Roke School - forced primary academy

(118 Posts)
yellowsubmarine53 Wed 16-Jan-13 14:48:44

Yesterday's Guardian....

www.guardian.co.uk/education/2013/jan/14/parents-fury-academy-takeover

Forcing primary schools to become sponsored academies is...

a) a well-thoughtful strategy to improve standards in schools which have been under performing for years and lack the necessary leadership and direction with which to improve

b) a way to hand as many public assets as possible over to corporate academy chains as quickly as possible. Being a Tory peer, Tory party donor and friend of David Cameron gives you a natural advantage in benefiting from this situation.

The DfE say a). What do others think?

yellowsubmarine53 Mon 21-Jan-13 10:33:05

I'm not sure, tbh. The High Court judgement made in the summer (see my link from barrister David Woolfe's blog above) indicates that once the governors have agreed to become an academy then that's pretty much game over.

Jumblemum Mon 21-Jan-13 11:29:32

I don't know if there are other schools in this position, but it is quite likely as the DofE are really pushing through academies - as a mum with kids in Roke it is quite frightening how this is being forced on us. I thought parental choice in education was actually something the Conservatives supported.

I have to say that I really feel the school has improved since the last Ofsted - communication with parents has got so much better. I've always been happy with the standard of teaching as both my children are doing well and more importantly, enjoy going to the school. I expect the interim report will bear this out, and surely that makes becoming an academy pointless?

I don't like the idea of having Harris as a sponsor either, because although they are a charity they have a business ethos, which I think they are quite proud of, and I don't feel this will fit well with primary school education. I am sure they will push SATS at the expense of producing well rounded children because that is the only way they can measure 'success'. That's just my opinion though. They have not set a date to come to the school to talk to parents yet - I emailed to ask.

prh47bridge Mon 21-Jan-13 12:45:46

public assets are being handed over left, right and centre to anyone well connected enough who wants them

No they are not. As I have pointed out previously, no public assets are handed over to anyone when a school converts to academy status. The land and buildings remain in public ownership.

yellowsubmarine53 Mon 21-Jan-13 13:06:58

By handed over, I meant given a 125 year lease for a peppercorn rent.

yellowsubmarine53 Mon 21-Jan-13 13:11:58

jumblemum, I wouldn't hold your breath. Two schools near here were taken over by Harris in September 2012 and Harris haven't visited either of them since a consultation costing over £45,000 took place in the summer, resulting on 94% of the school population voting against the school becoming an academy. The Dfe handed it over anyway.

On the other hand, a new head started in one at the end of last term and parents all seem to rate her. She's really pushing to extend the curriculum if that helps. I don't know what's happening in the other and tbh I think the way a school is run is largely down to the Head, regardless of the school's status.

I agree that the speed with which this has been done and the stealth is scary. Why did the governors vote it through, do you know?

prh47bridge Mon 21-Jan-13 15:59:05

Yes, they do only pay a peppercorn rent. Paying a full commercial rent for the land and premises would not make sense.

Remember that the only funding the school has is the money it receives from the government. If they have to pay full rent the funding from the government would have to be increased to pay for it. The government would, or course, reclaim that additional funding from the LA by reducing their schools grant. The effect would be the government taking money from the LA to pay the academy so that it can then pay the LA, which would be completely pointless. Of course, the government could choose not to fund the academy for the rent it has to pay in which case the school will have less money available to spend on educating pupils.

yellowsubmarine53 Mon 21-Jan-13 20:18:04

The thread is about the process by which the decision to hand the school over has been made, rather than the details of subsequent rental agreements, I would suggest.

Jumblemum Mon 21-Jan-13 21:20:07

Was the expensive consultation part of a forced academisation (sorry, horrid word) Yellowsubmarine? I would much prefer Harris to show their face soon and deal with some of the questions I've got now (even about stuff like uniform! I've got loads of Roke hand-me-downs and I don't want to be buying all new next year)

The governors told us parents at our meeting that the Department of Education threatened them with the sack if they didn't go along with academy status and the same if they told staff below senior management or any parents. They also said that they had to force DofE to look at the improvements they were making and that DofE weren't interested.

I don't much like the sound of the DofE!

sleepylampost Mon 21-Jan-13 21:24:16

JumbleMum, do you know what improvements will come with the new Harris Academy? Any ideas if there will be changes for the school, in terms of facilities etc? It's all interesting, that there does not seem to be any extra benefits from what is being said on here. What are the pros and cons?

yellowsubmarine53 Mon 21-Jan-13 21:31:32

jumblemum, yes, DfE spent £45,000 of public money on a consultation that they then ignored.

It's a shame that the governors at your school gave in so quickly to the DfE's bullying. They would have had a legal case to uphold the LA's right to act on the notice to improve before 'intervention' occurred.

Although what you describe illustrates a phenomenal degree of bullying - no interest in school improvements, withholding information from staff and parents (presumably so that no campaign or union action could be lauched quickly enough) then it's ker-ching Lord Harris!

sleepylampost Tue 22-Jan-13 20:51:42

Roke is back in the news today. The more I read, the more concerned I become. http://www.standard.co.uk/news/education/parents-school-faces-hostile-takeover-after-one-bad-report-8461344.html?origin=internalSearch

bexa Tue 22-Jan-13 21:53:34

The speed and number of schools being turned into academies is shocking. In the city where I live, all but three of the secondary schools are academies. None of the teachers I know want to work for academies because the working conditions are so bad - u are basically working for a business.

The story of roke does smell pretty fishy. Has anyone heard of any other schools being rushed to academy status like this?

prh47bridge Tue 22-Jan-13 22:30:50

No, you are not working for a business. You are working for a charity.

choccyp1g Tue 22-Jan-13 23:57:12

So does this Harris chap get paid for running the charity?
Is it payment by results, or by number of schools in the chain?
Or is he an unpaid volunteer like the governors of the school?
And can he "sack" them anyway once his chain takes over?

I suppose I am addressing these questions to prh47bridge. thanks

noseynoonoo Wed 23-Jan-13 10:06:51

How are the governors defending their position to stay schtum? If I was a parent governor who found this out and was threatened with the sack (from an unpaid role?), I'd be standing at the gate the next day handing out all the details to parents. It's not like they've signed the Official Secrets Act so how are they explaining their (tacit) duplicity in keeping it quiet?

yellowsubmarine53 Wed 23-Jan-13 11:17:16

I've been wondering about that, noseynoonoo.

I get that they've been bullied into silence but surely someone, just one person, has the courage to stand up to a bully?

Tbh, this in itself would completely undermine any faith I had previously had in the governing body.

What on earth could the DfE's reasons be for insisting that their bullying was kept secret (in contradiction of the Academies Act and Education Act which require a consultation with stakeholders), other than to prevent a campaign, union action and media interest until it was too late?

prh, but none of the teachers that bexa knows want to work in an academy - that's the point.

yellowsubmarine53 Wed 23-Jan-13 11:21:04

bexa, this is the tip of the iceberg.

'The Report' on Radio 4 about a year ago has been the most extensively researched analysis of what's happening on the ground re the academy agenda. They found out that up to 40 civil servants have been employed full time to go round the country bullying governing bodies into accepting academy status, or be sacked if they refuse. They've been targeting urban areas as these are the ones that the academy chains are interested in. Schools are going left, right and centre, often with absolutely no paper chain.

CalmChaos Wed 23-Jan-13 13:08:05

I've been reading up a bit. The governors at a school in North London called Downhills were fired and then replaced by Harris officials on the interim board which was supposed to be consulting on the Haris takeover. Hardly, neutral!? Then the new board voted the takeover through. I suspect the governors at Roke can do or say nothing to allow a similar thing to happen at their school. The fight would then be completely lost. The Harris deal at Roke has not been signed yet. It's not yet a done deal. It is all so stinky and very possibly corrupt.

prh47bridge Wed 23-Jan-13 13:23:26

No, Harris does not get paid. The reverse, in fact. He gives money to the charity (Harris Federation). He also gives money to other schools in south London that are not academies. In general the trustees of charities cannot be paid.

When an academy sponsor takes over the composition of the board of governors will change. However, the sponsors cannot simply fire all the governors. There will still be parent governors and staff governors. Both will continue to be appointed in the same way.

And regarding Downhills, my understanding is that one of the members of the IEB was from Harris. When an IEB is imposed at a school in special measures they are usually tasked with converting it to an academy. That was the case under the previous government and remains the case under the current government.

prh47bridge Wed 23-Jan-13 14:04:45

yellowsubmarine53 - I did not dispute Bexa's contention that none of the teachers she knows wants to work for an academy. Given the relentless anti-academy campaigns by teaching unions I find that unsurprising, although there do seem to be a substantial and growing number of teachers who are happy to work in academies. I was merely making the point that teachers at academies are not working for a business.

I am neither for nor against academies. I am happy to answer questions and I tend to correct obvious inaccuracies, regardlss of whether they are posted by supporters or opponents of academies.

sleepylampost Wed 23-Jan-13 14:15:44

p---bridge, why are you taking questions and correcting inaccuracies? Do you work for the Government or Harris, perhaps?

prh47bridge Wed 23-Jan-13 14:39:39

No, I do not work for the government or Harris. My only direct involvement in education is helping parents win admission appeals. Through that I know rather more than most about how the current education system operates and how it is changing. I am therefore happy to answer questions where I can.

As for correcting inaccuracies, that's just me. If I see statements being made on any subject where I know for certain that what is being said is incorrect I tend to post a correction. I have previously corrected assertions made about teachers' pensions, libel laws, employment law and a variety of other subjects.

sleepylampost Wed 23-Jan-13 16:56:21

So it is interesting that you have not corrected the rest of the claims made on this thread. There must be some truth in it then. I for one wish it was all made up as the truth is scary.

yellowsubmarine53 Wed 23-Jan-13 21:01:31

Quite, sleepy. It would be better for everyone if this government's plans for education were some ghastly nightmare one could wake up from, but unfortunately not.

And talking of correcting errors prh, two of the Downhills IEB were from Harris - Dan Moynihan (CEO of Harris) and Robin Bosher (Head of primary at Harris). They were both Knighted shortly afterwards.

The IEB was tasked with consulting and making recommendations to the Sec of State regarding the future of the school (the legal case was very clear about that), not with automatically converting it imto an academy.

www.haringeyindependent.co.uk/news/9593088.Government_denies_conflict_of_interest_on_new_Downhills_board/

choccyp1g Wed 23-Jan-13 21:11:15

Hi prh47bridge, I just responded to your comments about Harris on the other thread. It sounds as though Harris himself may not be quite the money-grubbing privateer on a personal level that I thought.

However, the academy concept is setting up schools to become independant, and to allow for many education services currently provided "at cost" from the local authority to be purchased at "cost plus profit" from private companies.

Obviously some services are already provided by profit-making companies (catering for example). My view is that the more profits are being being taken out along the chain, the less resources actually get to the children's well-being and education.

Some people may differ, thinking that the free market can provide better for everyone in the long-run.

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