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Harris Academy

(51 Posts)
nennypops Wed 19-Jun-13 23:26:29

Interesting comment underneath this article - - which needs wider circulation.


To clarify, it was more that the recent Sutton Trust report prompted me to dig around a bit in the Harris statistics. Here's some findings which no bugger will care about because they don't quite fit with the predominant conseravtive world view about Harris being the saviour of education.

This is Harris Crystal Palace's DFE dataset. Give credit to the LibDems who insisted on this lot being published. It's really quite comprehensive. Obviously pinches of salt all round, accepting that issues like 5 A*-C rating isn't the most solid of performance indicators once schools have figured out how to game the system. Nevertheless, a few things really stand out :

Harris Crystal Palace is based in a fairly deprived area in Norwood. It's nearest three primaries (1), (2), and (3) have the following indicators :

FSM = (1) 37.6%; (2) 20.5%; (3) 40.4%
EAL = (1) 44.6%; (2) 19%; (3) 39.4%
SEN or School Action Plus = (1) 19.9%; (2) 6.6%; (3) 19.7%

Other local schools have similarly high levels, so we can see that this is a tough area with a high proportion of FSM, SEN and EAL. We'd expect to see Harris Crystal Palace with a similar set of figures. Here are theirs :

FSM = 11.3%
EAL = 15.5%
SEN or school action plus = 3.9%

So as you can see, Harris take far fewer children with FSM, EAL or SEN than those prevalent in their local area. What a remarkable feat for a non-selective school. How do they manage this ?

The answer is that they have a "banded" admissions policy. Here's the words from their own website :

Ten percent of places will be reserved for students based on their aptitude for Technology, which is one of the specialisms of the Academy.

The remaining places will be allocated by placing students, based on the results of their Non-Verbal Reasoning Test, into one of 9 ability groups of approximately equal size. The assessment is not a pass or fail test. It is designed to ensure that students of all abilities have an equal chance of gaining a place at the Academy

So Harris assess all applicants, and take children from across the ability range. Super. Except....

Have a look further down their stats at the section called "Cohort Information". This tells you the nature of the intake based on prior achievement. So those students achieving less than level 4 at the end of primary school are "low attainers", those with level 4 are "middle attainers", and those with above level 4 are "high attainers".
Harris's figures for the 2012 cohort are as follows
Low attainers - 1%
Middle attainers - 29%
High attainers - 70%

Well, well. It turns out that Harris's banded system designed to give access to students of all abilities, only seems to identify those students of average or - the great majority - above average ability. Harris Crystal Palace is a de facto grammar school. It is selective on both social and academic grounds, excluding a hugely disproportionate number of disadvantaged or less able students from its locality. In other words, its admissions policy is a fiction. Its much-praised results have nothing whatsoever to do with its academy status, or the wondrous abilities of Mr Carpet Warehouse. Rather, its results are due to excluding the local population and cherrypicking clever middle class children from much further away (it's a matter of local amusement in my wealthy white middle-class area of Beckenham that kids from here who apply to Harris Crystal Palace always get in, despite it being miles away and theoretically banded - our kids always get in the top 10% of each band, somehow...).

Now that is already an admissions investigation in the making. I'll bang in a complaint, as is my right as a local parent. However I'd expect it to go nowhere, as Harris have friends in high places, and their money goes in the right pockets. So I'll leave you with a little sting in the tail.
My own school (comprehensive in a grammar school area) takes in 10% low ability, 50% middle and 40% high. Good, but not Harris standard. Harris select an overwhelmingly above-average ability cohort. So let's compare results.

Ebacc : Harris (43%); my school (45%)
Average point scores : Harris (383.5); my school (407.5)
Value Added : Harris (998.3); my school (1046.9)

So despite fiddling their admissions, despite selecting an overwhelmingly high-ability cohort, despite receiving more money, having smaller class sizes, more support staff, even a higher average teacher salary, Harris deliver worse results than my poor old, bog-standard comprehensive which doesn't even get the grammar school kids.

I recognise that there's only about 3 people will read this. And none of them will care. I feel like the little boy shouting about the emperor's nakedness, but unlike the story, I'm simply ignored. But I feel better.
PS - Daniel Moynihan, chief exec of Harris, pays himself some £250k. Nice job.

Caoimhe Fri 28-Jun-13 18:19:57

Camilamoran, I have heard Harris CP described as a "sausage factory" on more than one occasion!!

I remember a hoohaa in the local rag a couple of years ago when a child with SEN didn't get a place at Harris CP (can't recall the exact reason why this was a story, possibly a place was withdrawn!) and the school's representative told the newspaper than the child wouldn't be happy at the school as it was an "academic school" - sounds a bit like admitting it is not really a comprehensive..............

Helpyourself Fri 28-Jun-13 18:42:43

hmm London schools really are the gift that keeps on giving aren't they?
What with Faith, Selective, Co-Ed, catchment, Boroughs, exams, assessments, banding, fee-paying, bursaries, scholarships and exhibitions 11+ and 13+, there's effectively a system so opaque and exhausting only the pointiest elbowed most confident parents succeed. As Mintyy says by the time you've been through it you're too weary to fight for a fairer system for the next generation.
An anecdote- I was speaking to someone who went to one of the schools mentioned up thread. He says there was one token working class boy in most years. Bright but poor kids from his primary disappeared to the secondary modern or tech where they received a basic preparation for work and left at 14. At the time there was an apparently fair system, albeit one that included primary school reports and interview. hmm
The point? This was nearly 60 years ago! 2 generations on and we're still confused, exhausted and children are being failed.

SupermansBigRedPants Fri 28-Jun-13 19:31:44

I thought Dundee too blush

<backs out of thread slowly>

camilamoran Fri 28-Jun-13 19:38:39

Caiomhe - yes, I remember that as well. It was the headmaster who said that, to the appeal panel I think, and the paper got hold of it. I couldn't believe he could say anything so dumb, or so insensitive to the school's image. He is now the ex-head master and apparently a child in a wheelchair appeared in the school soon afterwards.

motherinferior Fri 28-Jun-13 19:43:02

Fortunately there are some non-selectives soldiering on and getting rather good results in our neck of the woods toogrin

AngryFeet Fri 28-Jun-13 19:45:43

Very interesting reading. I live in Croydon and the Harris in Purley is nearish to me. Luckily we are moving to Warlingham in 2 weeks (just up the road but in Surrey so we get out of the Croydon system which seems to be a nightmare for secondary). I was highly suspicious at how Harris had managed to take over closed schools which failed such as Haling Manor and make them as successful as grammars going by their results. Clearly they are incredibly skewed.

antimatter Fri 28-Jun-13 19:47:10

Croydon council failed to invest into secondary schools for many years and then they fallen into such disrepair that it was easier for them to offload it to the third party.

Caoimhe Fri 28-Jun-13 20:37:47

It was the headmaster? Good grief!

I think it is dreadful that Harris now have so many schools in Croydon. Surely there must be other academy sponsors!! Although I hear that Oasis are getting a third school - considering their "success" with the other two, I find that a little surprising.

Now, of course, Harris are getting their claws into the primary schools with their takeover of Roke (with Benson next on the cards).

MrsFrederickWentworth Fri 28-Jun-13 20:51:07

Nenny, without wanting to out you, which is your local school? Hayes?

It will be interesting to see what happens as a) no reports are asked for at Cp and b) if, as I hope, standards go up at Beckenham and Bromley. The latter had a large no of Russell group offers 2 years ago, not sure about last year nor that Beckenham is up to that, yet, but the intake is changing. ( I hope I've got them the right way round, I always get them confused.)

camilamoran Fri 28-Jun-13 21:35:53

Angryfeet: as you have guessed, Harris are very good at fudging results.

Good grief indeed.

I think the only other major non-faith sponsor active in Croydon is ARK, who I don't know much about. Surely there are successful Croydonians other than Lord Harris. Can't we have the Neil Gaiman Academy, or the Derren Brown Academy, or even the Kate Moss Academy?

One a more serious note, I would like to see fair banding applied to admissions to all schools, so they are all properly comprehensive. I think this would wipe out half the 'failing' schools at a stroke.

surreyparen Sun 21-Jul-13 19:07:02


How is the appeal going? I've got some information that should support your case. PM for details.

Minifingers Sun 21-Jul-13 19:36:40

Can I add to this thread, apparently the head teacher at my dc's primary (which is in the catchment for Harris), is incandescent about how Harris CP has seemingly managed to keep out children with special needs. So angry apparently that he got involved with the appeal procedure to support a bright student with dyslexia who had been rejected by the school. According to Harris, the school is best for 'academic' pupils, and probably not suitable for children with special needs...... He helped this child win his appeal.

I'm very keen to take some of the information on this thread to our local MP - I think there's something very, very odd going on that a school which touts itself as a comprehensive, is somehow managing to manipulate its admissions procedures so that it ends up with fewer than half the number of children with statements as the school with next lowest number in the borough (which happens to be a school in a much more affluent area as well) and only a fraction of the average number of statemented children and children on free school meals of the primaries which fall into its catchment area.

hardtostayfocused Sun 21-Jul-13 22:48:46

nennypops I am in leafy Beckenham too, and have been watching with anxiety the Harris tentacle creep across South East London. Your post is really interesting - so glad to have found it. I will be looking into what exactly Harris Beckenham and Bromley are doing with their intakes.

muminlondon Mon 22-Jul-13 17:48:49

There was a report a couple of weeks ago about Harris Beckenham and two other Harris schools - they are being investigated by Edexel for trying to boost results by pushing children into BTECs and 'helping' them with their coursework.

The damning statistic in the article is the drop in Ebacc results as a result of switching into easier exams or combinations of subjects:

'In its first academic year as Harris Beckenham, the school saw 53% of year 11 pupils get five GCSEs or equivalents, well up on the 36% in 2011. However, when GCSEs alone are measured, the rise was much smaller – from 30% to 33%. The percentage of pupils attaining the academically rigorous bundle of Ebacc GCSEs actually fell under Harris, from 14% to 5%.'

Meanwhile the English 2012 GCSE results for Harris CP were very poor. 70% high achievers, yet only overall 62% passed English GCSE. 99% passed Maths. What's going on there?

hardtostayfocused Tue 23-Jul-13 20:04:03

Of course the 2012 cohort had 4 years in the previous school set-up so it may be possible to read too much into these figures. It'll be interesting to see what this year's results will look like.

However - although I'm trying not to get all conspiracy theorist about Harris (honest) - there's plenty of fodder out there.

This is an informative, though rather long, thread; amongst other things, it gave me a really good insight into CAT banding (which a lot of academies are using) and how that can lead to selection whilst appearing to be inclusive. And it also suggests why Harris Peckham may not be doing so well...

Indeed if you put Harris in as a search term on this site (, all sorts of things come up!

muminlondon Wed 24-Jul-13 08:20:07

They deserve as much scrutiny as possible because they are the size of a local authority, a monopoly in that area of London, yet there is no transparency or accountability for parents. I keep hearing about sham consultations where primary schools are being forced to become academies so their tactics are very heavy handed.

But there is increasing concern from councils, too - Sutton Council supports parents's objections against Harris as the DfE's preferred sponsor.

charitygirl Wed 24-Jul-13 08:26:02

Very interesting, thank you.

Levantine Wed 24-Jul-13 10:58:16

Harris really worry me. I live in slap bang in the middle of lots of Harris schools with a clever son with SN, no way would they want him. I wouldn't choose them for him either, but to which state funded schools are children who need more support supposed to go?

rudyduke Mon 10-Nov-14 13:25:11

Hi, my son has just been offered a place at Harris CP, he's in year 7 and only just started secondary school. He's currently at Elm Green and pretty happy. We are in a real dilemma as to whether we should take up this offer on a school that has just achieved its 3rd outstanding ofstead. Or leave hi where he is. All comments relating to this will be greatfully received. Many Thanks

user1477045547 Fri 21-Oct-16 11:48:48

Does anyone have any views on Harris Academy Morden.

AndShesGone Fri 21-Oct-16 12:00:15

<place marking to show dh>

EleanorRigby123 Fri 21-Oct-16 14:14:14

Very interesting post.

I have a question about Harris Academy Battersea which replaced Battersea Park School which was in special measures in September 2014.
This year's GCSE results place it as one of the top performing schools in Wandsworth. But the students taking these exams would have been in the failing school for three of their five secondary years. So was the school really failing? And how did Harris bring about this radical transformation in the five terms they had to work with this cohort pre GCSE? Something does not ring true.

JoJoSM2 Fri 21-Oct-16 22:54:39

I think that you don't understand some facts.

Firstly, a child can have a need and be on the SEN register AND be a middle or high attainer. (FYI - there are students with SEN even in top grammar schools).

Secondly, you've also made some incorrect assumptions about EAL children. When you look at the attainment of EAL pupils in London, it is actually considerably higher than that of monolingual pupils. Bilingual children have a cognitive advantage and it really shows with proper teaching (I live in Sutton, where there are 5 grammar schools - they tend to have 35-40% EAL students - much more than any non-selective schools in the area).

Thirdly, you quote the 3 feeder schools. Not sure about their numbers but if all the schools in questions are of an average size, then they'd form barely half of the year group at secondary.

I'm not convinced that you have anything to get so over-excited about and can't see that any of what you said demonstrates that the school manipulates their intake other then the obvious measure of providing apptitute places - which they make official).

RandomHouseRules Sat 22-Oct-16 00:36:52

Also v interested to know more about HA Battersea if anyone has local, recent info,

TheColonelAdoresPuffins Sat 22-Oct-16 19:52:07

Do the new dfe tables still show low, middle and high attainers?

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