Questions to put to new academy headteacher

(13 Posts)
FarFromTheNaddingCrowd Mon 07-May-12 19:25:00

I live in an area where, in short, I was not pleased with the calibre of state schools on offer. I decided to send my DS private and he is scheduled to start later this year at a prep school which would have been an utter faff to get to morning and evening but has great academic results with an emphasis on sports, with all children learning to swim, taking up 1-2 musical instruments etc. I have met several children who have attended the school and both they and their parents have nothing but praise for it.

It has recently been confirmed that a new state primary academy will open this year down the road from me. They've brought in a headteacher with a good track record to run it but there isn't much other information to go on. It will be a good thing for the local community as, by its opening this year, it will prevent "bulge" classes at the other primaries in the area. However, it's impossible to know how it will turn out in the future. Grounds-wise, it is limited (break-times will have to be staggered and I have no idea what provision will be made for outdoor sports) and I have heard that they plan for it to eventually become one of the biggest primaries in the area. I've decided to email the headteacher-to-be (the website actively encourages this) but not sure where to start. Here are a few questions I was planning to ask (feel free to add any more you think would be relevant):

1. Who are your sponsors (e.g. from business, faith or voluntary groups)?

2. What is to be your maximum class size (and, if different, what average class size shall the school maintain)?

3. What are your admission criteria (distance from school, sibling priority etc)? What proportion (if any) of your admissions are subject to selective academic criteria?

4. What will be the scheduled school hours? Will there be access to a breakfast club or after-school club(s)?

5. As part of the academy's curriculum,
- what provisions are there for Special Education Needs? Will one-on-one assistance be available?
- what subjects/subject areas will the school focus on/specialise in?
- will all students be expected to study extra languages; if so, which ones will be open to them and how many may they take on?
- will all students have the opportunity to take on a musical instrument and is any assistance provided in terms of extra lessons for those that show any special proficiency?
- given the limited grounds of the site, what provisions are being made for Physical Education lessons? Will such lessons involve outside sports and, if so, at which location(s)?
- what sort of extra-curricular programme(s) will you be providing/implementing?

The poor man will probably end up feeling bombarded (especially if he is receiving similarly numbered questions from other potential parents)! However, perhaps that will prove the impetus they need to provide more information via theirs and/or the local council's website.

TalkinPeace2 Mon 07-May-12 19:38:48

a) how much is the budget for soft furnishings in the SMT area
b) who will decide on SMT bonuses and their criteria
c) how will LEA governors be replaced as their terms expire
d) which LEA services will the school continue to buy
e) which academy within 10 miles will be the first to go into special measures and why

SchoolsNightmare Tue 08-May-12 10:06:32

You could ask how classes will taught eg will Reception and Year 1 be mixed at the beginning or will they have several separate classes per year group?
You can ask about resources for the library and for ICT and whether this will be shared or available for the lower and upper school separately.

I do think some of your questions assume a degree of comparison between the private and state sectors that isn't a reality in most state primary schools. By all means ask them but selection for example plays no part whatsoever in admissions for children this age.

FarFromTheNaddingCrowd Tue 08-May-12 10:12:07

Thanks Talkinpeace2 and SchoolsNightmare for your suggestions. I'll include these in my list of questions.

I had heard that some academies were allowed to reserve a number for academic selection (and could also set other admission criteria that differ from those of the local council), but I may have been misinformed.

SchoolsNightmare Tue 08-May-12 10:34:36

Some secondary academies are selective schools but that is because they are Grammar Schools or partially selective schools that converted to become academies and therefore kept their selective tests. Even this only applies for secondary schools though. Selection by ability is not a factor at state primary schools.

All academies have to stick to the admissions code. They have freedom regarding funding and how to spend money but all other legislation regarding schools still apply. This includes admitting pupils without any regard to ability and without discriminating directly or indirectly against any group (so they cannot set catchment zones to exclude council estates and they cannot ask parent's occupation on any forms etc).

Academies can decide their own admission criteria in the sense that they can prioritise medical needs above siblings or prioritise in catchment children above out of catchment siblings. But they can't fundamentally alter the criteria itself (just shuffle the order a bit).

Some academies have "fair banding" which does involve a test but is designed to ensure that the school admits children of all abilities. The test splits the children into top, middle and bottom set and the school then admits a number of children from each group. But even that only applies to secondary.

FarFromTheNaddingCrowd Tue 08-May-12 11:48:19

Thanks for clarifying that SchoolsNightmare. Relieved that I don't have to worry about yet more academic selection (yet!).

Any more suggestions from or others? At the risk of outing myself, I'm willing to disclose that the academy is to be run by REAch2 Trust (with Mark Elms as the Executive Headteacher), so if there are any parents out there that have an opinion about the other school run by the trust (Tidemill Aacademy in Deptford) or schools in which Mark Elms has had a hand in and what lessons they believe should be learned from those experiences, I would be grateful to hear them!

SE8DAD Tue 15-May-12 11:05:33

The Head 'Retires' to take another Job in Croydon
The Chair of Governors resigns (incompetence)
Parent Governors resign
The Deputy Head Resigns
More teachers expected to resign or follow Mark Elms out the door to his new school
Mark Elms chosen Chair is installed to carry on signing Cheques
No Head-teacher to start the New year in September announced
Reach2 started trading in March 2012- it involves Cronyism to Mark Elms and friends only benefits.
www.guardian.co.uk/discussion/comment-permalink/16037067

LadyLapsang Thu 17-May-12 20:20:15

I would ask about:
The curriculum - because Academies do not have to follow the National Curriculum;
What freedoms the Governing Body will pursue e.g. different holidays, length of school day, teachers pay and conditions etc.
What would success look like for a pupil at his school and where would they go next?

SE8DAD Fri 02-Nov-12 13:30:49

and so it goes on tidemill.net/governors-meet.html
all Cronies and with 10 minutes of history lets hope they are all CRB checked!!!
and here we have the Boys at the Top giving themselves the pick of the Jobs ...
www.reach2.org/page/?title=Who%27s+Who&pid=175

bet they want to forget that Mr Elms employed Joseph Murray Tidemill .. and then sent him off with references to boot after many parents had warned Mark Elms about his Friend and Collegues behaviour looks like Jimmy Savile is not the only person with skeletons in his cupboard

www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1119962/Headteacher-caught-child-porn-school-laptop-jailed-months.html
www.newsshopper.co.uk/news/3740311.Teacher_kept_child_porn_on_school_laptop/

Mark Elms and the Reach2 coming your way ...
www.reach2.org/page/?title=Who%27s+Who&pid=175

Do they do CRB checks?? doesn´t look like it !!

is it any wonder that parents are getting their Children out of this school in their droves?

Blissx Mon 05-Nov-12 21:00:15

And also, will their teachers be QTS qualified? They don't have to be in academies.

Blissx Mon 05-Nov-12 21:06:30

Thanks for the links SE8DAD, interesting to see their last OFSTED was 5 years ago. You should be inspected every 3 years so wonder if something dodgy is going on! Interesting to see if they would get outstanding under the new criteria!

LondonMother Wed 14-Nov-12 17:43:16

SE8DAD, you clearly have a bee in your bonnet about Mark Elms, and I know he is Marmite to many. However, Joseph Murray was sentenced over three years ago and the school mentioned in the news reports you link to was not Tidemill. How long did the man work at Tidemill? How many other instances can you cite of any suspected failures in child protection?

Blissx, 'outstanding' schools are routinely told by Ofsted that their inspections are being postponed if their results are still very good. It's no sign that there is anything dodgy going on. In any event, individual schools can't postpone Ofsted inspections, that's only in Ofsted's gift. You'd have to assume there was something dodgy going on in Ofsted if you thought there was a reason for Tidemill not being inspected for 5 years - is that what you are implying?

And finally, Tidemill had a lot of Ofsted inspections in the run up to that one five years ago, because it was in special measures. So it was under the microscope for a long time and there is no serious doubt that Mark Elms transformed that school from the state it was in before he was involved.

SE8DAD Mon 01-Jul-13 16:33:04

LondonMother thanks for the "browbeating" exercise - you have offered nothing more in fact rather less than everyone else, enjoy the Cream teas and lies at Tidemills expense, rather cheap at half the price, the other goes into Reach2 pocket. as for Ofsted the will fail as soon as they are are finaly let in through the door, but of course as an "acondemy" they can pursue their own curriculum without any democratic acountability, or transparency too boot... I wonder if Croydon are happy with his retirement investment??

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