The imposed Interim Executive Board's consultation on the future of Cavell School in Norwich has just finished. Well, I say "consultation" - it was that in name only. It consisted of two pages of propaganda about academies and the proposed sponsor, followed by an invitation to comment.
Feeling that this is hardly an adequate means of determining our views, I asked the IEB for some assurances about this consultation. I wanted an assurance that our views could possibly have any effect, objective criteria specified in advance for that change to occur, and independent oversight of the process to ensure that they weren't simply rubberstamping their own decision. Having initially received an airy brush-off, I asked the same questions every day for a fortnight. I was completely ignored, not even getting an acknowledgement.
Clearly, their utterly transparent plan was to honour the letter of the law, but not the spirit, and avoid any questions that required them to be honest about their intentions. Most notably, to prevent Cavell joining the familiar list of schools where parents' views have been completely ignored - Downhills, Warren School, Dorothy Barley and many others - they carefully avoided asking whether we actually wanted the school to become an academy. So we ran our own consultation.
We had a strong response, covering parents, staff and the wider community who have been completely ignored by the IEB, despite being important stakeholders. The results show exactly why the IEB so stubbornly denied us a true consultation:
•Only 19% of respondents felt that they had been given enough information about academies and the proposed sponsor
•Just 7% of respondents had faith in the IEB to decide on the best option for the school, or to respect parents’ views as expressed in their own consultation
•83% of all respondents wanted the school to join the Co-operative Trust, with a further 8% unsure. Among parents, 92% supported the Co-op proposal.
The IEB, Norfolk County Council and Michael Gove dislike these inconvenient facts, but they lie at the heart of the injustice that has been done to an entire community. We have been dictated to and our voice ignored by people who will not have to live with the consequences of their actions. We will, and so will our children, but we have been denied a say.
If becoming an academy would be the best outcome for the school, they should have made that case and persuaded us that they were right. If it wouldn’t, they should never have pushed for it to happen. That such a fundamental change is being forced through in this way is a sign of the weakness of the evidence in favour of sponsored academies and a real threat to basic principles of justice and liberal democracy.
But, we have repeatedly been told, there is no alternative. Never mind that the school is not in special measures, and never mind that the evidence - much of it covered here - suggests the school would be better served by the Co-operative Trust, or indeed anything but becoming a sponsored academy. The school is considered inadequate, and even "failing", because Ofsted said so a year ago, and results simply aren't good enough.
We know that Ofsted have a habit of rolling up with preconceptions in mind, and looking for evidence to support them. The discrepancy between recent inspections of Park View Academy alone tell us that much, with massively different outcomes driven by the political atmosphere and reasons for the inspections taking place. Cavell's inspection was part of a systematic sweep of the county specifically looking for failing schools, and the DfE have since gone public about their desire to open more academies in Norfolk. So there are serious questions about the objectivity of the verdict.
But what about the results? Don't they show that the school isn't doing well enough? Well no, actually. For all the rhetoric from Norfolk County Council, the school's really been doing rather well, especially when you consider that it's in the top quintile nationally for both statements of Special Educational Needs and eligibility for Free School Meals.
On progress against expectations:
•Progress in reading is in the 2nd quintile among similar schools and the 3rd quintile nationally
•Progress in mathematics is in the top quintile among similar schools, 2nd quintile nationally
On KS2 results:
•Spelling, punctuation and grammar is in the 3rd quintile among similar schools
•Reading is in the 2nd quintile among similar schools
•Mathematics is in the top quintile among similar schools, 2nd quintile nationally
This is not the profile of a failing school. There are areas where performance could improve, but between a difficult catchment and some areas of genuine strength, there is no good reason to assume that becoming an academy would do anything at all to improve the school. There's certainly no reason to dogmatically force the school to become one.
So the evidence shows that the school community are utterly opposed to this dictatorial academy agenda, and that despite attempts to run it down, the school is not only performing well but on a clear upward curve. Only a blinkered ideologue could ever support the way the school's been treated. Unfortunately, the nation's education is being run by just such a person, with others only too happy to support his blatant agenda.