Unexpected Academy conversion

(17 Posts)
Grumpysfirstwife Thu 21-Jul-16 14:01:24

We had a letter home yesterday (on the last day of term) to say that our school is joining an academy chain from 1st September.

The letter is 1 paragraph long just stating 'from 1st September we will be joining XX Education Trust. As parents you will not notice any difference in the day to day running of our school'.

They had not previously informed parents of this and its completely out of the blue. There are no other details and no way of contacting anyone now until September with any questions or queries.

Can anyone point me the direction of a good website or websites that I can get all the information I need. The only information I have managed to get is from the Academy chains website and it is badly laid out and practically impossible to get any useful information from it. The website also does not list our primary school as being part of the chain.

I'm quite cross about this. Surely we as parents should have been informed before now?

admission Thu 21-Jul-16 15:09:05

That certainly sounds like a bad bit of parental communication but this must have been on the go for something approaching 6 months, given the time it takes for a school to convert currently.
I am guessing that this is a school which has had a poor Ofsted and that the joining to an academy chain was not one that was voluntary.

nuttymango Thu 21-Jul-16 15:55:58

Are you otherwise happy with the school? If not, I'd speak to the local council schools department about moving your child.

Grumpysfirstwife Thu 21-Jul-16 16:48:33

The last Ofsted in 2015 was Good admission, one of the reasons I'm so surprised by this. shock

There generally seems to be lots of confusion about it. One of the parents has started a facebook group to discuss it and they're really not happy.
There is plenty of talk of children being moved in September because of this.

Another parent has apparently asked the Governors for a copy of their minutes covering the decision and they have been told they're not entitled to a copy and there's no further comment on the matter confused .

They also said it doesn't affect the parents or children so they cant understand why there's such an uproar angry Perhaps in the long run it shouldn't affect the parents or students but it still would have been nice to know we were in line for this hmm

nennyrainbow Thu 21-Jul-16 16:53:44

It does seem odd. I got the impression that good and outstanding schools didn't want to become academies and were the most upset by the government's announcement in April (later reversed) that all schools should become academies. Could the decision have been made inbetween the government's announcement and its subsequent U-turn, and the school tried to get in quickly so that they got first pick of the academy chain they wanted? And now that they've committed, they can't go back?

Grumpysfirstwife Thu 21-Jul-16 17:02:25

Possibly nennyrainbow. I'm gutted though the way its been handled. You always expect schools to behave impeccably (maybe grin ) and this is just underhand and sly. What on earth did they think the parents would say?

Grumpysfirstwife Thu 21-Jul-16 17:03:41

I also think they left it so late to tell us so that parents couldn't move their children until after the start of term in September and they possibly feel that this way the parents will have to 'give it a go' and maybe they wont bother moving. sad

nennyrainbow Thu 21-Jul-16 17:48:46

It does seem like that, doesn't it? I haven't heard of any school voluntarily converting AND only informing parents at the last minute. I am a parent governor at an Ofsted-rated 'good' bordering on outstanding primary and I know our governing body was universally opposed to the government's intended forced academy conversion so I'm quite surprised that your governing body took that decision in the first place.

SisterViktorine Thu 21-Jul-16 18:49:51

I think it's been a knee-jerk reaction to the white paper. They thought everyone would be forced to 'go' so wanted to jump while there was still choice.

If anything like my school, while they may not have been planning to become part of a MAT so soon, probably research had been done to consider whether it was a good idea so there may have been a sort of 'shadow' plan in place.

This is exactly what Nicky Morgan hoped for- that the threat of eventual force would make most schools jump ship voluntarily.

springwaters Thu 21-Jul-16 19:13:37

For a Sept conversion the academy order would have been in place by April ish regardless of it it was special measures or not. You need 3 months excluding august as a minimum usually. Is it a foundation school with easier land transfer?

dajen Thu 21-Jul-16 20:13:53

This is totally unacceptable. Governors should consult all stakeholders before deciding to convert to an academy. They then need to undertake due diligence and other procedures before a formal decision to convert can be agreed and this take some time. Also minutes of governing body meetings are public documents and must be available in school for any parent who wishes to see them, except for certain items which may have been minuted as confidential eg certain personnel issues. Conversion to an academy should not be a confidential item. The contact details for the clerk to the governors should be on the school website so try contacting them ask where you can view the minutes.

Grumpysfirstwife Thu 21-Jul-16 20:27:42

No springwater its not a foundation school. Its a CofE primary and the academy chain taking it over are one of the many Church Academy chains. They own the land the school is on too so I'm guessing they don't see it as we are joining a chain of academy schools they just see it as a formality process and nothing will change as a result.

dajen I thought they were public documents too but apparently they have told the other parent that we wont be getting to see the minutes. Another parent is now considering using the freedom of information act to formally request a copy but in any case it's clearly a done deal and we have no say on the matter.

I'm really disappointed they've done this in this way. You should read some of the comments on the facebook page, it makes Mumsnet look tame in comparison shock

bojorojo Thu 21-Jul-16 22:00:22

If it owns the land, the school is probably a C of E Aided. Lots of good schools convert to academies and C of E ones are keen on this because they get advice from the C of E academy chain and have always been keen on Church Educational advice so do not see it as much of a change, as you have discovered . The Church is never a bystander in their schools and employ education officers so running an academy chain is a natural extension for them.

You are absolutely entitled to see the minutes. A group of you should turn up and demand them. Often C of E schools employ their own clerks and do not necessarily have LA ones. They must still make the minutes available, however, and the lack of communication is breathtaking. Whether a child's education should be disturbed by this is quite another matter. It really will not affect the children, so why move? However my trust of the governors and the head would be ruined. Is the local vicar on the GB and what about the parent governors? Get hold of them and ask them what happened to communication with parents. Arm yourself with the details of what they should have should have done and write to the chairman to ask for the minutes and also ask about the process of making the decision and lack of transparency. It is arrogant in the extreme.

admission Thu 21-Jul-16 22:32:16

So it is a good CofE school and they have joined an academy chain, which will have a "faith" based Trust Board. The idea that it will make no difference to the day to day running of the school is fanciful. It will with time, hopefully for the better but only time will tell.
The GB must have been discussing this for a while and they should have made a decision after appropriate consultation. They clearly did not consult with parents so I wonder whether they even consulted staff. That could be a problem because whilst a VA school is the employer, when it joins the Trust the Trust becomes the employer.
I suppose that they could claim that the decision made was confidential but for clarity and openness it should not have been deemed confidential, so once the minutes of the meeting are agreed it is a public document. I would ask them for a copy of the agenda at which the decision was made - that is definitely not confidential - with any position paper relating to the decision made.
I would ask what due diligence has been carried out before making such a decision. I would ask whether they have any representation on the Trust Board (which might be no if it is a well established trust board.) I would be asking what is in their scheme of delegation, which confirms what the Trust Board is responsible for and what any local governing body (which is actually not a governing body but is a separate argument) is responsible for.
If there is still a reluctance to be pro-active then I would send an email to the Chair of the Trust Board that the school is joining, asking them how such a decision could be made without any consultation and for confirmation that appropriate due diligence has been carried out by the Trust given the haste that this seems to have done with.

t4gnut Fri 22-Jul-16 09:50:19

Lot of scaremongering about academy chains, but in this case its a CofE school that is VA. Whilst it works with the local authority its ownership and direction has always been with the Diocese. All its doing is altering its funding agreement and moving control of certain aspects away from the local authority - reality is you, as parents, will see no difference at all (in fact if they'd not told you I bet you wouldn't have realised).

Its nothing to make a fuss about, and whilst parent views are usually collected it's not a requirement and the reality is parents have no say in how any school is run. You are entitled to minutes as a public document though.

dodobookends Fri 22-Jul-16 10:13:30

My dc's school changed to an Academy, and to be honest, it didn't seem to make any difference. Agree that you should all have been informed much earlier though.

springwaters Fri 22-Jul-16 17:57:53

So it is a foundation school smile

As a CE academy there will be little if anything different from being a CE school.

It will be easier to get building work funded!

Is another CE school in special measures? Sounds like it may be supporting them as part of a MAT.

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