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Primary schools into academies

(91 Posts)
academyblues Sat 15-Oct-11 19:53:43

Regular but name changed as my geographical area will be obvious to some and I don't want to out myself.

It looks like my dc's primary is going to be made into an academy, presumably from Sept 2012. It wasn't on Gove's original list of 200, but there seems to have been some behind the scenes negotiations with the LA.

I know that no-one knows how primary schools will function as academies as our children are the first in this particular educational and social experiment, but can someone give me some ideas of what to expect?

What exactly is the process? How are the head/sponsor appointed/decided on? Is there any mechanism for parents to have a say in the school's specialisms or to try to hold on the the aspects of the school that are good, of which there are many?

The plan is for a very sizeable proportion of our borough's (Haringey) primaries to become academies over the next couple of years, hence undermining the LA infrastructure sufficiently for the rest to be forced to convert, it would seem.

Like most parents, I just like a decent local school - is this possible with academy status.

prh47bridge Sat 15-Oct-11 20:23:13

The school will keep the same head unless the governors decide differently (unlikely I would have thought). There is no need for an external sponsor or for the school to have any particular specialism.

PointyBlackHat Sat 15-Oct-11 20:38:50

DD2's primary has become an academy as of last September - not much has changed, HT has stayed the same, teaching staff has not turned over more than usual (except that the school now has a Yr 5 and will have Yr 6 nect year due to going from 3-tier to 2-tier, which I think is a good thing).

The only thing I've noticed is that there seems to be more money around. DD2 is bringing home an instrument this week, on loan through a funded instrument loan stream that the school contributes to. There is new playground equipment and a lot of new books. There is a vague attempt at an informal hosue system (labelled by colour) for which they recommend (but do not insist) that you buy the T-shirt of the appropriate colour. No stupid uniform changes to more expensive stuff, no pretentious nonsense, just a much more professional looking website and the same high standards of pastoral care and teaching.

Personally I think the way that the Idiot Gove is implementing the academy concept (in leafy areas like ours for instance) is stupid and uncaring, leaving out kids from deprived areas whose schools will not meet the criteria, but DD2's school would have been mad not to try for it given the amount of funding on offer. I'd rather have seen it go to a deprived school in my area, but that choice was not on offer sad.

prh47bridge Sat 15-Oct-11 23:56:25

Why will schools in deprived areas not meet the criteria? A number of the new primary school academies are in deprived areas. Any school can apply to convert to academy status as long as it is either performing well or applies in a formal partnership with a school that is doing well. Many schools in deprived areas are performing well. It is also worth mentioning that every school that converts must support a weaker school. And academies in deprived areas receive additional funding.

academyblues Sun 16-Oct-11 00:06:36

The schools in Haringey aren't choosing to become academies. In fact, none of the schools in the leafy, wealthy parts are having academy status forced upon them - it's the schools in the deprived areas. They're the schools that Gove has decided are underachieving. My dc's school is on a notice to improve; how on earth are they going to be required to support a weaker school? There isn't a 'weaker' school near it; statistically speaking, it's the most underachieving school in the area.

rabbitstew Sun 16-Oct-11 06:10:21

The Government ultimately wants to force all schools to become academies. There won't be extra money around for long. Then, when the fantastic headteachers of the schools that were already outstandingly good before they converted but decided to jump in now for a bit of extra cash for a year, move on, they will leave the unpaid school governors and everyone else in the sh*t, realising that if an equally fantastic head teacher doesn't take the place of the old one and the budget is no longer so fantastically managed (or as big, and a lot of the help they still actually relied on the local authority for is no longer available so more time has to be sent trying to source it from elsewhere, thus spending a proportion of the school budget on business managers looking for value for money services rather than teaching children...), they will have to make staff redundant, etc, and take responsibility for it all by themselves. And, of course, the standard of local authority care for the schools that are not yet academies will go down rapidly, as the local authority will lay off staff left, right and centre, because it no longer has a big enough cohort of schools to deal with to make it worthwhile employing more than one man and his dog. And we all know that there aren't enough fantastic headteachers to go around, and that very good, ambitious headteachers often don't tend to stay in the same school forever.

academyblues Sun 16-Oct-11 07:41:20

Yes, that's more or less my take on it, rabbitstew.

It seems very, very short-sighted to see it as some wonderful opportunity for schools.

The demolition of the infrastructure has already started - 3/4 of the LA's professional development team were made redundant this March with more to come. I anticipate a very rapid domino effect, as has just happened to the secondaries in Hackney, I believe, as the remaining 3 LA ones have just agreed to acadamise.

DorisIsTheDarkDestroyer Sun 16-Oct-11 08:07:03

Our primary in rural and fairly affluent area has become part of an academy trust, with the local outstanding secondary school. The secondary school had already done much of the managerial changes as they became an academy about a 1yr before we joined.

So far we have straight year classess (we have one really small year and it caused loads of problems last year with split classes). We have specialist senior teachers coming from the comp to teach language and science subjects.

Alll in all from a parent child perspective the only changes we have noticed have been for the better. The teachingh team seem happy too and there have been no mass resignations etc.

That said we are not going it only, and the best bits have been as a result of the collaboration with the senior school, is there any way school could join together to pool resources?

DorisIsTheDarkDestroyer Sun 16-Oct-11 08:07:44

only = alone

scarevola Sun 16-Oct-11 08:24:06

When Gove announced this extension of the academy scheme - turning 200 "failing" primaries into academies by Sept 2012 he did mention new heads as part of the deal. So yes it could happen. You'll need to ask at your school.

He also said that the scheme would be extended over time to 1,400 primaries, focussing on those where fewer than 60% of pupils reached the basic standard level by age 11 (what do you think that means in NC levels?).

So yes, I think schools will be added to the list all the time (not by council shenanigans).

I wouldn't have expected any great change to how a school functions - other than impact of new head - especially in the short term. The additional freedoms that secondary level academies have had for many years now do not seem to have much difference on the curriculum.

IndigoBell Sun 16-Oct-11 08:43:02

Scarevola - basic level means a level 4.

There are 3 different types of academies being confused here.

1. The old style which were failing schools.
2. The new style good or outstanding schools which choose to convert.
3. The new style failing schools which are being forced to convert.

As far as I can tell the OP is talking about a new style failing school which is being forced to convert.

If my kids went to a failing school I'd be very pleased if something was being done to turn it round. I certainly wouldn't care if the govt forced the HT out or the LEA did. As long as something different was being done.

Academies don't take money from other schools. And there is nothing stopping any school in the country from applying to be one. If the school is good or outstanding the can apply by themselves. If they're not the need to find another school to apply with. Any school with a decent HT would be able to find another school to apply with.

The support the LEA used to give varies hugely county to county. The number of schools converting to become an academy in a given LEA gives you a clue as to whether or not the LEA was actually any good. Obviously some were, and some weren't.

The thing that matters the most as to how good a school is is how good the HT is. This is true for maintained schools or academies. What happens to a maintained school if a fantastic HT leaves and is replaced by somebody rubbish? The school goes downhill rapidly.

So no difference to what will happen to academies.

mummytime Sun 16-Oct-11 08:53:18

Also (at least in my LA) a lot of central services are being sold back to academies eg. some SEN and school meals.

academyblues Sun 16-Oct-11 11:13:45

indigo, I take your points, but what 'failing' means in the new 'rigorous' framework isn't necessarily what parents understand to be 'failing'.

Gove's focusing on schools which have had less than 60% of students obtaining L4 in both English and Maths over the last 5 years, regardless of circumstances or what's already changed or been achieved. The school in question has the largest number of Roma, traveller and asylum seeker families in the borough. Even the latest damning Ofsted report acknowledged the excellent work the school does with engaging with these communities. Their overall attendance and levels of progression, however, are found to be unsatisfactory.

Given that education is going to be reduced to a bunch of statistics (and dont get me started on the lunacy of applying percentages to small numbers and pretending that it's meaningful), there will be pressure on all school to 'manage out' these communities.

That's what's happening in the Hackney academies, incidently. The FSM numbers in the flagship academy Mossbourne has dramatically decreased each year, as children who need additional support to engage with formal education etc are permanently excluded. With no LA infrastructure to support the school or families.

Money is effectively taken from the remaining schools - see rabbitstew's post above.

prh47bridge Sun 16-Oct-11 11:16:59

I expect a lot of LAs will sell services to academies, hopefully charging less than they used to when the school had no choice about whether or not to pay.

rabbitstew - There is absolutely no reason why the extra funding per pupil received by academies should disappear in future. It is not extra money. It is part of the amount that would previously have been deducted from the school's funding by the LA. The startup funding is relatively small - a one off grant of £25,000 which may not even cover the cost of conversion.

IndigoBell Sun 16-Oct-11 11:48:10

Another explanation why the number of FSM kids have decreased each year in Mossbourne academy is because the school is becoming more desirable, so that more middle class parents are applying.

Schools are and have always been under huge pressure wrt statistics. Why does this change with becoming an academy? There have always been schools that have 'managed out' kids with SEN, roma or whatever, and there have always been schools which have been truly inclusive. I don't see how being an academy would have any effect on this.

If Hackney LEA was supporting the schools so well, why did turning into an academy improve Mossboune academy?

I work as a volunteer with a school in Hackney. And the school told us volunteers how deprived the school was, how many refugees, FSMs, EALs etc and how challenging that made it to teach the kids. Fine.

They also taught us how to read with the kids. They told us to tell the child to look at the picture and guess. sad

There challenging cohort does not explain why they teach reading so badly in the first place.

I'm sure more kids would leave this school reading if they followed the govt guidenlines to teach kids to read using phonics. They're hiding bad teaching behind the statistics of their cohort.

rabbitstew Sun 16-Oct-11 13:32:48

Sorry, I don't see how dismantling local authority provision is going to improve things in the long run - it will just make it harder for schools to find provision elsewhere, particularly if schools are running themselves in isolation/with one other school, because they then won't have any bulk buying power. I should imagine schools will have to start clubbing together in larger numbers, forming their own mini-local authorities and sharing provision and business managers, but cold-shouldering the schools they don't think are like minded enough/get similarly good results/have similar enough cohorts of children to make it a fair pooling of resources. At least local authorities had to serve all schools. This way is most certainly not going to even out quality of provision, it's just going to make the winners and losers even more obvious and parental choices even more desperate. Becoming an academy doesn't save a school from mediocrity forever and always, but trashing local authorities will probably last an exceptionally long time, since it's so expensive to put back in place something that was completely destroyed. I would much rather something had been done about failing local authorities than cutting local authorities out of the picture and leaving unpaid school governors in a hugely increased position of responsibility, half of them without, apparently, even realising it.

scarevola Sun 16-Oct-11 14:02:19

"The school in question has the largest number of Roma, traveller and asylum seeker families in the borough".

I don't like this line of thinking as it suggests it's OK to have low standards in some schools. If the "Gove line" was drawn differently - maybe with proportion of children reaching higher grades, then I might see the view as benign. But saying that we should tolerate 40% of children not reaching the basic standard is writing off whole communities and I think that's wrong.

academyblues Sun 16-Oct-11 17:40:41

It absolutely isn't about low standards.

It's about being realistic about test results at the end of year 6 in a school with a very, very high level of mobility. Over half the year 6 children haven't been in the school during the whole of KS2; many join KS2 in the early stages of learning English.

The statistical pressure has changed indigo. The contextual has been taken out, so there's actually a disincentive for schools to be inclusive, rather pressure to court the social groups who are more likely to achieve the desired progress.

I don't think the type of teaching reading that you describe is acceptable.

What's basic in passing written and spoken English if you've been learning the language for a year or so is different from if you learnt English as an additional language when you were 3 or 4 years old.

In a single form entry school, each year 6 is worth about 3%. 3 'L4 or L5' kids leaving the school and 3 in the early stages of learning English starting is a difference of 10% which looks hugely significant in the league tables.

academyblues Sun 16-Oct-11 17:45:28

I agree with you rabbitstew, about the longer term picture. The gap between the haves and have nots will increase (which is one of the primary agendas of this government as far as I can see).

Certain social groups will also be seen an increasingly undesirable, as they won't boost the school's statistics.

Yes, Mossbourne has become more desirable, but its exclusion rate is pretty phenomenal as well.

prh47bridge Sun 16-Oct-11 18:11:24

rabbitstew - The perceived problem is that right now the LA can deduct pretty much whatever it wants from the school's grant. This means that the school ends up paying over the odds for services it doesn't want or need. Some schools are happy with the service they receive from their LA and the cost of that service. Other schools are not. Sensible LAs will offer their services to academies (as many are). This will encourage them to offer services schools need at a price they are willing to pay.

The intention with academies and free schools is to take power away from local authority bureaucrats and give it to parents. I don't know whether or not the policy will succeed but that is the aim.

scarevola - I think you have misunderstood the "Gove line". Currently a secondary school is only classed as underperforming if less than 35% of children achieve five good GCSEs including maths and English. So a school which fails 65% of its students is performing satisfactorily by the current benchmark. Gove is changing that so a school is underperforming if less than 40% achieve that standard and will be raising that again by 2015 to 50%, and he wants to go further. He talks about the fact that in Singapore 80% of children achieve the basic standard and in South Korea 97% do. He wants the UK to get to the same level.

scarevola Sun 16-Oct-11 18:22:51

I was using what he said in June 2011 about primary (not secondary) schools.

Has he flip-flopped since then?

academyblues Sun 16-Oct-11 19:21:23

scarevola, 60% seems to be the current magic figure for at least L4 by year 6.

After the initial 200 schools (which has turned out to be quite a fluid list), his plan was for a 5 year retrospective (discounting 2010 if the school boycotted the SATS). This means that schools will be judged to be 'failing' on the results of 5 years ago, possibly under a different head.

I expect the criteria to keep changing eg next year the floor target could be 70% in order to keep his drive towards academies going as quickly as possible.

academyblues Sun 16-Oct-11 19:22:36

phh47, how will academies give power to parents?

Won't governing bodies with parent representatives be disbanded?

pipsqueak Sun 16-Oct-11 19:36:33

wont it just end up with schools having to buy services from consultancies ( navigate /capita etc) instead of the LA as the LA is really being dismantled by this programme ? there are pilots underway to remove SEN from the LA too so parents end up doing some ort of direct payment type thing . i think it is just Goves anti public sector dogma driving this .

rabbitstew Sun 16-Oct-11 20:09:29

prh47bridge - you don't think local authorities are going to have any services to provide any more, once most or all schools are academies, do you?! I think you'll find all their staff will have been made redundant by then.

As for giving power to the parents - it was easier for parents to become involved as parent governors when there was some local authority back up; it would be a very brave parent who would take on the extra responsibility of becoming a parent governor in an academy school. I think you are confusing parents with people with relevant expertise, although I guess there will be quite a few of those "experts" floating around, having been made redundant from their jobs in the local authority.

And as for some schools not wanting to buy all the LA's services but still having to contribute towards them - the schools in more deprived areas that might have needed more of those services might now find no-one is willing to provide them. Not that the academy schools that don't need them will care about that. Frankly, I wouldn't care if people didn't get IVF treatment on the NHS, but I wouldn't approve of an option not to contribute towards those bits of NHS provision which I, personally, didn't think were necessary. Why treat local authorities differently? Surely rather than disbanding them, you can change their behaviour in better, less destructive ways?

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