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Roke School - forced primary academy

(118 Posts)
yellowsubmarine53 Wed 16-Jan-13 14:48:44

Yesterday's Guardian....

Forcing primary schools to become sponsored academies is...

a) a well-thoughtful strategy to improve standards in schools which have been under performing for years and lack the necessary leadership and direction with which to improve

b) a way to hand as many public assets as possible over to corporate academy chains as quickly as possible. Being a Tory peer, Tory party donor and friend of David Cameron gives you a natural advantage in benefiting from this situation.

The DfE say a). What do others think?

sleepylampost Wed 23-Jan-13 22:00:46

Education is a great leveller. The free market always has winners and losers. The two are not compatible. In a free market, kids with special needs or behaviour problems- will be thrown in the dustbin. So much for Warnock fighting for educational equality for children with SEN in mainstream settings, we are going to be right back where we started. Segregated schools for kids who need a bit of extra help cos they are a blot on academy performance tables. We will be going back to the dark ages.

bexa Wed 23-Jan-13 22:41:29

What do the teachers at roke think about all this? Are there any teachers in here? Anyone work for an academy? I've heard the teachers don't want to work for academies cos the conditions are so much worse. A mate of mine said she actively avoids working for an academy.

prh47bridge Wed 23-Jan-13 23:47:51

sleepylampost - I only correct claims I know to be wrong. I do not get involved in claims where I don't know and cannot find the facts. And sometimes I can't be bothered rebutting every single claim! But yes, some of the claims on which I have not commented may well be true.

yellowsubmarine52 - Happy to accept what you say regarding Downhills. I wasn't able to find a full list of IEB members and the information I found said only one was from Harris. Whilst you are correct about the task officially given to the IEB, it is the case that pretty much every IEB for years under both this government and the last has come out in favour of conversion. That is because since 2005 the relevant guidance has stated there is a "clear expectation" that conversion to academy status with a "strong sponsor" will be the normal outcome for such schools. So an IEB really only has two likely outcomes - closure of the school or conversion to an academy, with the latter being by far the most likely outcome. To express an opinion, I do not think it right that 2 members of a 5 member IEB for Downhills were from Harris Federation.

choccyp1g - You may be surprised to know how few services are provided to schools by LAs, especially when we exclude the services they still provide free of charge to academies. It is possible for LAs to sell their services to academies. Indeed, many are already doing so. And "cost plus profit" does not necessarily mean more expensive. To use a non-education example, when the National Lottery was set up there were two bidders - Virgin where Richard Branson said they would not make a profit and therefore would run the lottery at cost, and Camelot who were clear they would make a profit. Camelot won the right to operate the lottery because the amount they wanted per ticket to make a profit was less than Virgin wanted to charge when running at cost. The point where we agree is that I would be very unhappy if the result of these changes is poorer outcomes for pupils.

prh47bridge Wed 23-Jan-13 23:50:27

sleepylampost - I should add that I have occasionally rebutted claims made by pro-Academy posters on other threads where I have known that things they posted were untrue.

Jumblemum Thu 24-Jan-13 11:46:26

Bexa, staff at Roke have been advised by senior management not to get involved in any campaign as The Harris Federation may be a future employer (bit creepy, no?) I do know that Roke was probably the only school in the country delighted to get an Ofsted inspection a couple of weeks ago - one of the teaching staff said to me 'Bring it On' - that is an interim report and can't lift us out of Notice to Improve sadly. My impression from chatting with some of the staff is that the majority are pleased that the parents are mounting a campaign, but I also know that at least one staff member is quite keen on Harris and would like them to take over.

As for the board of governors, Yellowsubmarine, my impression is that they hoped by going along with academisation, they might have some choice in sponsor and they wanted Riddlesdown Collegiate, who were helping the school anyway post Notice to. At the parents meeting, it is clear to me that a lot of parents chose Roke so that their kids would ultimately go to Riddlesdown so they would clearly be a more popular sponsor. So they were guilty of being overly optimistic and naive, but I think they didn't realise how intransigent DofE would be.

Sorry, I know I keep moaning about the DofE, but it's just I don't tolerate bullying in real life and I hate that a GOVERNMENT department, of schools, is doing that. I would like to think that they are doing it out of a conviction that they are improving failing schools but I fear it is more of a conviction that they want to decrease spending and academies will ultimately make it easier to do that.....

prh47bridge Thu 24-Jan-13 15:22:48

Academies certainly don't decrease spending. Overall they make no difference currently and I can't see that having lots of academies will make it easier in future. If anything I think it will make it harder - more people to object and campaign.

Since Riddlesdown is an academy itself it is eligible to sponsor Roke. No idea why DfE is forcing Roke to go with Harris. Possibly a legal challenge based on choice of sponsor would have more chance of success than one attempting to prevent conversion but I am only guessing based on limited information. The DfE may be able to justify their choice based on previous track record, although that approach would make it hard for new sponsors to appear.

sleepylampost Thu 24-Jan-13 20:15:19

I think you'll find the reason the DfE is forcing Roke to go with Harris has a lot to do with the fact that Lord Harris is a major Tory donor and one of Dave's personal buddies. He was his mentor. He personally sponsored David Cameron in his quest to become prime minister during the hug-a-hoodie years and snog a husky years. It is pay back time.

yellowsubmarine53 Thu 24-Jan-13 20:22:12

Indeed, sleepylampost. Harris already have secondary schools in Croydon and, given that they plan to extend their portfolio of primaries from 19 to 30 this year, Roke is a nice little number for them. In a borough where they're already established, doesn't need major input as it's doing perfectly well as a school.

Harris is the sponsor because Lord Harris wants to extend his portfolio, not because anyone from the DfE actually believes that it's a better option for the school - it's clearly not, given the effective joint working with Ribblesdown.

sleepylampost Thu 24-Jan-13 20:44:27

Here are two articles I have stumbled across...both are shocking in their own ways but the first is especially shocking. Academy chains like Harris are going to set back the disability movement by 30 years. All this under a prime minister who had a disabled father and a disabled son, and quite frankly should know better.

...and just in case you believe that the Tories don't intend to make academies run for profit in future.....

I fully expect someone on this thread to refute some more facts, but maybe not as it is in the Telegraph after all.

prh47bridge Thu 24-Jan-13 21:01:06

Do I have to explain again that Harris is a major philanthropist in education, primarily in South London, and gets no financial benefit from the Harris Academies? He may, of course, get a kick out of the fact that many schools and colleges bear his name, not just the Harris Federation academies. For example, the former Manchester College in the University of Oxford is now the Harris Manchester College following gifts from Lord Harris and his family.

It may be that the DfE forcing Roke to go with Harris is to do with his position as a Tory donor but that doesn't explain why the DCSF forced schools to go with Harris under the last government. Having done a little bit of research I believe the official line is that Harris has extensive experience of turning round under-performing schools with 9 of its schools now judged outstanding. Riddlesdown, of course, has no such experience.

As I say, I think a legal challenge based on the choice of sponsor is more likely to succeed than one attempting to prevent conversion. It would at least force the DfE to justify their choice.

sleepylampost Thu 24-Jan-13 22:18:27

Interesting about Gladstone Park, would you say this is a similar pattern to Roke yellowsub? A blip in performance? Any more schools in this position? Do you think we will soon have a wave of schools in this position, being picked off left, right and centre?

prh47 if you are ever out of work I am sure Harris would employ you in their PR department. You are good at telling us the official line but we are trying to explore the unofficial line here. Can you help us?

yellowsubmarine53 Thu 24-Jan-13 22:49:37

But Roke isn't an 'under performing school'. It had a blip in performance in 2011 and with the since judged excellent partnership working with Ribblesdown obtained L4 and L5 results above the national average - 98% of the children made expected progress in English for example.

To be honest, prh, your 'official line' sounds like your personal justification for this particular abuse of power as the DfE haven't come out with an 'official line' to explain specifically why Ribblesdown wasn't considered as a sponsor and Harris were.

Yes, the previous government were also in bed with Harris, although the specific reasons that Roke is being handed over now is that Harris want to increase their porfolio of schools and this is an easy number for them.

sleepy - I don't think Gladstone Park has had a blip in performance - it's still exceeding national expectations and averages in attainment and progress. The middle school isn't as strong as KS1 and Y6 but nothing that needs such drastic measures as forced academy status.

sleepylampost Thu 24-Jan-13 22:59:04

yellowsub, that's really interesting, are these two schools just anomalies where Gove appears to broken his own guidance that schools should be underperforming for a long period of time? Or do you think their are lots more schools in the same boat, where the parents have not bothered to campaign against the decision?

( The exact words on the DfE website are:
'When schools have been underperforming for a long time, decisive action is needed to raise standards and ensure that the children in these schools are able to achieve their full potential'.)

Jumblemum Thu 24-Jan-13 23:00:41

I emailed the DofE to ask for clarification on how they chose the sponsor and they said 'we liaised with them [Riddlesdown Collegiate] to assess their experience and capacity to a school in need of rapid improvement. We concluded they would not be able to do that at the moment' then a sentence on how Harris have turned round a number of struggling schools in south London, nine of which are now outstanding., which I think are probably mostly secondaries. They don't have a huge track record in primaries as yet.

I will be emailing back for an actual reason soon. Also taking exception to the school in need of rapid improvement statement, which I hope will be backed by the Ofsted interim report.

yellowsubmarine53 Thu 24-Jan-13 23:07:12

Harris indeed don't have a track record in primaries. Before Sept 2012, they only had one - Peckham Park - which was taken over because the Head/governors wanted it to be, rather than because it was under performing.

It seems to have had a quite a 'blip' in performance since conversion - it's L4 E & M has gone from 90% in 2011 to 64% in 2012, with maths looking particularly ropey. Wonder what they DfE will force that school to convert to!?!

I'd be very interested in the process by which the DfE assessed Riddlesdown and found them lacking in experience and capacity to improve a school, given that Croydon LA gave them top marks for doing just that in Dec '12.

admission Thu 24-Jan-13 23:15:24

A school can get perfectly reasonable results in terms of level 4 % but if in year 2 they were already level 3 then the rate of progress between year 2 and year 6 is not what is considered appropriate. That is what Ofsted is focusing on in inspections, it is not the level of attainment but the rate of progress of the pupils. At Gladstone Park in 3 of the 7 year groups the rate of progress was inadequate.

Both Roke and Gladstone Park, if you read the inspection reports then I for one can easily see why the schools were put into a category. The SLT and staff of the school can moan all they want but the bottom line is that the pupils in the schools have not been getting an appropriate education, they are being failed.

Whether the schools need to become academies is a very different argument from whether the school is providing a good education for its pupils and I would not argue against the view that far too many schools are being forced down a political initiative that is not necessary.

sleepylampost Thu 24-Jan-13 23:55:02

yellowsub I would like to see Perkham Park forced back under local authority control ;) The irony!

sleepylampost Thu 24-Jan-13 23:59:55

Or should that read 'Blip'ham Park?

admission go on the Roke Campaign website and see what the parents are saying about the school. There are several parents quoted in their press releases saying it is not a failing school. Parents usually know when a school is failing. Given all the concerns about Ofsted not being impartial and the moving of goalposts- simply reading the Ofsted report and saying a school is failing, is over simplistic.

prh47bridge Fri 25-Jan-13 01:13:03

yellowsubmarine53 - Take a look at [] and note what a DfE spokesman said to the local paper. Note that I also stated that the choice of Harris as sponsor may be something that could be challenged legally.

I look forward to your apology.

sleepylampost - I would strongly disagree that parents know when a school is failing. Time after time schools go into special measures despite the parents thinking the school is wonderful.

I have already said that I expect the Tories to allow (not make) academies to run for profit in future although it is not yet official party policy, so your veiled attack was completely uncalled for.

I think your assertion that academies will set back the disability movement by 30 years is over the top but I am appalled by the actions of Harris Academy Crystal Palace in the case to which you link. Unfortunately I have seen similar cases made at appeal by community schools attempting to keep out disabled children and my oldest daughter suffered from discrimination at a community school due her asthma, so this is not confined to academies by any means.

No, I can't help you on the "unofficial line". It may be that the DfE spokesman is giving us the real reasons even though you choose not to believe them. It may equally be that the DfE spokesman is covering up the real reasons. I have no idea.

As for Gove "breaking his own guidance", since 2005 the guidance has been that conversion to sponsored academy is the preferred route for dealing with any school in special measures, although of course that did not apply to primary schools under the last government.

Kindly stop treating me as a spokesman for Harris. Note that I have said I do not think it was right that 2 out of 5 members of the IEB were from Harris and suggested that it may be possible to challenge the choice of sponsor. I am not your enemy.

yellowsubmarine53 Fri 25-Jan-13 07:41:04

What on earth do I have to apologise to you about prh - there's absolutely no information in that article (or any other I have read) that explains that Ribblesdown had seriously been considered as a sponsor. It's just the usual DfE/Harris love in stuff.

prh47bridge Fri 25-Jan-13 10:25:51

I said the official line is that Harris has extensive experience of turning round under-performing schools with 9 of its schools now judged outstanding. You accused me of making that up, describing it as my "personal justification" and alleging that the DfE have not come up with an official line.

If experience in turning round failing schools was the DfE's main requirement when selecting a sponsor it is not surprising Harris was chosen over Riddlesdown. They have only been an academy for a few months and have not been a sponsor for any other schools. They therefore clearly have no experience of sponsoring a failing school and turning it round.

Riddlesdown themselves say whilst they were, "prepared to take on the responsibility to sponsor Roke, it was clear that as a newly converted and single academy ourselves, it was highly unlikely that we would be asked to do so, despite our strong working relationship with the school." (letter to parents dated January 13th which is available on Riddlesdown's website).

I have no idea whether or not that is the real justification for the selection of Harris in preference to Riddlesdown. However, I agree with Riddlesdown that it is highly unlikely that a newly converted academy with no experience of acting as a sponsor would be selected as the sponsor for a failing school.

It may be that this is the DfE's justification for a decision that was actually taken for other reasons as you suggest. I have no idea.

sleepylampost Fri 25-Jan-13 14:04:09

prh You are missing the point. How many times do you need telling that Roke is not a failing school and that they have already turned things around. Parents are confident the recent Ofsted monitoring visit will show this.

Despite this, they are being forced into academy status. Harris as their sponsor have just bagged a successful school which had a minor blip. Riddlesdown already have a track record they worked with Roke and got them back on track in a few months.

Roke is not a school that needs such a heavy handed, dictatorial approach.

I am glad you reassure me that you are not my enemy as I was starting to get concerned because people tell me about posters who get paid to tow the party line on forums like this.

yellowsubmarine53 Fri 25-Jan-13 16:39:18

prh, of course Ribblesdown doesn't have experience of turning round secondary schools - it's a school not an academy chain. It DOES have experience of very effectively supporting Roke, in an outstanding way according to the local authority. Unfortunately, we have no idea what Ofsted's view of this joint working is, as they didn't appear to do the promised monitoring visit until 24 hours after parents launched a campaign.

The DfE trot this line abour Harris out over and over again - it's a bit meaninglessness when you look at what's happened to Peckham Park since they took over.

admission Fri 25-Jan-13 17:06:08

sorry sleepylampost you are missing the point, officially according to Ofsted it is a failing school and they are the only arbitrator, whether anybody likes it or not.

Parents are absolutely the worst for knowing whether a school is failing or not, they tend to be well behind the timeline before it dawns on them that there children are getting a substandard education. It is not that they are getting to expected 4C level, it is that they should, based on their baseline assessment, have been a 5A.

prh47bridge Fri 25-Jan-13 19:16:00

I wish someone would pay me to post on here! It might stop my wife complaining about the time I spend on Mumsnet! smile

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