Join the fight to stop academy plans for Hove Park School

Natasha Steel's picture
I first heard about plans to turn Hove Park School in East Sussex into an academy less than a month ago and already campaigning against it has become a major part of my life. An email from the local branch of the Trades Council alerted me to the plan and an intended meet-up of parents at the school gates the same day to lobby a governors meeting.

We duly turned out - about 30 of us - parents, carers, students, NUT officials, councillors and even a couple of brave teachers. Both my daughters who are in Year 10 and the Sixth Form also turned out I'm proud to say.

We gathered signatures and exchanged emails and started to put a plan into action. Within a day the students had set up a Facebook page - and a vigorous discussion was going on - the advantage of being one of the first schools in the country to rollout iPads to all students (underpinned by local authority credit).

This helped the students rally and organise their own peaceful demonstration during the lunchbreak - over 100 young people were involved and their efforts won coverage in the local paper.

Meanwhile an online petition was set up and has already attracted over 1,000 signatures. Support came in from activists Peter Tatchell and Mark Thomas and local Green MP Caroline Lucas has helped collect petition signatures on the street.

Soon the HPS Campaign had over 100 members and an organising committee was set up. Leaflets have been handed out to local primary schools, letters have been written to the paper, but we are still worried that a lot of parents do not know the full implications of becoming an academy.

Parents are struggling to understand why such a move should be made when the school is one of the most improved (and innovative) in the country - all achieved under local authority control.

Teachers are strongly against the move - a union ballot showed that 91% rejected the plan which will weaken their pay and conditions and could lead to the recruitment of unqualified staff.

To date, the only communication sent out to parents is an inaccurate and clearly biased document that speaks of a 'moral imperative' to become an academy. As parents we still have no indication of how and when the promised consultation will take place and our repeated requests for more information have been met with a wall of silence.

For this reason, tomorrow night, Tuesday 29th April we are holding our own Public Meeting at Bishop Hannington Church, Nevill Avenue, Hove, at 6.30pm. We urge anyone in Brighton & Hove who believes in a fair, equal, high quality state education system to join us and help put this plan where it belongs - in the bin.
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Laura McInerney's picture
Mon, 28/04/2014 - 15:25

A few questions are needed to dig more here:
(1) Is the school planning to become a standalone academy, or to join a chain? This is important as it might be that a chain is offering expertise or resources the school can't access through the local authority (especially in the context of shrinking council budgets). It's worth knowing what those are so they can be balanced against any issues with leaving authority oversight.
(2) What else does the document say about this 'moral imperative'? Surely it says more than that?
(3) It is best to get all the facts of conversion before leaping to campaign. (Bit late on this). With consultation, if you want it to be taken seriously, it needs to be fair and impartial, and if parents have already started ganging up together in advance it can look as if the process has been aped by a few extremists. That's not a good position to allow yourselves to be painted into. This doesn't mean you shouldn't organise but try to focus on getting as much information as possible and giving it to people in as untainted a way as possible - rather than immediately leaping on the defensive.

Good luck with the campaign though.I'm sure you are working to do the best you can for your children and others in the community.

Natasha Steel's picture
Mon, 28/04/2014 - 16:04

Hi Laura
Thank you for commenting on my post and for your observations.
The plan is for Hove Park to be the lead school in a multi-academy trust. The leaflet we have received says it would not be a sponsored academy and would not be controlled by any external organisation or sponsor.
As you suggest, the leaflet says other things too - for example, it says "We would still follow the same Pay and Conditions policies as Local Authority schools in Brighton & Hove".
However, none of the above can be guaranteed as academy schools are no longer under local authority governance and regulation and a different leadership team might see things differently in the future.
The blog was my personal account and the action I have taken is in keeping with my own view that local authority schools should be kept in the control of the local authority rather than taken out of it. I don't believe there is a model for academies to remain in local authority control so there isn't another position I would take on this issue.
I think the suggestion that there is a 'moral imperative' to take the school in this direction indicates the bias of the leadership team prior to a full consultation and that is the point I wanted to make. As the head teacher told parents that there were no plans to turn Hove Park into an academy when he joined the school in 2011, many parents feel betrayed that this is even being explored.
As a campaign group we are very much trying to seek more information as you suggest, initially just information on the form of the consultation process is proving very hard to come by.
Although it is easy for the school to mail all parents as and when it likes, we do not have such a database, so we are having to use all the techniques described to reach parents -I don't consider relaying our views in the media, social media, handing out leaflets, contacting the school governors and organising a meeting to be 'ganging up' - we are trying to give people an opportunity to hear another side of the debate, one which the school does not seem inclined to share.
Thanks for you good wishes.

Guest's picture
Mon, 28/04/2014 - 17:13

Hove Park has made remarkable improvements thanks to the leadership of the Headmaster and Governing Body. To continue this improvement the excellent leadership team feel that exploring the opportunity to become an academy is worth exploring. The majority of parents support the leadership team.

The NUT, Anti Academies Alliance, and a small group of parents are mounting a campaign against this. Would that be an accurate summary of the situation Natasha?
Further the claim that "the only communication sent out is an inaccurate and clearly biased document" is simply not true.

John Mountford's picture
Mon, 28/04/2014 - 19:02

Guest, we all know a little about Natasha Steel. As a parent of Hove Park students, she has expressed her views. We now know your views and, respectfully, it might be helpful if we also knew a little about your connection with the school.

Sharon Duggal's picture
Mon, 28/04/2014 - 19:42

Dear "Guest"
HPS Campaign is made up of genuinely concerned parents/carers (almost 150 people have joined the campaign group) and over 1300 who have signed the online and hard copy petitions - this is not a 'small number ' of parents but people who have come together as a collective voice so we can be heard. We agree that the school has made great strides over the last few years, which we as parents have wholly welcomed and contributed to (we have supported the school through this and have chosen HP for siblings of children who initially got allocated HPS when it wasn’t so good because we knew the fairer random allocation system would eventually bed in). Improvement is down to team work – better leadership but also passionate, committed teachers, supportive parents and a fair admissions (moving away from the inequalities of home to school distance) system implemented by a LA which is concerned for all children across the city, as we all should be. We are questioning why Hove Park needs to disrupt this steady improvement by seeking academy status and becoming a M.A.T rather than focusing on getting Hove Park to a place where it is an excellent local school for local families, under the watch of the LA. We don’t see the need to opt-out, with all the uncertainties this brings, particularly at this rather crucial juncture in the development of the school in terms of improvement. We are disappointed by the limited amount of consultation offered on this proposal and the speed at which it appears to be happening. We have had little response to our requests for a robust and open process which is why we have to campaign for this.

Please can you evidence your claim that the majority of parents support the leadership team in exploring academy status?

Re: inaccuracies in the proposal – please see letter below sent to the parent/carer group and to the Head/Governing Body.

Date: Mon, 28 Apr 2014 09:13:20 +0100

Dear Editor,

When decisions that could change the lives of children are being made there is a moral obligation to put argument accurately and factually. Having seen Hove Park School’s proposal to convert to an academy I must question some of the claims made by the school. The proposal claims that becoming an academy is necessary because ‘as a local authority school we would simply not be listened to by central government or other funding agencies’. Last year, I retired as Senior Advisor at the Department of Education after 14 years with the Department and its funding agencies. I can state with certainty that no Minster or civil servant has ever suggested that ‘local authority schools’ ‘would not be listened to’ by the Department or Funding Agency. Indeed, given that more than two thirds of all schools in England are still local authority schools this claim seems entirely without foundation. The proposal also implies that conversion to an academy would generate more funding for the school. To quote directly from the Department’s guidance on Academy funding: ‘Academies (including special academies) are funded on the same basis as maintained schools ...’. So why has this fact been omitted from the proposal? I am not a Hove Park School parent, member of staff or Governor but I wonder why a document with unsubstantiated claims is being presented by the Chair of Governors to parents. What could be the reason?

Aidan Pettitt

Sharon Duggal's picture
Mon, 28/04/2014 - 20:21

Also, "Guest", do come to the meeting tomorrow - there will be a range of voices on the proposal, something not currently being offered by the school. Speakers include: students, parents, local Conservative councillor, Green Party Cllr who is also Chair of Children/Young people Committee in the City as well as NUT rep and others. There will also be parents/carers asking questions. You may want to openly respond some of the questions/comments raised.

Guest's picture
Tue, 29/04/2014 - 08:45

My rather simple points are are that the original posting was both incorrect and very biased. Secondly there is a democratically elected Governing Body - it is their decision, parents, teachers, staff, local council rep all sit on the Governing Body.
It's funny how you all claim to want an LA school which is locally accountable BUT you do not want them to make decisions.
Whenever you have a campaign involving the NUT, Anti Academies Alliance and their associated friends you will end up with a large number of people lined up against the schools leadership and Governing Body. Only one side really cares about the school and is not politically and ideologically driven. Who really cares about this school?

Arvids's picture
Sat, 10/05/2014 - 18:58

For information.
The Governing Body is not 'democratically elected'.
Currently, just three parent governors are elected by parents.
Community governors are not elected.
Local authority governors are appointed by the council.

Natasha Steel's picture
Sun, 11/05/2014 - 22:45

Just to clarify - our understanding is that out of five elected parent governor posts at Hove Park School one has been unfilled since December 2013. Of the remaining four, two posts expired at the end of April 2014.
We are working to understand what this means in terms of parent representation, but as no elections have taken place for any of these posts, it looks like we are sorely lacking a full democratically elected Governing Body that represents parents at Hove Park.

agov's picture
Mon, 12/05/2014 - 08:00

You mean this? -

"2.1.1.Schools must make every reasonable effort to fill parent governor vacancies through elections. Only if insufficient parents stand for election can the governing body appoint:
(a)a parent of a registered pupil at the school, or if that is not possible,
(b)a parent of a former pupil at the school, or if that is not possible,
(c)a parent of a child of or under compulsory school age.

That would probably mean something like advertising a parent governor vacancy before it arises or not later than within 3 or 4 weeks of it having arisen. If there are insufficient candidates than probably the nomination process should be repeated within a few weeks before considering an appointed parent governor.

If the school is ignoring its responsibilities you could ask the local authority what their policy is and whether they will intervene. Of course that may a political matter as well as legal.

One might guess that the school is not filling parent governor vacancies ready for having no more than the minimum required number of 2, after all that "effective consultation" they're up to.

David Barry's picture
Mon, 12/05/2014 - 15:18

Natasha as Agov says there are two aspects to this issue:-

The legal position is that the original responsibility for holding Parent Governor elections in a community school is actually the Local Authority, in this case the City of Brighton and Hove. However LA's dont normally actually run parent governor elections (tho' I have known of some who did) instead they delegate the responsibility to the Head of the school who is then the returning officer. Which, for example, is the way it works in Islington. There is, so far as I know, nothing to stop the LA from stepping in at any time and organising a Parent Governor election, taking back this responsibility from the Head. They would need a good reason to do this, no doubt and an example could be a case where the election seems certain to divide the parents voting into two blocs, for and against a policy with which the Head has become identified, thereby making it difficult for him to show the required impartiality of a returning Officer.

The practical position is that the parent body should start a petition, limited to parents, asking for the parent governor elections to be held as soon as possible, and asking the Head to request the LA to manage them in view of his conflict of interest. The petition should be framed entirely in terms of giving parents the opportunity to vote in the context of an important issue regarding the future direction of the school, and not give any indication regarding how people should vote.

It would be a courtesy, and appropriate, to inform the Head that you were doing this, giving him the opportunity to set things in motion before a petition actually circulated. let alone submitted.

This link has more information about parent governor elections:

jennyquestions's picture
Mon, 28/04/2014 - 18:55

Hello Guest,
If you really "...feel that exploring the opportunity to become an academy is worth exploring" you'll be wanting an accurate and unbiased account of how the corporate reform of schooling is playing out over the pond in the US. It's worth reading up on because the Americans have got a headstart on us and it's not a pretty picture! Can I suggest 'Reign of Error' by Diane Ravitch?

Factfinder's picture
Mon, 28/04/2014 - 19:11

I think a lot of these comments address the sentiment amongst most perfectly. This is a bit of an aggressive attack that fails to take into consideration the key facts.

Whether Mr Trimmer said he was against academies or not back in 2011, times change. We've all seen this in the news, especially with the cut to state funding (resulting in parents being asked to pay for resources), changes to GCSE exams and the abolition of the 1265 contract proposed by the government.

The basic facts are that if Hove Park don't make the move now, chances are that Gove will force their arm before the next two years are out. If that happens, the govt get to say who sponsors Hove Park and the school wouldn't have a say.

Surely exploring the possibility of sidestepping such government interference and branching out alone, with the possibility to lead others (as opposed to dropping all of the hard work done so far to follow another, other school's policies) is worth exploring?

As for the document saying little more than it's morally imperative - well, that's just codswallop. The document explains all of the above very clearly.

I'm unsure why this hasn't been filtered to people reading this blog.

Facts are really important here if you want to be taken seriously. Please do the right thing and tell people everything, so we can all make an informed and educated decision.

David Barry's picture
Mon, 28/04/2014 - 22:34

Factfinder, it would be helpful if someone were to post on this blog a copy of the document.

Arvids's picture
Sat, 10/05/2014 - 19:02

Dear Factfinder
Waving the apparent threat of compulsory conversion is plain scare mongering.
Proposing compulsory academisation of remaining secondary schools in the run up to a general election would be political madness. What government would want to pick an unnecessary fight with tens of thousands of parents?
And even if Gove wanted to, it would be blocked by Downing Street. It's not part of the Coalition Agreement and would not get through.

David Barry's picture
Tue, 27/05/2014 - 09:12

Well, at long last a document putting the schools, in fact, pretty explicitly, the Head's case for Academy status, has been made public on this link here:

I find it interesting that the case FOR conversion is, it appears, only being made AFTER the consultation has taken place.

Rosie Fergusson's picture
Mon, 28/04/2014 - 22:34

If Hove school is to be the lead of a multi-academy trust then a good question is whther the head propsoes to style themsleves "Executive Head" and get themselves a nice big pay rise ...this is a typical result of academisation and could even be a driver in the first place...senior leadership teams creating their own empires.

A constant issue , and has always been, the refusal of schools up and down the UK to clarify exactly what their problems with the local authorities are but I can guess.
Whilst governors are to be critical friends to school there is no mechanism for schools or governing bodies to challenge the decisions or deficiencies int he local authorities.

Adam Powley's picture
Tue, 29/04/2014 - 07:24

I am a parent with two children at HPS, who have both benefitted from the excellent environment at the school, built on the hard work of the head, teachers and pupils, under local authority control. The phrase 'if it aint broke, dont fix it' springs to mind. As it stands there is no convincing justification for conversion.

With reference to 'guest' and Factfinder's comments, some specific points which may be worth considering.

Re: the threat of 'forced conversion'.There are nearly 20,000 schools and academies in England; less than a third are academies. Around 14,000 schools are not academies. It is true that a majority of secondary schools are now academies but around 40% of secondaries are still NOT academies. It's not really credible to argue that this suggests there is no alternative to conversion right now.

The suggestion that forced conversion is a threat is misleading. The minister can forcibly convert a failing school but HPS is not failing - so forced conversion should not be a consideration. However, if the school converts and then fails (as have other converted academies) the secretary of state can choose or replace the sponsor. The key point here is not the status of the school but the performance of the school. Evidence suggests that 'failure' is not avoided more by academies than by non academies. Avoiding the forced imposition of a sponsor can be best served by concentrating on maintaining performance at HPS - not by distractions in setting up Multi-Academy Trusts and taking on/over other schools.

The fait accompli that government will 'force' a change is challengeable. There will be a General Election in 12 months. It is probable that the broad academy policy might continue whatever the result, but the suggestion that the current academy policy will definitely continue as is is pre-judging an outcome. Converting now might be premature. An option to consider is to wait and see what any revised policies will entail.

WRT the communication from the head and governors: they have not explained how conversion will improve performance, increase funding or benefit pupils. These are the fundamental questions it is natural for parents, teachers and pupils to have, yet they have noty been addressed. Nor is there any justification for the claims of 'moral imperatives' or 'being listened to', while any suggestion that only a minority of parents oppose conversion needs to be backed up.

To that end, the governors could perhaps offer a binding parental vote - rather than take the decision for such a fundamental step themselves.


Janet Downs's picture
Tue, 29/04/2014 - 07:45

Adam - Emma Knights, Chief Executive National Governors' Association, told the Education Select Committee on 9 April 2014:

"... in a way, conversion is so last year. Now, we do not get our members talking to us about whether they should convert, because if they wanted to do it, by and large they have done it. There are governing bodies that are coming back and looking at it every year—what they have said, very responsibly, is, “This might not be right for us in 2011, but we will look at it again on our strategy day and see whether it is right for us now.” So there will be a trickle of schools through..."

The initial rush to convert (prompted by the possibility of more money) has ended. And Emma Knights implies that the initial surge was perhaps irresponsible (eg ignoring the effect on primaries of secondary school conversion when LAs are left in a weaker position to support the former).

And claims of "moral imperatives" are weasel arguments - implying it's immoral not to convert. Those who use this argument are trying to grab the moral high ground. But the academies policy is built on myths regularly debunked on this site (see Henry Stewart's analyses for comparison between academies and similar non-academies; also the Academies Commission's comments in faqs above).

Roger Titcombe's picture
Tue, 29/04/2014 - 15:32

I was deeply involved in the protracted parental campaign against the Barrow-in-Furness Academy plan. The campaign was ultimately unsuccessful, with Ed Balls finally signing the Funding Agreement some weeks after the new term should have started in September 2009. Our campaign produced a petition signed by 6000 local people and the election of five anti-academy independent councillors representing all the catchment area wards, to the Borough Council ejecting the former leader of the council in the process. In the following county council election an anti-academy independent county councillor was elected to the ward where the new academy building is now located.

That is history. Our campaign group dissolved itself immediately the Funding Agreement was signed and ceased all campaigning in the hope that despite all our fears the new Academy would be successful. The ensuing Academy has been a catastrophe for its pupils, staff and the town. It has never been out of trouble with Ofsted and remains in Special Measures. The disaster is not confined to the Academy and its now closed predecessor schools but has infected the other two secondary schools in the town which are now also in trouble with Ofsted. This has its roots in town wide changes to the pattern of secondary provision in the town brought about by the creation of the Academy

This however is not the point of this post. The point is that the heads of all the now closed predecessor schools and their chairs of governors, together with the heads and governors of the other two schools now also in trouble, all supported the Academy plan. This is remarkable because the plan was a complete and utter lemon from its very inception, and obviously so to virtually everybody except the heads, the chairs of governors and the Labour and Conservative councillors that forced it through.

It is would be very hard to find anybody in the town who now believes the Academy plan was a good idea.

So, Guest, it would not surprise me in the least if heads and chairs of governors are supporting the scheme that is the subject of this post.

Fiona Millar's picture
Tue, 29/04/2014 - 18:27

We would be very happy to hear from any of the parents and governors who are actively supporting this academy conversion. The parents who are campaigning against this seem to feel the case hasn't been well made - so let's see the case.

Natasha Steel's picture
Tue, 29/04/2014 - 21:21

Over 150 people attended Hands Off Hove Park's first public meeting tonight and by a show of hands almost unanimously rejected the academy plan. The community is demanding a parental ballot and supports direct action to further the aims of the campaign.
The head and governors were invited to speak but unfortunately none accepted, although a Conservative councillor was on the panel.
As bizarre as this sounds - my children tell me the head returned yesterday from a trip to Saudi Arabia with Apple - Hove Park has pioneered an iPad rollout to all children - My hope is that he hasn't picked up any tips on democracy, consultation and governance while he was there.
We're anticipating widespread media coverage tomorrow and the fight goes on.

John Mountford's picture
Tue, 29/04/2014 - 22:07

Well it now seems, Natasha, that Guest was a little off the mark. S/he seemed concerned that your views about Hove Park, as expressed in the article, did not represent a balanced view. This story has far to run me thinks, and may well convince a lot of ordinary people that there is something not so wholesome going on in many of our schools. If academies work for the communities they serve, simple logic would allow them to continue. The same should apply to Hove Park and any other LA schools that are serving their communities satisfactorily. In such a spirit of 'fairness' it is good to read of the proposal to call for a parental ballot.

Guest had this to say at an earlier point, "Only one side really cares about the school and is not politically and ideologically driven. Who really cares about this school?"

I think I know who s/he believes 'really cares' and I kinda disagree! As to political ideology, well, I think most of us also know where the real problem lies.

If democracy works in the present politically destructive climate we live under, a ballot will finally tell us all 'who really cares.'

Good luck with the campaign.

jennyquestions's picture
Tue, 29/04/2014 - 22:17

Natasha, I'd also like to wish you good luck. The Hove Park story is currently playing out across the country in various permutations. It's not pretty and it's certainly not democratic. Here's a tale from Kent: property developers have offered an academy in Canterbury the chance of whole new premises at cost, and just ten miles up the road; naturally this premises would be in the middle of the housing that the same property developers are building. The governors have said yes to such an enticing offer. This leaves the parents of the children who attend that school to fight their corner. Of course they can't do that because it's an academy and it's been removed from local accountability.
If you find that an inspiring story you may well have come to the wrong website!

Roger Titcombe's picture
Wed, 30/04/2014 - 08:37

Natasha - I would be very worried about the iPad rollout, which are especially popular in Academies. There are many profound negative implications for the pupils and their unfortunate parents. The pupils can expect an iPad controlled tyranny of largely pointless but very time consuming homework set and carried out on the iPad all at the touch of the screen by a teacher. Parents have their freedom to decide if/when they want their children's lives to be dominated by these devices taken away from them. The precise nature of the commercial agreements entered into by schools need investigating. I have personal knowledge from a grandchild. This is worth another thread.

agov's picture
Wed, 30/04/2014 - 08:19

Sounds like a weak governing body obediently supporting the moral imperative of creating a higher pay structure for senior staff.

Natasha Steel's picture
Thu, 01/05/2014 - 08:55

Thank you for your support and encouragement. Here's local news coverage of our meeting Http://

Natasha Steel's picture
Sat, 03/05/2014 - 08:05

Our petition has well over 1,000 signatures now but we'd welcome more - do give us your support if you can http://ch.nge/1jVbQYW

Sharon Duggal's picture
Sat, 03/05/2014 - 12:56

...or try this petition link as that one seems to be a bit erratic:

Mark Radcliffe's picture
Sat, 03/05/2014 - 13:50

In specific response to 'factfinder's' observation about times changing and minds changing with them, it is a very important point. Indeed for many of us that is the problem. The same person who said two years ago 'there are no plans to become an academy' can say now 'there are no plans to recruit untrained teachers/accept sponsorship/turn the lower school campus into a shoe emporium' only to find times go and change.
The point of regulation is to protect important institutions and practice against whim, fancy and the fluctuations of taste that come with changing times.

Karla F.'s picture
Sat, 03/05/2014 - 21:05

here, here Mr Radcliffe

Factfinder's picture
Mon, 05/05/2014 - 17:06

The lack of trust on these pages is really quite saddening. Whatever happens, this man and his team have raised the quality of your children's education to the point that Hove Park is one of the most rapidly improved schools in the country. They did it through hard work, many (initially unpopular but later conceded as good) decisions and partnerships with academies across the country, including Perry Beeches, one of the best schools in the country for progress and improvement.

If Mr Trimmer and his team were just in this for a pay rise, and didn't have a genuine interest in becoming forerunners of education, then why haven't they just gone for a sponsor and said "be done with it"? That would have ensured the pay rises with much less work on the part of the senior teams.

I still don't know how I feel about the decisions being made but what I do know is that the leaders of Hove Park haven't given me any excuse to mistrust them so far. Every step they've taken has led to greater exam results, a higher quality
of student and teachers and a better, wider curriculum, even if I haven't always agreed at first. How many of us are educators who really understand how the education system works? Even Gove himself isn't truly clued up, so perhaps we ought to put a modicum of trust into those making the decisions for our children and await the outcomes.

There are interesting arguments on both sides, but referencing a comment about academies made back at a time when the option of a multi-academy trust didn't even exist is a little weak.

I don't know if it's because I've always been taught to take the positives out of situations, but why not look at how the school, the curriculum and, most importantly, the children could benefit from this move before making the premature decision that it's just about pay rises?

Ed Brennan's picture
Fri, 09/05/2014 - 12:19

I also perceive myself as a rational person who is willing to consider the arguments . However what you are proposing is blind allegiance because the academic results have shown improvement. I have found it insulting that there has been no attempt to follow a process of consultation. Objectively speaking Mr Trimmer is a self-confessed champion of Academy schools ( please review his literature and comments on the matter) and up to this point the teachers , parents and students views have not been taken on board. It saddens me that I have sat in groups where the governors of the school consciously decided not to reveal themselves, as no doubt they are feeling equally intimated as the teachers are ( as outlined by the teachers union who represent the 80% of teachers who are not in favour)

Can I strongly suggest that you open your eyes to what is happening here if you wish to move away from your sad emotional state.

Factfinder's picture
Mon, 05/05/2014 - 17:08

PS Academies are still subject to the same regulation - OFSTED, for example - as LEA maintained schools.

Pay and conditions and the recruitment of unqualified staff is an issue that affects all schools, as Gove makes moves to limit LEA control.

Brian's picture
Mon, 05/05/2014 - 18:17

Of course you make some valid points ...we are all in favour of securing the best education for pupils. However some of us are very wary of the 'times change' argument simply because we know of the international business interests hovering in the background waiting to step in and profit from English schools.

You also seem to have taken Gove's 'LEA control' oft-repeated comment at face value, just as the press does. I wonder if anyone can list what vital aspects of school management and day to day working is controlled by LEAs in a way which is different from academies? Such is the difference that Gove has had to create one by requiring LEA schools to teach the new national curriculum while requiring academies and free schools to only 'have regard to' the now non-national curriculum. Anybody seen a rational argument from Gove for that decision ... 'because I say so' won't do!

Janet Downs's picture
Tue, 06/05/2014 - 08:55

Brian - the myth about local authority control is tenacious and is, of course, wrong. LAs haven't "controlled" schools since Local Management of Schools was introduced a quarter-of-a-century ago.

The Academies Commission heard evidence from heads in academy chains who complained they had less freedom that when they were LA maintained. The desire by executive principals and head office to impose conformity is strong. The trouble is that no candidate for headship in one of these chains would get the job unless s/he said s/he was fully committed to the chain's "ethos". Just take a look at the secondary academies sponsored by Greenwood Dale Foundation Trust - identical looking websites containing similar letters from the heads saying how extremely proud they are to work for the Trust.

Natasha Steel's picture
Mon, 05/05/2014 - 20:08

Yes, the head of Hove Park, along with some very hard work from students and staff, has achieved 'good' status - from a very low starting point. I should think he has - that is his job. We'd looking at a very different thread on here if he hadn't.

Whether Mr Trimmer's personal motivation for the move to academy status is higher pay, only he can know. The fact is that the more schools that come into the academy trust, the higher the pay of the head goes. Having recently been appointed as Executive Head of West Blatchington Primary, Mr Trimmer has experience of these rewards.

A sponsor may not be part of the plan currently being pushed at parents, but, judging by the pace of this planned conversion, one could be introduced in the blink of an eye. If this new Trust was to find itself in financial difficulties it would probably be inevitable.

One of the problems with having a sponsor is that the sponsor's ethos, values and even their brand and products and services can be pushed in the school regardless of the needs and best interests of the school or the children. Parents would have very little say about this, no Governing Body to represent them and no recourse to the local authority.

If all the local schools are in the one trust, parents would also have no choice of a school with a different ethos.

Even if all the schools in a local authority converted to academy status, the LA would still have statutory responsibility to provide all children with an education, however it would now have no budget to do so. These selective and competing schools are already proven to expel more pupils than LA maintained schools and are less likely to deliver more intensive special needs provision. While no converting school intends to withdraw education from certain children or categories of children, it could be an inevitable consequence of the 'efficiency' in the business model.

Janet Downs's picture
Tue, 06/05/2014 - 08:40

Natasha - you're right to raise the question of choice when an academy chain has the monopoly in a particular area. This is what has happened in Pimlico - three of the four primary schools are now run by Future Academies. All three will offer the same curriculum in the same sequence.

One of the so-called freedoms associated with academy status is that heads can opt-out of centrally-prescribed curricula and develop their own. But Future Academies schools have less freedom to adapt their curricula than schools which have to follow the national curriculum which do, in any, case have some leeway.

Factfinder's picture
Wed, 07/05/2014 - 09:45

It may be worth checking out the latest edition of Parklife, where the senior team and governors answer most of the questions posed above in a series of PDF docs.

It's very detailed and upends a lot of the arguments posted here, especially the point concerning LEA admissions, SEN policies and expulsion/refusal to admit students.

I think it's unfair to say that the school improvements should have happened because that's the head's job. You and I in our research have seen of many schools that have had good heads but have failed to deliver progress or results. It's not as easy as saying it's a job - it takes time, good knowledge of the students and a lot of difficult decisions that staff often dislike/protest/argue. Show me an improving school that hasn't upset staff or parents at some point and I'll reconsider.

The point about Future Academies is an odd one - yes, if a curriculum is bad then sharing it is a terrible idea, but let's be sensible - is that really going to happen? From what I've seen, Hove Park's curriculum has become wider-reaching, more challenging and has led to progress and improvement. I hear murmurs that students at other schools are now reading the same texts/tackling the same subjects a year later - so aligning the curriculum is already happening.

Why don't we trust our educators to do the right thing? From what I can see, good schools share good practice. I think I quite like the idea of my child's school leading the way and sharing excellent ideas with others.

Factfinder's picture
Wed, 07/05/2014 - 09:47

agov's picture
Wed, 07/05/2014 - 12:05

I'll give them marks for providing information about sources of information that are not gushingly enthusiastic about academies.

Much of the rest consists of tendentious/dubious claims about money and standards.

They do appear, unlike you, to recognise that this is a political matter and not just educational.

Their consultation process largely seems to get everything in place and then have a chat with parents (- in separate groups). As the CoG says they want "an effective consultation" they cannot complain, as you appear to do, if parents don't like the idea.

Francesca Garlake's picture
Wed, 07/05/2014 - 12:53

Factfinder, if the curriculum is already wider reaching and more challenging, and something to be emulated why does the school need to be an academy to improve the curriculum? And why does a school need to be an academy to lead the way and share ideas? I thought the school were doing that already too.

Factfinder's picture
Wed, 07/05/2014 - 14:25

Because under the LEA, the school would have to follow any hare-brained, rote-learning scheme the government come up with?

Brian's picture
Wed, 07/05/2014 - 14:56

Fair point. Government strategy ... make things so impossible for LEA schools that academy status is the only option. Mind you I'd be a bit worried about trusting overall control of schools to any organisation (e.g. the government) who thinks that's a justifiable strategy for our schools (our schools, note, not Gove's).

Janet Downs's picture
Wed, 07/05/2014 - 16:41

Factfinder - it's true that non-academies have to stick with the national curriculum. In theory, academies can opt-out. However, Gove has made it quite clear which kind of curriculum he considers to be "good". That's the core knowledge curriculum devised by Hirsch in the US and adapted for the UK by, among others, Annaliese Briggs who was appointed head of Pimlico Free School despite having no qualifications or experience. She resigned a few weeks into the first term.

Academies will also have to adhere to the new exams being foisted on them by Gove.

The so-called freedom from the national curriculum is somewhat illusory.

Factfinder's picture
Wed, 07/05/2014 - 14:26

Plus, from reading the documents this morning it seems like all the school want to do is continue to be leaders, rather than be suppressed or made into followers. I'm sorry to play devil's advocate but I find the debate useful when it comes to making my own decisions too!

Brian's picture
Wed, 07/05/2014 - 15:06

Who is trying to suppress this school, or make it into a 'follower.' Why would anybody want to stop it being a 'leader'? And have I got the correct school? Is this the Hove Park which was in the lowest quintile (similar schools) nationally for maths attainment at GCSE last year and also for progress in maths since KS2?

Roger Titcombe's picture
Wed, 07/05/2014 - 17:02

Factfinder - Your faith in Academisation may well be justified, but if it not you and all the other parents will be stuck with what they have got. Even if the new Academy turns out not be to the liking of the majority of parents there is no way that the process can be reversed. Where Ofsted or the Funding Agency are alerted by the complaints of parents or whistleblowers, measures adopted so far only amount to looking for another Academy provider to take over. You won't have a governing body as you now know it to complain to and the LA will be powerless.

As many have pointed out on this site there are no educationally useful freedoms open to Academies that are not available to LA schools.

Factfinder's picture
Fri, 09/05/2014 - 13:28

Fair point here. I understand the irreversible nature of the process and I can see that it's worrying for many. Am I wrong in saying that Ofsted still monitor academies and, if they are failing, the same happens to them as to state schools - they are given an academy sponsor? It is worrying if there is a discrepancy between the punitive measures doled out to underperforming state schools and academies. It's something I'd like some info on, and will post if I find it. Obviously, if you can point me somewhere, that'd be good too.

Natasha Steel's picture
Fri, 09/05/2014 - 16:16

Quick clarification - Roger, I don't think FactFinder has said they're a parent. From their posts, I don't think we know what relationship they have with the school or education in general, or Brighton & Hove.


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