Can you smell an ofsted/academy rat at your school??

(59 Posts)
bexa Tue 22-Jan-13 22:03:11

Roke school in kenley is being forcibly turned into an academy after falling from long standing "outstanding" into special measures in their latest ofsted inspection.

Ofsted hadnt even been back to inspect whether any improvements had been made before handing the school over to David Cameron's personal friend and Tory donor, lord Harris. Smells pretty fishy! The governors were told they would be sacked of they objected. Smells oven more fishy!

Is roke alone? I heard a similar thing happened in coleford. Just wondering if anyone else knows of other schools where this has happened? Either ofsted not returning to do a follow up inspection before declaring academy status or schools falling from outstanding to failing so fast???

Is roke the only one?

prh47bridge Tue 22-Jan-13 22:59:32

Lord Harris does not get to own the school nor can he derive any personal benefit from it. Similarly the Harris Federation does not get to own the school nor can any of the trustees derive personal benefit from it. Lord Harris is a major benefactor both to the Harris Federation schools and to some community schools, mainly in South London. Many of the Harris Federation schools were, of course, established under the previous government.

Roke has been somewhat up and down. It was rated satisfactory in 1996 and good in 2000. It then achieved outstanding ratings in 2005 and 2009. However, it seems to have had two changes of head teacher in quick succession and SATS results have fallen off significantly, leading to the school being rated inadequate in its most recent inspection.

choccyp1g Tue 22-Jan-13 23:44:53

So Lord Harris is a kind generous person who wants nothing more than a lot of hard work and no pay or thanks? and is giving his own money towards running these schools, to make them better?

and he doesn't have any friends or contacts who would like to work in this federation.

How nice of him.

sleepylampost Wed 23-Jan-13 13:25:28

It seems the SAT results at Roke were back to above the national average (80%) BEFORE the DfE decided to hand it over to the Harris Federation. The parents are arguing that it is not a failing school, they say it just had a blip.

I was convinced that Academies were not a bad thing before but the more I read, the more alarming and scary the whole thing becomes. I read a newspaper article on the internet that warned that the whole of our education system will be privatised by 2015. I don't think people realise this is happening. We are all asleep and are going to wake up and think how the heck did that happen?

Also if the Conservative win the next election, they have said they will make schools run for profit. The whole forced academy thing makes sense now....

prh47bridge Wed 23-Jan-13 13:59:46

choccyp1g - Do tell me what you think Harris gets from giving to state schools. Do you employ the same level of cynicism when discussing school governors who are, of course, unpaid? What about the trustees of major charities such as Oxfam, The National Trust, Barnardo's, etc. They are also unpaid. Do you view them with the same cynicism?

sleepylampost - No, the Conservatives have not said they will make schools run for profit. They have not even said they are going to allow schools to run for profit. Gove has said he is not opposed to the idea that some schools may be run for profit but that is as far as it has gone. Having said that, I would not be surprised if schools were eventually allowed to run for profit.

Just for clarity, I am neither for nor against the government's academy programme.

sleepylampost Wed 23-Jan-13 14:11:51

From my very brief internet search, it is a little kept secret that the Tories are 'not against schools being run for profit'. Please tell us something new. If they were not in coalition they would have gone down this path sooner. Even if what you say about there being nothing in it for charities- in that case why can't the parents pick their preferred sponsor? If there is nothing in it for Cameron's friends why can't the parents say 'no thanks, we would rather have someone else sponsoring us'.

Of course people like Harris are setting up chains in the hope that in the longer term schools will be run for profit and they will all be rolling in £££££. To think anything else is blinkered and naive. I have only just realised this. My eyes have opened.

prh47bridge Wed 23-Jan-13 14:33:37

sleepylampost - You stated that the Conservatives intend to force schools to run for profit. I pointed out that is not true. And if you are going to attack me on the basis of something you allege I've said at least try to be accurate and quote me correctly.

I suggest you ask Ed Balls and his predecessors in the last government why parents cannot pick the sponsor. They set up the current system under which the governors choose the sponsor. A sponsor is only imposed if the governors of a failing school refuse to co-operate.

I repeat, Lord Harris is a major benefactor to schools and was for may years before the academy programme began. Unlike you I do not see the need to believe that philanthropists such as Lord Harris are in it to make money for themselves.

mummymellymoo Wed 23-Jan-13 16:42:19

I'm not really going to comment on the academy point as I haven't done enough research to formulate an opinion but I would echo op - lord Harris is actually a well-known genuine philanthropist who has donated millions to educational establishments. He's not one of Cameron's Eton cronies but came from humble beginnings in Peckham and has ploughed a lot of his own hard-earned fortune into helping out his former neighbourhood. It's a shame that there are so few genuine benefactors around nowadays that we are automatically so cynical of their motives.

sleepylampost Wed 23-Jan-13 17:02:18

The point that is being missed here is that the parents at Roke do not want Lord Harris as their sponsor. They want their local secondary academy to be their sponsor but are being forced by the DfE to accept Harris with no consultation or right of appeal. The fact that Harris is one of David Cameron's personal friends and a major Tory donor does seem to be very relevant.

Have a look on the school's campaign website

scaevola Wed 23-Jan-13 17:06:54

Unfortunately, Labour set it up so parents have no say in who is appointed. Does anyone know why they did it like that?

choccyp1g Wed 23-Jan-13 20:51:08


Like I said,

"Lord Harris must be a really nice man. So Lord Harris is a kind generous person who wants nothing more than a lot of hard work and no pay or thanks? and is giving his own money towards running these schools, to make them better?

and he doesn't have any friends or contacts who would like to work in this federation.

How nice of him."

I was being sarcastic, but thankyou for setting my mind at rest. I presume that as there is nothing in it for him personally, he will of course be happy to bow out if he is not wanted.

sleepylampost Wed 23-Jan-13 21:31:32

Somehow despite the best efforts of some people on this thread. I am not reassured about the Harris Federation. Have a look at this.

yellowsubmarine53 Wed 23-Jan-13 21:39:54

Gove is 'open-minded' about UK schools being run for profit.

And, no, Roke is definitely not the only school in this situation. K12, a for-profit US firm were offered dibs in Birmingham.

choccyp1g Wed 23-Jan-13 21:40:32

Maybe Harris himself may not be quite the money-grubbing privateer on a personal level that I thought. Will read your link sleepy and see what it says about his pals.

In any case, 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.

Endymion Wed 23-Jan-13 21:41:32

There are several harris academies in our neck of the woods.

We're (governing body) taking the pragmatic view that since we've had a couple of dodgy years (outgoing head/great new head/staff upheaval) we're at risk from ofsted and if downgraded, of being forced into academisation, and being snaffled up by harris, we're going to try and nip in and do it ourselves.

We'd all rather stay with the LEA. But our LEA is now pro-academy. hmm

They don't want us any more, and as more and more schools go to academy, the function of the LEA is going to become more and more restricted.

It sucks. angry

sleepylampost Wed 23-Jan-13 21:43:11

Also those on this thread who are defending Harris are you saying there is nothing fishy about this at all? That is what the OP asked. Can you defend the whole forced academy thing when the school in question is NOT a failing school? Can you defend the lack of consultation with parents and the speed at which good schools, like Roke are seized upon? Can your reassure us that it is all about standards and nothing to do with Michael Gove's desire to turn as many schools into academies as possible before the end of this coalition government? It seems that soon the government will pounce on every school that has a little stutter in performance. Can you defend the reasons for doing this? Isn't this just latent opportunism wrapped in some rhetoric about falling educational standards? I was not clued up about this issue but what I have found out has blown me away. I am truly shocked.

Endymion Wed 23-Jan-13 21:43:30

Apologies for that incredibly convoluted second sentence.

And breathe.....

yellowsubmarine53 Wed 23-Jan-13 21:49:54

You're not alone, Endymion. Lots of schools are becoming Co-op trust schools (they'll be over 400 by this summer) which are still maintained.

Endymion Wed 23-Jan-13 21:59:16

It's awful - not so much rats leaving a sinking ship as rats leaving a torpedoed ship.

I would have less of a problem with the concept of academies per se if I wasn't so deeply suspicious of the new ofsted framework coinciding with a push for academy status. By all means offer it as an option, but not the only alternative to being forced to take up with Harris et al. In the past, getting an ofsted downgrade meant accessing good advice, help and assistance from the LEA. Now it is seen as a means to a political end IMO.

Hey ho.

sleepylampost Wed 23-Jan-13 22:03:09

How do co-op trust schools work?

sleepylampost Wed 23-Jan-13 22:08:39

Endymion... not just your opinion, I wish it was... it is the truth happening all around us. Is it possible that Gove and Ofsted are in cahoots? Ofsted were instructed by DfE to swoop on low performing areas, last week it was Derby. Any school there who is having a blip like Roke or Gladstone Park or any of the other schools cropping up in the media, will be snaffled up and forced into an academy almost as soon as the ink is dry on the Ofsted report. It is frightening it really is. I always thought Ofsted was truly independent.

pumpkinsweetieMasPudding Wed 23-Jan-13 22:10:56

Same happened with my dcs school, ofsted report not so thing we know its an academy.
Its like alcatraz, full of ott rules & if ever anyone wants to talk to the principle he is never availableconfused
The secretarys are doing all his dirty work & the original heads and many teachers seem to have vanishedshock, very fishy

sleepylampost Wed 23-Jan-13 22:13:57

Pumpkin, did your school always have poor ofsted reports?

pumpkinsweetieMasPudding Wed 23-Jan-13 22:20:37

No it has been a recent thing, the main thing failed on was attendence.

yellowsubmarine53 Wed 23-Jan-13 22:29:43

Not sure precisely how co-op trust schools work, but people seem to think they're 'better' than sponsored academies. Not so sure myself from the little I know, but something like the relationship that Church schools have to the LA?

Of course Ofsted and the DfE are in cahoots. Michael Wilshaw was appointed the new Head of Ofsted just over a year ago and has 'tightened the framework' twice since then ie more schools than ever have been put into categories, thus being easy pickings for academy chains.

He used to be head at Mossbourne, the flagship academy of the previous government and this one.

Sally Morgan, on the board at Ofsted, continues to work as an advisor to the ARK chain of academies.

bexa Wed 23-Jan-13 22:31:58

I think my original question has got a bit diluted in this thread. Does anyone know of other schools where this has happened? Ofsted downgrading? Ofsted not revisiting? Governors getting no say in academy sponsor? Just trying to work out if roke situation is a one off or part of a larger scale thing. Anyone got names of schools where this has happened?

CalmChaos Wed 23-Jan-13 23:08:24

Did your school put up any resistance to takeover, if it was only attendance that was the problem? Is there anywhere we can read about your school takeover?

prh47bridge Wed 23-Jan-13 23:08:49

I am not defending Harris, simply stating the facts. I have no opinion on Harris Federation either way.

A school that converts voluntarily and is not in special measures (i.e. most of the new academies) does not need a sponsor. Indeed, such schools are encouraged to not have a sponsor. One of the reasons Labour objects to such schools is the lack of a sponsor. It seems they believe in sponsored academies but not those with no sponsor, although that may change when they decide their policies for the next general election.

SminkoPinko Thu 24-Jan-13 14:14:26

I think Harris has done a good job with many South London secondary schools, mostly with a deprived intake.

However, I am not surprised that people are starting to speculate about political influence operating over ofsted, DfE and the academy programme. My children's secondary school (a converter academy) very recently got a "good" ofsted report, yet the school features today in this list of schools with the worst GCSE results in the country. Seems as if ofsted gave them massive benefit of the doubt. And I'm not displeased about that- hopefully these results are a blip and the school will do better in future.

Yet with LA schools it seems that very little benefit of the doubt is given and the powers that be are swift to suggest forced academy status.

daisymaybe Thu 24-Jan-13 19:59:22

I'm not sure if this has been said already or not... but the same company that OfSTED is farmed out to are also academy consultants.

daisymaybe Thu 24-Jan-13 20:01:36

sleepylampost Thu 24-Jan-13 20:20:43

There is a big fishy smell coming from Ofsted lately... It gets worse the more I read.

prh you know an awful lot for someone with no opinion on anything.

SminkoPinko Thu 24-Jan-13 20:26:49

That's shocking, Daisy. Surely they can't use the same company that helped a school convert into an academy to inspect it? There must be a rule on conflict of interest there, surely?

prh47bridge Thu 24-Jan-13 20:41:41

daisymaybe - Tribal provide a range of education-related services. They are not the only such business. I wouldn't agree with your phrase that Ofsted is "farmed out" to Tribal but they are one of three companies that do inspections on Ofsted's behalf, the others being CfBT Education Trust and Serco. I agree there is a potential conflict of interest here. I would hope there are suitable safeguards in place but I have no idea whether or not there are.

sleepylampost - I read a lot. I take an interest. I learnt years ago to check the evidence for myself rather than relying on what others say. And if you look around you will see that I am a regular poster on Mumsnet and have been for several years. You can probably find out a bit about me if you look hard enough.

I already know a lot about education through helping parents with admission appeals. It didn't take much digging to find the facts about academies.

Contrary to your implication I have no ulterior motives.

yellowsubmarine53 Thu 24-Jan-13 20:48:31

Conflicts a go-go between Ofsted and academy chains at the moment...

daisymaybe Thu 24-Jan-13 20:53:43

I don't see how the fact that they provide a range of education-related services makes a difference. Also thank you for the comment that they are not the only such business....

yellowsubmarine53 Thu 24-Jan-13 20:56:05

Gladstone Park in Brent has academy chains sniffing around it after it was judged to be inadequate in November '12. Given these results, it's very, very difficult to see why.

SminkoPinko Thu 24-Jan-13 21:00:32

prh47bridge is an extremely well-respected, knowledgeable and helpful long-term mumsnetter.

I must say I had no idea either that ofsted subcontracted out inspections to private companies or that there were private companies who help schools convert into academies. Who pays the latter? If the school wishing to convert pays them, where does the funding for that come from, I wonder?

prh47bridge Thu 24-Jan-13 21:07:25

daisymaybe - I wasn't suggesting the fact they provide a range of services makes a difference, just filling out the picture a little.

SminkoPinko - Thanks for those comments! Regarding your question, the school will pay any consultants they use. The school gets £25,000 from the DfE towards the school's conversion costs. They are free to spend that how they wish.

SminkoPinko Thu 24-Jan-13 21:23:24

Thanks for BBC article, yellowsub. Interesting stuff. I feel increasingly despairing! IMO/E we are very very bad in this country at getting inspection services right- CQC regulates much of my area of work and there have been some problems with them missing big scandals in care homes etc. We so need our inspection services to be robust and trustworthy. I think that starts with them being independent and conflict of interest free.

SminkoPinko Thu 24-Jan-13 21:32:49

You are more than welcome, Ah yes, have a vague recollection of the converter fund and seem to recall that was one reason the senior management team at my children's school gave as a reason for converting- that they would lose out financially if they stayed as they were.

Tribal definitely did the ofsted report for my children's school. I know as I emailed them my views as a parent (and they did not reply). Is there a way I can find out who, if anyone, provided academy converter advice for the school, does anyone know?

prh47bridge Thu 24-Jan-13 21:45:50

SminkoPinko - You can make an FoI request to the school. They could try to argue commercial confidentiality but I don't think that would wash unless you were after details of the contracts.

yellowsubmarine53 - The Ofsted report suggests that there are serious problems in Y3, Y4 and Y5 resulting in pupils falling behind and behaviour issues, but pupils are given extra support in Y6 so that their attainment is broadly average by the time they leave. I have no idea whether or not that is a fair picture of the school.

yellowsubmarine53 Thu 24-Jan-13 22:22:44

The data for Gladstone Park shows that the children achieve above the national average in terms of numbers reaching L4 and L4, and the progress measures are also above average.

yellowsubmarine53 Thu 24-Jan-13 22:24:24

On Tribal, a friend of mine works for an FE college, which was judged 'inadequate' by a sub-contracted Tribal inspector.

The very same Inspector immediately offered the college expensive Tribal educational consultancy to help them remedy their inadequacies.


admission Thu 24-Jan-13 23:00:04

Sminkopinko, if you actually read the inspection report, then you might understand why the school is in a category. The teaching and learning in years 3,4 and 5 is inadequate and it is the catch up that is done in year 6 that is allowing them to come up with what are not bad results. But if the three previous years were any good then the results would be much better.
Really interesting comments about the governing body who were the people who had to push the SLT to instigate changes to improve outcomes in years 3,4 and 5. Leadership is obviously also not a strong area.
The bottom line regarding Tribal is that they are definitely going to have been responsible for the inspection because they have the contract for organising all the inspections in the south of the country, some 5000 per year.
Whether they should have that contract and then be able to offer their consultancy services to the schools is a very different question and one that I do think there is a big conflict of interest around.

directaction Fri 25-Jan-13 08:20:31

Our story:-

Results below floor for several years so obviously warned to improve rapidly or face closure/conversion. We were given a year to make this improvement. Staff, governors, pupils, parents, all working together in order to bring about rapid improvement. Termly data starts to show real progress.

So................... suddenly OFSTED arrive. Notice to Improve because of achievement levels, although all other areas deemed satisfactory or good and recognition that school has capacity to improve. Governors given choice to back academy status or be sacked - democracy in action! Academy status agreed before SATs results show a massive improvement taking school well above floor and national averages and local averages - we achieved what we had to achieve in order to avoid academy status/closure, but it was forced upon us anyway. This story is being repeated almost word for word countless times.

This really is happening everywhere. Time to wake up!

prh47bridge Fri 25-Jan-13 10:31:01

Yes, it is happening a lot. Whilst it has been the assumption for years that a school giving cause for concern (to use the official phrase) should in most cases become a sponsored academy, being forced to do so if necessary, this government has extended the assumption to primary schools and is pushing conversion more aggressively than the previous government.

CalmChaos Fri 25-Jan-13 19:35:28

A nice essay title: Ofsted is completely neutral and independent of the DfE. Discuss.

CalmChaos Fri 25-Jan-13 19:36:07

A nice essay title: Ofsted is completely neutral and independent of the DfE. Discuss.

SminkoPinko Fri 25-Jan-13 20:05:52

admission- I am talking of a different school and I have most assuredly read the ofsted report. Many times, seeking reassurance on a school about which I am very worried as my teenage boys attend it. I find the report somewhat unconvincing in the light of the evidence available to me so far, most especially the school's GSCE results, though I am trying to keep an open mind. Why wouldn't I- I want my children to get a good education and if possible some qualifications. I want to support them and their school. I know it has some excellent features and my children have been happy there, mostly.

But the ofsted report does not mention that the GCSE results are so low as to put the school in the bottom 200 nationally, merely alluding to a "significant dip" in the context of a difficult year because the school chose to switch year 11 students to new courses and could not put on revision sessions. A grade 2 good rating for achievement was given by ofsted and indeed all aspects of the school were rated at 2 or better. I think it is very unusual for a school with even one year of very poor GCSE results to be rated as good in terms of achievement. I also do not see why a decision was made to switch lots of year 11 students to alternative courses and why that constitutes a difficult year or excuses the school. It sounds like a really bad decision which resulted in many children underachieving, if anything.

I thought this was relevant in the context of an ofsted/academy thread as the school in question is an academy. Thank you for your advice, however. Reading and re-reading can never be bad.

Claudiecat Fri 25-Jan-13 20:20:53

I think people need to wake up to what is going on. It's interesting that Derby was targeted last week, an authority which I understand has challenged the government over academies. Also, Coventry is on the hit list; another authority which has threatened the government with legal action over forcing one of its primary schools to become an academy. Coincident? I think not.

prh47bridge Fri 25-Jan-13 21:28:39

Under the last government some research commissioned by Ed Balls found that ten LAs had particularly high concentrations of schools that had performed below floor level for 5 years or more. The research concluded that these LAs were not taking any effective action to improve the performance of their underperforming schools. I wonder if you can name two of those LAs?

yellowsubmarine53 Fri 25-Jan-13 22:16:22

I wonder if it then would have been more prudent for central government to provide adequate funding to those LAs instead of cutting them to the bone?

Given that this is all meant to be about what's best for the children, of course.

admission Fri 25-Jan-13 22:35:38

Sorry that is rubbish. There are 150 Local Authorities, Coventry gets the 48th highest GUF(guaranteed unit of funding) at £5232.31 per pupil and Derby City is 67th on the list at £5049.32 per pupil.
Try being in Leicestershire, bottom of the pile at £4428.70 per pupil. Just think what some of their schools could achieve with the extra £804.61 per pupil that coventry get.

yellowsubmarine53 Fri 25-Jan-13 22:44:45

National rankings are too crude a measure - the coal face of needs are so much more complex.

CalmChaos Sat 26-Jan-13 18:43:00

Hear hear submarine.

admission Sat 26-Jan-13 20:58:23

I agree that the national funding structure is a crude out of date measure that should have revised years ago but nobody from the previous government had the guts to do and even Mr Gove realises how much of a can of worms it is, so he has put off till 2015.
However Coventry and Derby City are still getting a lot more funding per pupil than the majority of local authorities and that is a fact. And the formula that is used is so out of date and complicated that it has no resemblance to the coal face of needs. Every LA below Coventry and Derby City will argue that their needs exceed those of these two LAs.
Ofsted are targeting Derby and Coventry because of the number of schools in the two LAs that are considered inadequate and inadequate over a considerable period of time and that is not directly related to funding, it is a comment on the teaching and learning that goes on in those schools.

sleepylampost Sat 26-Jan-13 21:17:52

Now this thread is going seriously off topic, no?

bexa Tue 29-Jan-13 17:37:03

Anyone see the Guardian piece on Roke school yesterday? Yet more evidence of foul play I say! Really needs a hardcore investigative journo to dig deep. I bet there are more schools in this sort of situation.

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