DfE “guided” schools to us, says chain which immediately sacked two-thirds of its heads on conversion

Janet Downs's picture
‘Most of TKAT’s academies have come through brokerage ie the governing body of the school has been “guided” by the DfE/LA to choose TKAT.’

Written evidence to Education Select Committee by The Kemnal Academies Trust (TKAT), November 2013.

Would these be the tactics which John Pugh, MP, described as being from the “Vito Corleone textbook”?

Yesterday, Warwick Mansell wrote in the Guardian that TKAT removed two-thirds of heads when it took over schools. Earlier the Guardian had reported about the surprise departure from TKAT’s Weyfield primary academy of Simon Wood, the head described by Ofsted in January 2013 as inspirational, who left suddenly at Christmas. It appears Wood wanted to join another chain and TKAT said he needn’t work his notice which expired at Easter. But parents still aren’t happy: they know where their popular head has gone (at least “he isn’t being tortured in some Goviet gulag with all TKAT’s other missing heads”) but not why the sudden departure.

This brings us back to the first question about questionable tactics. A former Weyfield governor of 20 years, Keith Chesterton, in a letter to the local press, claimed Weyfield had been “told” by the Department for Education (DfE) to become an academy in early 2012. Governors, Chesterton writes, wanted to join George Abbot School’s multi academy trust instead of TKAT as it was the “local option”. TKAT was “instantly angry”, the DfE was “furious” and “bullied and threatened” the Governors. Despite the involvement of local MP, Ann Milton, Chesterton says “Gove and his fellow Ministers” wouldn’t be swayed.

TKAT has grown rapidly in the last two years. It now has 40 academies, up from 10 (8 secondaries and 2 primaries) in 2011. The Academies Commission warned a year ago it believed some chains were growing too rapidly. But the DfE continues to “guide” schools to its chain despite sending TKAT two warning letters about results in two of its academies in 2013.

It’s possible, however, that TKAT may have done schools a favour in warning them that heads would likely be sacked if schools were “guided” into the TKAT fold. Instead of following like sheep they might just bolt off in another direction.
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David Barry's picture
Thu, 30/01/2014 - 19:38

I would make the point that in a community school, like the one where I am a Governor, (I was the chair for a bit, and would say from that experience that it was both the most worthwhile job I have ever done, and one I feel rather relieved to be no longer doing) the ONLY people who can remove the Head are the Governing Body, which includes as a formal legal requirement a substantial portion of elected, Parent Governors. (We also have more parents than that, coopted for expertise reasons).

So decisions are made by people who know they have to stand up for them, in the playground....

Janet Downs's picture
Fri, 31/01/2014 - 08:37

David - you're right. But when community schools become academies this check is removed.

TKAT changed their academies' governance as it admits:

"In most of our academies governance has also changed."

and, if 6 weekly targets "for progress" aren't met:

"If an academy does not meet these targets then senior leaders and/or governance are changed."

David Barry's picture
Fri, 31/01/2014 - 14:56

Janet, on reflection my first sentence should have read:

"I would make the point, that iin a community school, like the one where I am a Governor BUT UNLIKE AN ACADEMY OR FREE SCHOOL'

Actually so far as I can tell, and would welcome clarification on this point, in an Academy of Free School the appointment and removal of a Head is a matter for the Trust and actualy not for the Governing Body unless the Trust chooses to delegate this function to the Governing Body. Even then a majority of the Governing Body are appointed by the Trust, which also determines how large the Governing Body is with the only elected representatives being two parent governors, and only two.

David Barry's picture
Fri, 31/01/2014 - 14:57

But am I correct in this?

Janet Downs's picture
Fri, 31/01/2014 - 16:39

If we look at what ARK says, it appears ARK Schools (the charitable trust) is the "legally responsible governing body" for all ARK academies. In practice, it says it delegates "most relevant governance functions" to the Local Governing Body (LGB). But then it goes on to say the LGB has no statutory functions so it can concentrate on "strategy, school outcomes and aspiration".

Quite who's responsible for appointing or sacking the head is unclear. In any case, the LGB is stuffed full of governors appointed by ARK including the Chair so it's likely the LGB would go along with whatever ARK proposed.


I suppose this is typical.

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