Teachers at flagship free school Michaela Community School (MCS) fear they will be ‘harmed’ by pupils from other schools, recent accounts* reveal.
It’s to be hoped Michaela’s senior team has contacted local schools to report intimidation. Secondary schools within one mile of MCS are Ark Academy, Ark Elvin, Preston Manor High and the independent Lycee International De Londres. Principals need to know if their pupils are behaving unacceptably.
Another risk was ‘detractors from the outside harassing staff on social media’. This is odd because an MCS blog suggested twitter was a ‘chance to develop your thinking’. The blog’s writer (‘admin’) said s/he had received tweets which caused anger. But ‘admin’ recognised this was just emotion. The correct response was to exercise control when replying.
One risk in the previous year’s accounts is missing: the fear that ‘disgruntled members of staff bring the school into disrepute’. As MCS only opened in September 2014 and presumably recruited staff who supported the ‘Michaela way’, it’s surprising MCS feared some teachers might be so discontented their concerns could damage the school.
A third risk included ‘GCSE exam results being below expectations because of the nature of the exams’. MCS hasn’t entered pupils for GCSEs yet but fills nearly half of its financial report with tables showing how well pupils are doing in ‘national tests’. But the only national tests on which MCS will be judged are based on GCSE results. If MCS pupils don’t do well it appears this will be because of the ‘nature of the exams’.
Yet MCS appears to have nothing to fear. Ofsted has judged it outstanding. It’s odd, then, that in a Times article today exalting MCS, Melanie Phillips repeats the lazy criticism that Ofsted believes ‘knowledge wasn’t important’ and is more interested in ‘engineering attitudes into conforming with prevailing social orthodoxies’.
But Ofsted praises MSC for promoting knowledge and understanding. When applied to ‘British values’ this prepares pupils ‘exceptionally well for life in modern Britain’. This contradicts the assertion that Ofsted is knowledge averse or that inspectors conform to some nebulous ‘social orthodoxies’.
When questioned about Michaela’s outstanding judgement, Phillips later commented ‘I was making a point about the general education culture and its toleration or promotion of child-centred attitudes.’
Phillips cites Civitas who published three books denouncing ‘child centred’ methods in 2014. But neither explains who or what is at the centre of education if children aren’t.
Phillips says the regime at MCS is essential for children from ‘shattered or chaotic’ families. But are all MCS pupils from such families? It’s true the proportion of children eligible for free school meals (FSM) at any time during the past six years is twenty percentage points higher than the national average of 29.1%. But it doesn’t follow that all these FSM pupils come from dysfunctional families. This implication does a disservice to the many disadvantaged families who provide a loving environment despite hardships.
It could even be viewed as prejudice if free school meals eligibility is too easily equated with chaos and dysfunction.
*Accounts available from Companies House