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Parents joining together to #SaveOurSchools

(8 Posts)
Abuelita Mon 25-Apr-16 08:06:53

Worried about excessive testing? Or about financial irregularities in academy trusts? About mass academisation? A diminishing voice for parents? Falling state funding? Unqualified teachers? That your special needs child might be seen as 'poor quality' and find it difficult to get a school place in a fully-academized system?
A campaign, 'Rescue Our Schools', was launched on Saturday. I've written about it here (Mumsnet gets a mention):

MoggyP Mon 25-Apr-16 08:16:39

Why financial irregularities in only some schools?

Even a brief Google shows how many irregularities there are in LEA accounts. This point tends to get overlooked, and is just as detrimental to education.

And if this is for improvement in schools standards, then it should cover ALL schools.

There was never a 'golden age' when all teachers were qualified, BTW, and the permission to recruit has been around for years and the numbers don't seem to be going up.

And whether the testing (y6 and public exams at 16 and 16+) appears 'excessive' is down to the individual school. Ditto the yr1 screening and y2 assessments. Yes, I read on here about schools which really do get wound up about this and the DC feel the pressure. But this simply does not match our experience. It's a great deal about the ethos of the individual schools and quality of the leadership, and no amount of national level campaigning is going to fix that.

KatherineMumsnet (MNHQ) Mon 25-Apr-16 12:43:00

We're just going to move this one over to campaigns.

Abuelita Mon 25-Apr-16 13:28:56

MoggyP - a 'brief Google' didn't throw up irregularities in non-academy school accounts. That said, no financial irregularities should be ignored, but the way academy trusts are set up makes it easy for related party transactions to take place or for complicated structures to hide wrong doing (try Durand, Barnfield Federation, Perry Beeches). Five of the ten academy trusts which have the most free schools are causing concern (Perry Beeches, Cuckoo Hall Academy Trust, Chapel Street Community Trust have all been sent Financial Notices to Improve; CfBT has received an Ofsted letter of concern; BEPT is linked via personnel and other companies to an investor named in the Panama Papers).

Re testing: the OECD warned in 2011 there was an excessive emphasis on exam results in England which could have negative consequences: teaching to the text, gaming and neglect of other important skills.

Tests at 11 have no educational value. That should actually be of more concern than stress. Children are wasting time tearing literature into its component parts, for example, when they should be enjoying it. No amount of spotting 'fronted adverbials' and 'past progressive' will turn children into competent readers and effective writers.

Our children are among the most-tested in the world. Few countries have exams at 16 - if they do they are few in number, cover just core subjects and are used to decide post-16 progression not to judge schools.

MoggyP Mon 25-Apr-16 14:38:27

Try search terms "Local authority fraud schools" but you do have to scroll past quite a lot of hits that are to do with admissions rather than funding.

One example here (based on NAO stats, 191 cases in 12/13)

Abuelita Mon 25-Apr-16 17:16:45

MoggyP - it appears the one instance you found was an article I wrote for the Local Schools Network. That's not to say fraud doesn't happen in non-academies, and it should be dealt with firmly when it occurs. But the misuse of money by academy trusts isn't always deemed fraudulent - it's such things as paying the executive principal an eye-watering salary, bunging contracts to companies connected to academy trustees, setting up complicated structures which increase the perception of wrongdoing, giving unusual payments to trustees (Academies Enterprise Trust, also served with a Financial Notice to Improve as well as two critical letters from Ofsted), operating in a culture of extravagance (E-Act - another Financial Notice to Improve and critical Ofsted letter); claiming for non-existent students (Barnfield Federation, two critical reports from the Skills Funding Agency and the Education Funding Agency

So far, however, only two financial irregularities at academy trusts have resulted in trials for alleged fraud: Sajid Hussain Raza, former head of Kings Science Academy, a free school in Bradford, and the former CEO Richard Gilliland and finance director Stephen Davies of the Priory Federation (the Education Funding Agency found Gilliland had spent academy money on expensive refurbishment of a flat and on sex toys). The Charities Commission is investigating a charity connected to Durand Academies Trust where the now-retired head, Sir Greg Martin, set up a complicated structure which eventually resulted in a Financial Notice to Improve. Sir Greg (knighted for services to education), among other things, set up an adult membership club registered at the academy's address. Margaret Hodge, ex-chair of the Public Accounts Committee was not impressed. You can read about it here.

MoggyP Mon 25-Apr-16 17:43:26

That was just a quick google, and my apologies for not meeting your standards. After this post, I'll bow out.

The Audit Commission, just before its closure, found 206 cases of fraud in LA schools (up 6% I think), in spite fewer schools being under LA control. This is not good, especially as it is also assessed to be tip of the iceberg stuff. If you start to add in the number of prosecutions in councils for improperly let contracts across all areas of their work, plus those investigated for favouring particular companies, you start to get some idea of the scale of the issue.

My basic point is that there is a heck of a lot of fraud in LAs including education departments and their schools and if your aim is to reduce all fraud in public funds for education then this needs much greater prominence.

Otherwise you just look like another iteration of 'bash acdemies' rather than genuine concern about tackling fraud. Especially as, since the 2011changes for LA schools, the academy accounting regimes look rather more stringent.

Abuelita Tue 26-Apr-16 10:02:30

There were 191 cases of fraud concerning maintained schools (non-academies) worth £2.3m in 2012/13, the first year the National Audit Office (NAO) required LAs to report school fraud. 86 of these involved internal fraud worth £1.9m while 105 were cases of external fraud where schools were victims.
The internal fraud of £1.9m was spread over 86 schools. I'm pleased this fraud was uncovered. But the £1.9m pales into insignificance compared with the £1m claimed by just one multi-academy trust, the Barnfield Federation, for non-existent students. Or the million pounds worth of property shifted from Durand Academies Trust to a charity which Durand's chief executive, Sir Greg Martin, admitted to the Public Accounts Committee was to keep the property out of the hands of the DfE.
I'm no apologist for fraud but as I said above the way MATs are set up allows for legal ways (not necessarily fraudulent) which allows money meant for education to be siphoned into high salaries for MAT CEOs or to companies linked to trustees.
And, yes, I do 'bash' the academy system although not individual academies which, like non-academies, mostly do their best for their pupils. But forced academization of all schools is unwarranted and is not backed up by evidence as a sure-fire way of improving schools (it isn't).

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