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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?

yellowsubmarine53 Fri 25-Jan-13 20:33:15

admission, Ofsted haven't said that Roke is a 'failing school'. The judgement in May 2012 was that it required improvement. It has improved according to assessment by the LA. Ofsted wasn't given a chance to evaluate its performance, as it was handed over before they had a chance to make a monitoring visit.

For those posters saying that parents are the worst for knowing whether a school is failing or not, here's Michael Wilshaw's (Head of Ofsted, ex-Head of Mossbourne) views on the matter...

“People know whether a school is improving or not. It might have gone through difficult times, it might still be in a category, it might still be in special measures, but parents will know if a school is improving. Better leadership, better governance – parents are the first to know about this. So they are an excellent sounding board for what a school is like.” *(PTA-UK magazine)

prh47bridge Fri 25-Jan-13 22:02:51

yellowsubmarine53 - That is simply wrong.

Ofsted rated Roke as inadequate. The report says that it requires "significant improvement" and the school was given notice to improve. Ofsted also said that significant improvement is required in the leadership and management of the school. Given that the report goes on to state that the school has "insufficient capacity for sustained improvement" it was in serious danger of being placed in special measures. If its SATs results had been worse it probably would have gone into special measures.

Ofsted do not themselves use the term "failing school" but any school rated inadequate is regarded as failing (or, to use the DfE's preferred term, a "school causing concern") and is likely to be placed in special measures unless it improves. Under current rules Roke is not yet due for reinspection.

I hear what Michael Wilshaw said (although I would like to see the original interview rather than a single quote so that I can understand the context) but I do not agree, nor do the reports by his own inspectors. Time and again a school goes into special measures with parents thinking it is wonderful.

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

No, it isn't wrong, quite simply.

Ofsted put Roke on a Notice to Improve. They have done just this in partnership with Ribblesdown.

It's the unless it improves issue that you mention that it the point - the school have been given warning that it needs to improve and there is a period allocated for it to do that. Ofsted were due to visit for a monitoring visit within 2 terms ie before Christmas (the school had been informed of this). This didn't happen until after Christmas, 24 hours after parents at Roke launched a campaign.

Under the current framework, schools have between 12-18 months to show significant improvement before a next judgement is made. Why weren't Roke given that chance? With an outstanding secondary school at hand to support them and very good SATS results in 2012, they are hardly on their uppers.

In the meantime, the school had been handed over to Harris in what appears to be a most untransparent process.

What reason, do you think, that the DfE had to threaten the governors with the sack if they informed teachers or parents of their intention to give the school to Harris? Why did they disregard the consultation detailed in the Education Act 2012, do you think?

admission Fri 25-Jan-13 22:24:44

I think that is the bottom line here. If a school is in special measures, notice to improve or requiring improvement under Ofsted, then the old "rules" do not apply under Gove's crusade. Any school entering those categories is likely to find itself under intense pressure or just told to convert to an academy. As with everything the goal posts have been moved.

yellowsubmarine53 Fri 25-Jan-13 22:37:24

Exactly. And given that there is no evidence that academy status improves schools, the only conclusion is that it is an entirely ideological agenda.

prh47bridge Sat 26-Jan-13 01:33:39

You still don't seem to get it. You misrepresented Ofsted's report. According to you Ofsted simply said the school "required improvement". Ofsted actually said that Roke is inadequate, the lowest classification available, that it needs substantial improvement and it is unable to improve itself. It is now too late to appeal against Ofsted's judgement so Roke is classed as a failing school. Notwithstanding any improvements it will officially remain a failing school under notice to improve until it is inspected again. The monitoring visit to which you refer cannot move the school out of the inadequate category or remove the notice to improve.

A school like Roke that is judged as inadequate and where Ofsted believe it has insufficient capacity for sustained improvement is unlikely to be given the opportunity to turn itself around without external intervention of some sort being imposed by the LA and/or the DfE, regardless of whether or not the school wants the intervention. The presumption in favour of conversion to academy status kicks in immediately a school is placed in a category of concern, in part because politicians of all parties believe there is plenty of evidence that academy status improves failing schools. Anti academy campaigners dispute that interpretation of the evidence. I am not in a position to say who is right.

I don't know anything about the threats you allege were made by the DfE so cannot comment. I know the governors were told they would be replaced if they did not co-operate with conversion to a Harris academy. If the Secretary of State issues an academy order the governors must co-operate or be replaced with an IEB. I don't think an academy order has been made for Roke as yet but clearly one will be made if the governors will not co-operate. It has always been the case that governors at schools eligible for intervention must co-operate with any intervention from the LA or DfE or risk being replaced by an IEB, especially where Ofsted has concluded that the governors are not doing a good job as is the case here.

The consultation requirements of the Education Act 2011 are pretty light. In the case of a school eligible for intervention, which Roke clearly is, the consultation can be carried out by the governors or the proposed sponsor or an educational institution that replaces the school. The consultation must seek the views of whoever the person conducting the consultation thinks appropriate and there is no requirement for anyone to take any notice of the outcome of the consultation. The courts would prevent the consultation being too unreasonable - a consultation which consisted of asking one person who lives 500 miles away would certainly be thrown out. But it does mean the consultation may be a sham with the outcome being ignored.

yellowsubmarine53 Sat 26-Jan-13 02:17:22

I get it perfectly well, thank you, prh. I simply interpret the available information differently to you and draw different conclusions.

Roke DID have external intervention from the LA. It isn't accurate to label anyone who is sceptical about academy conversion as an 'anti academy campaigner'. Professor Machin who headed the LSE research which indicated that some of the sponsored academies set up under the last government were successful in raising standards (and whose research is trotted out repeatedly by the current DfE to justify their academy agenda) has explicitly said that this cannot be extrapolated to converter academies.

You're also no doubt familiar with the recent cautions issued by the Academy Commission.

The most high profile consultation in the forced academy agenda was at Downhills primary, in which the outcomes was ignored (£45,000 of public money, 94% of stakeholders against the forced conversion, IEB undecided). Yes it was a sham, but at least it was done. I can only conclude that the reason that the governors didn't conduct even the most cursory consultation at Roke was so that stake holders ie parents, teachers and the local community wouldn't be able to take action until the deal was done.

And I can only interpret this as bullying, as surely anything to do with good-to-honest school improvement would be done in an transparent fashion.

prh47bridge Sat 26-Jan-13 11:55:01

The only conclusion I have drawn from the Ofsted report is that Roke is inadequate and its current management and governors are judged incapable of delivering the required improvement. That is Ofsted's conclusion and they are the final arbiter in the current system. You may disagree with their judgement but legally their judgement is final (barring appeals).

Having external intervention from the LA does not prevent the DfE from intervening.

Professor Machin said that the results cannot be extrapolated to the successful schools now being converted to academy status (converter academies) as these are different to the academies set up under the last government, which were converted from or replaced failing schools. The study found that conversion to academy status did bring about improvements in failing schools that became sponsored academies under the last government with the biggest improvement being in community schools that converted. If you want to say this study does not apply to Roke the angle to take is that it does not apply to primary schools, which I think is a bit weak, or that the study got it wrong, which I think is a stronger argument.

I am aware of the work of the Academies Commission. I'm not sure how that is relevant to Roke.

There must be a consultation for Roke at some point prior to conversion but I agree it will probably be a sham. I am not happy about that. The reason the consultation requirements are so weak is that, under the previous government, campaigners were able to use consultations to prevent some failing schools from converting and that the evidence available shows that such schools did not improve as successfully as those that did convert. For clarity, I am not saying that I personally agree that this should have led to consultation becoming a sham. I am not sure what I would have done if I were in charge of education but it certainly wouldn't have been the current "consultation" system.

Given Ofsted's judgement on the governors and management of the school it was always likely that they would be taken out of the equation by interventions with the DfE stepping in if the LA left the governors and management in place. I wouldn't necessarily regard that as bullying. If the school's management and governors have got the school into the situation and are judged incapable of delivering the required improvement we either wait around to see if they can improve, and risk delivering a poor education to more children in the process, or we accept Ofsted's judgement and get on with replacing them with people who can deliver improvement.

I have tried to avoid expressing an opinion (although you clearly think otherwise) but I will express one now. Whilst I can see the DfE's case, I sympathise with the school's desire to have Riddlesdown (which you've called Ribblesdown a few times!) as their sponsor. If it was working and producing the required improvement it is a shame that they are being pushed out in favour of Harris, however understandable that is from the DfE's viewpoint.

yellowsubmarine53 Sat 26-Jan-13 14:18:21

Given that Ofsted are the final arbiter in the current system, it's hard to understand why the promised monitoring visit in 2012 didn't occur despite the school requesting it, and why they turned up 24 hours after parents launched a campaign.

Given that Ofsted gave the notice to improve, it seems extraordinary that it wasn't allowed to evaluate whether the school had improved before the Dfe moved in. Looking at the school data for 2012, which one would hope that the DfE did, but wouldn't be surprised if it hadn't, it's clearly not a school on its uppers in need of dramatic intervention. The 'inadequate' judgement was made prior to the 2012 national tests, which show considerable improvement from the year before. I don't particularly agree with the DfE using historical performance data to decide a school's future - the performance and leadership within the school improved a lot in 2012 according to Croydon LA, and Ofsted weren't given an opportunity to evaluate this.

Prof Machin said, "We do not yet have robust, academically rigorous evidence on the coalition academies. For one thing, it is very early days, and as research on US charter schools also shows, time needs to pass before it is possible to evaluate their impact in a meaningful way." That is, that there is no empirical justification for the scale and speed of the academy agenda under the coalition.

Regardless of what you think about the statutory need for 'consultation' there is indeed one, which the Roke governors have chosen to ignore.

Other than than Harris wants the school, I don't see how understandable the DfE's intention to hand the school over to Harris is. There are 100s of schools around the country in special measures in far worse states that this one. We have a secondary school near us that has been in special measures for YEARS. Why doesn't the DfE intervene there, rather than at a school which is already improving?

sleepylampost Sat 26-Jan-13 14:54:24

It seems that the recent Ofsted verdict on whether progress has been made is satisfactory and this is the highest rating the school could obtain given the timeframe.

sleepylampost Sat 26-Jan-13 14:58:06

prh I don't see what you get from spending such a huge amount of time on Mumsnet correcting people and generally hampering people who want to look beyond the official position on forced academies. You are just backing up the Government line all the time. The Government line will happen anyway without you bringing it up all the time. What do you get from going on about it? We need time and space to explore other lines of thought.

admission Sat 26-Jan-13 19:13:29

What is quite interesting is that there is no public report on the progress at Roke. It is not currently on the Ofsted website, so presumably what is being passed around is the letter that the HMI wrote and asked the school to comment on for accuracy. That shows a remarkable lack of confidentiality by the school as the report is not official till it is published and can be changed at any time up until the report is published.
There is also a clear misunderstanding about what the report might be saying. It is not saying the school is now satisfactory (which of course no longer exists under the Ofsted framework for school levels) it is saying that satisfactory progress is being made towards the school not being in a category. It does not mean it is anywhere close to coming out of the category, only that progress is being made. Given that there was not sufficient facts and figures to indicate that progress was good, the school is still a long long way away from getting a good rating under a full Ofsted inspection.

yellowsubmarine53 Sat 26-Jan-13 20:12:02

The report that sleepy is referring to is the monitoring visit undertaken by Croydon LA in Dec '12.

There hasn't been any information released about the Ofsted monitoring visit that happened 24 hours after the Roke story hit the national headlines as far as I know.

admission Sat 26-Jan-13 20:46:09

Not if look at the webpage that sleepy puts up. That specifically refers to last weeks ofsted inspection having been satisfactory.

sleepylampost Sat 26-Jan-13 21:15:37

The information was only put up by parents on their campaign website today. It's a weekend. Ofsted obviously not efficient enough to get it up on their site before they sent it to the school and parents.

There was no monitoring visit in December 2012, as far as I can discern. Only the one mentioned on the website which took place last week.

The classification of the school cannot change without a full inspection, so it is still in Notice to Improve but the school's improvements are satisfactory. To get good or Outstanding they would have needed more time to show that the changes have been embedded. So they got the best rating they could in the circumstances.

prh47bridge Sat 26-Jan-13 22:45:24

yellowsubmarine - As I have already pointed out the consultation does not have to be conducted by the governors. It could be conducted by Harris as the proposed sponsor. I'm sure it will be meaningless.

Can you identify the school that you say has been in special measures for years? PM me if you don't want to state it publicly. That shouldn't happen. I'm not sure it helps you but it is worth taking a look.

I don't know why Roke rather than other schools. I know that some LAs are being targeted on the grounds that they have historically had particularly high concentrations of schools that have remained below floor standard for years. I know the identities of some but not all of these LAs so I don't know if yours is one of them.

sleepylampost - I am not "backing the government line" nor am I in any way denying you time and space. I have made a few comments that are very definitely not "backing the government line". As I have said before I am not keen on debates about a subject where one or both sides fling around "facts" that are untrue - one of the reasons I won't get actively involved in politics. It is true that I have only corrected anti-conversion campaigners on this thread but I don't see anyone here posting in favour of conversion, let alone including untrue "facts". On other threads I have corrected statements made by pro-academy posters. And on some threads I have given anti conversion campaigners advice on how they might succeed. Unfortunately I think your campaign is unlikely to succeed in the current climate.

As Admission indicates, the report on the Save Roke website doesn't seem to fully understand the role of the monitoring inspection. "Satisfactory" progress does not mean the school has turned around rapidly and is making substantial improvements. That would have constituted "good" progress at least. By the way, the progress grades in a Section 8 report are not as shown on the Save Roke website. Ofsted uses terms such as "unsatisfactory", "reasonable", "satisfactory". The fact that progress is rated "satisfactory" helps the campaign a little but in the current climate it is probably not good enough. I suspect the DfE's view would be that if the link with Riddlesdown was working progress would have been more than satisfactory.

For what it is worth I am not comfortable with forced academy conversions although I recognise that sometimes drastic steps are required to deal with a failing school. I understand your anger at what is happening. The power in this situation lies with the DfE. The only way you will prevent conversion other than a legal challenge (which is unlikely to succeed) is to persuade the DfE to change their minds. Flinging around accusations about their motives is not going to achieve that.

sleepylampost Sat 26-Jan-13 23:46:43

Evaluating the school’s progress
12.Inspectors are required to evaluate the school’s progress in dealing with the areas for improvement identified by the last section 5 inspection, and in improving outcomes for pupils. Judgements are made on the four-point scale: 1 is outstanding; 2 is good; 3 is satisfactory; 4 is inadequate.

prh47bridge Sat 26-Jan-13 23:56:55

Sorry - I hold my hands up to that one. I was thinking of a Special Measures Section 8 inspection rather than a Notice to Improve. However, I still think that Roke needed a better rating from the Section 8 inspection to help your campaign.

sleepylampost Sun 27-Jan-13 00:07:41

It says on the site, a better rating was not possible given the time between inspections. A longer time would be needed to show the changes were sustained and to acheive a rating of good or outstanding.

yellowsubmarine53 Sun 27-Jan-13 09:52:45

It's this school, prh.

As you can see, it's been in an Ofsted category, most usually special measures since 2007.

It's in Haringey which is one of the areas that the DfE have targeted for forced academy conversion, though they are focusing on primary schools.

It's hard for local residents to understand why a primary school which was put on a notice to improve for the first time end of 2011 was handed over to AET before the inspection was even published (Nightingale School N22), and the JL school has been left to provide an inadequate standard of education for years, given that it's all meant to be about school improvement.

prh47bridge Sun 27-Jan-13 14:30:43

sleepylampost - I want to see the report rather than the minute extract on the Save Roke website before commenting directly on it. There is certainly nothing in Ofsted's guidance on Notice to Improve inspections that says a rating better than satisfactory is not possible in this timescale and I'm pretty sure I have seen some schools achieve that. The website seems to have drawn the conclusion that "satisfactory" was the best rating available from a comment that "it is too early to measure the impact of some new initiatives". To play devil's advocate for a moment (so I'm not saying this is what I believe or that it is correct) another way of interpreting that would be to say they might have achieved "good" or better if the new initiatives had been started earlier and were now producing measurable results.

yellowsubmarine53 - I am appalled. A school should not be allowed to continue like this for this length of time. Bluntly it should have been closed or converted by now. I don't know if the particular faith with which the school is associated has led to nervousness about possible accusations of discrimination but, whatever the reason, it is not good enough. The governors, leadership team, Haringey, DCSF, DfE, this government and the previous government have all failed this school. I see that it now faces closure this summer or, if the church has its way, conversion to a sponsored academy so something is finally being done but it is far too late. I hope that the disagreement about what action should be taken will not delay action any further.

Looking at the various Ofsted reports, it seems an IEB was appointed in 2008 or 2009 after initial unsatisfactory progress after being placed on Notice to Improve in 2007, although there is no longer an IEB in place. The school went into special measures in 2009. I would seriously question the Section 8 inspections in 2010/11 - they all show the school making satisfactory progress towards coming out of special measures but the Section 5 inspection at the end of 2011 showed that little improvement had actually taken place. I wonder if these Section 8 inspections were a factor in the DfE's failure to intervene, although in my view there was enough evidence for DfE to get involved regardless.

Does this help the Save Roke campaign? In terms of a possible legal challenge or getting the DfE to change its mind it is unlikely to be of use. The courts set a very high bar before they will intervene in a decision by the government - assuming no laws have been broken they will only intervene if the decision maker's interpretation of government policy is not one which the words of the policy are reasonably capable of bearing (for a different, and possibly clearer, expression of the standard used look up "Wednesbury unreasonable"). And DfE (unsurprisingly) won't want to discuss other schools. However, an apparently inconsistent approach certainly makes people angry and can help to recruit people to the cause, so it helps in that respect.

admission Sun 27-Jan-13 15:10:00

I share PRB's concerns that this school has been a basket case for much longer than it should have been allowed to be.
The pupils in this school have been let down by everybody directly concerned but also by those that should have been making sure that this school did make major improvements. I question why the LA, Ofsted and the DfE have not taken action years ago.
This is a good example of the kind of school that Gove should have been targeting as a priority to shut / academise or shut.

yellowsubmarine53 Sun 27-Jan-13 17:50:34

prh, yes I think that the particular faith which the school has associated has made the situation more delicate than it might have been, but still as you say no reason for so many years with no intervention. There is currently a LA run consultation about closing the school so we shall see.

admission exactly. This is the kind of school that Gove should have been targetting (in addition to the LA and Ofsted). The fact that the DfE have chosen to pick on schools like Roke and do nothing about this one make it very, very difficult to understand how the academy agenda can be about 'improving standards.'

bexa Tue 29-Jan-13 17:40:25

Anyone see the Guardian piece yesterday with the latest from Roke School. Can't believe governers were threatened with sack! Outrageous. Yet more evidence of dodgy dealings I say. Really needs an investigative journo to dig deep as I bet there is loads more of this sort of corruption going on.

prh47bridge Tue 29-Jan-13 18:03:24

Don't know why you've posted this on multiple threads. If you are referring to this then yes, I saw it. It doesn't tell us anything new.

Note that the words attributed to the DfE are what the chair of the governors told parents the DFE said and not necessarily a verbatim account. It amounts to the DfE telling the governors that if they don't co-operate the DfE will appoint an IEB to replace them. You can describe that as a threat if you want but it is a straightforward statement of the process as it has been for years. If the governors of a school causing concern refuse to co-operate with the LA's plans or, if the DfE get involved, the DfE's plans they are likely to be replaced with an IEB. That applies regardless of whether the plans are academy conversion or something else.

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