principal – the newest edition to the Federation hasn’t been inspected yet.   But not all BSF school staff were happy – they accused Wallace of using heavy-handed methods.  Unions claimed a number of so-called “gagging orders” imposed on ex-members of BSF staff would frustrate investigations into circumstances surrounding the award of the contract.

Gove praised Wallace in March 2012 – students at his school, Woodberry Down, were “enthusiastic devourers of very book they can get their hands on by years 4, 5 and 5”.

He studiously avoided mentioning the 2011 Sat results which fell to 66% from 80% in 2010.  Gove usually claims a figure of 66% achieving Level 4 shows a school is “failing”.  But Ofsted* had judged Woodberry Down “Outstanding” so maybe Gove was right to turn a Nelsonian blind eye to the 2011 results and those of 2009 (67%).   Perhaps he should be as magnanimous to other schools with previously positive Ofsted* judgements where results fall below 70% instead of sending in brokers to make them an offer they can't refuse.

The Hackney Gazette said BSF had asked Gove to intervene – he has refused to do so.

Wallace was on Lord Bew’s Review of KS2 Testing and Accountability and the Teachers’ Standards Review Group where he was joined by another of Gove’s Seven Samurai, Patricia Sowter.

Gove often praises Sowter.  He’s exaggerated results at her school Cuckoo Hall and claimed she led the school from special measures to Outstanding.  But Cuckoo Hall came out of special measures in 1999 and the last full Ofsted* in 2001 said Cuckoo Hall was “very effective”.  Sowter was not head in 2001.

A third samurai was Pete Birkett “who leads the Barnfield Federation - whose studio school is delivering an amazing technical and academic education…”

However, schools minister Lord Nash, doesn’t agree with his boss or Ofsted* which had judged the school “Good”.   He’s sent Barnfield Federation a pre-warning letter.

Gove’s Department isn’t happy either.  It’s investigating Barnfield Federation particularly the finances of Barnfield College when Sir Peter**, who’s now joined for-profit education provider GEMS, was in charge.   The Federation’s been chosen to run a new primary in Ely despite being under investigation.  Three local MPs, including Conservative Nadine Dorries, have expressed concern.

And the head of Barnfield Moorlands Free School left after just a couple of terms citing undue interference from the Federation - this was denied.

But there's a silver lining: Barnfield Federation was named best  “School operator – academy chain” for 2013 by Education Investor.



*Citing Ofsted judgements does not imply agreement.

**Although Sir Peter has left the Federation, he is still a director of Barnfield Studio School, Barnfield Metaswitch Academy Trust and Barnfield Schole Academy Trust.
Share on Twitter Share on Facebook

Be notified by email of each new post.

Add new comment

Already a member? Click here to log in before you comment. Or register with us.