B’Ham: Colmore parents campaign for consultation re academy conversion; plus more questions about enforced academisation

Janet Downs's picture
Parents at Colmore Junior and Infants Schools, Birmingham, are campaigning for a full consultation before school Governors vote for both schools to become academies. They feel parents have only been given information in support of conversion and want to know any possible negative consequences.

They’re also concerned some of the information they’ve been given is suspect. They’ve heard Birmingham Council finances are close to collapse, for example, and that academy conversion will “futureproof” the school, whatever that means.

Colmore Junior and Infants Schools are affiliated to the Elliot Foundation which runs academies in West Midlands, London and East Anglia. In March 2012, Education Investor described the Foundation as a new chain which would fill a “really big gap in the market”. Its director, Dr Caroline Whalley, hoped to expand to a chain of 200 schools but would stop at 100 if it began to “creak structurally”.

It’s not known whether Colmore Junior and Infants Schools would become stand-alone academies or join the Elliot Foundation chain. The Foundation is named in the Birmingham Mail as the sponsor of three Birmingham primaries: Billesley Primary School, Shirestone Community Primary and Tiverton Junior and Infants.

According to the Birmingham Mail, all sponsored primary academies in Birmingham were “struggling”. But did this apply to the three schools now sponsored by the Elliot Foundation?

Billesley had been judged Satisfactory overall with good leadership and management in May 2012 after having been in Special Measures. Inspectors said the “committed” staff and Governors had taken effective action; attainment was lower than national expectations but Billesley's attainment was “improving securely”.

Tiverton might have been described as “struggling” because just 55% of pupils reached Level 4 in 2011. Despite this, however, Ofsted judged Tiverton Junior and Infants to be Good in November 2011.

Shirestone Community Primary was not “struggling”: 75% of pupils in 2011 reached Level 4 and Ofsted had judged it Good in March 2010.

This raises the question why these three schools needed to become sponsored academies, the Government-promoted "remedy" for turning round “failing” schools. But the evidence above suggests these three schools were not failing.

The Radio 4 programme, The Report, spoke to heads who had no idea why their schools had been targeted for enforced conversion and they couldn’t get any firm information from the Department for Education (DfE). The BBC described the DfE action as intimidation.

As time goes on, more questions emerge about academy conversion whether by one-sided consultations or enforcement.

Colmore parents are right to petition for a full and open consultation.
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