Academies pay out millions to private firms

Academies pay out millions to private firms
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Follow the Money
The Guardian (13 January 2014) leads on the millions of pounds paid to academy directors, trustees and their relatives. “Grace Academy, which runs three schools in the Midlands and was set up by the Tory donor Lord Edmiston, has paid more than £1m either directly to or through companies owned or controlled by Edmiston, trustees’ relatives and to members of the board of trustees.” Rajeev Syal explains that “payments to businesses in which academy’s trustees have a beneficial interest are allowed if the trust has fully complied with its procedures and conditions set out in the trust’s articles of association….Before July 2010, the Charities Commission oversaw the governance of academies, but this was switched to the DfE in August 2011.”
And the costs of setting up academies don’t escape scrutiny: “School Partnership Trust Academies (SPTA), which has converted more than 30 schools to academies, revealed payments of £424,850 over two years for legal services to Wrigleys Solicitors, where the trust director Christopher Billington is a partner, and for education consultancy to Elmet Education, where another member of School Partnership Trust Academies is a director.” All of this public money comes from the state education budget and not one penny directly benefits our children.

A good local school for every child
Segregation and selection can take many forms: from the bankers’ school in Canary Wharf to Prince Henry’s Grammar Academy in Yorkshire where parents are being charged for IT equipment And what about Mossbourne Academy? It turns out that the poster school for successive education secretaries had a very different intake from its neighbouring non-Academy school:

Key Stage 4 2012 Cohort
(DfE performance tables) Mossbourne
% The Urswick School
SEN Statements &
School Action Plus 11.9 28.4
English as an Additional Language 37.7 53.5
Free School Meals (FSM) 32.7 52.9
Boys 55.7 63.2

Free Schools: Making the News

In Yorkshire, the arrest of the Head of Bradford’s Kings Science Academy over fraud allegations made ITV prime time. In North London the local press have picked up on the zero-hours contracts offered by the governors at STEM6, a sixth-form free school in Islington. Teachers there are balloting for strike action. And in Bournemouth, parents are quizzing free school directors over a free school’s move from the town centre to the airport!

Controversy surrounded Tynemouth’s Kings Priory Academy from the start. It was a merger between a community primary school and a private fee paying secondary school. When Michael Gove agreed to take on the private school’s loans he landed taxpayers with a £5m debt. Now just one term after it opened, its founding Principal David Dawes has resigned, citing differences of personal vision between himself and Woodard Academy Trust. This was just one day after the resignation of another Woodard principal, Steve Jewell, who has resigned from the Littlehampton Academy in West Sussex. According to Ofsted, the three other academies run by Woodard all require improvement.

Natalie Evans of the New Schools Network – the government-backed campaign group for free schools – said there was no question that more free schools would fail. Meanwhile, a proposer for the rejected Diaspora Free School, Kay Johnston, says that a DfE official noted that her bid should be rejected because: “This is not a school for the local community. It is for the black community. The proposers are African Caribbean and all their mentors are black”. She had hoped to open the school in Lewisham, South London.

No wonder the Secretary of State said he will challenge the Information Commissioner through the courts rather than open up the free school application process to FOI scrutiny – Mr Gove makes no apology because, he says, releasing the information “would allow opponents of free school applications to attack applications more easily”.

Campaigning and winning

John Cryer, MP for Leyton and Wanstead has offered his support to Our Community Our Schools E17, where the opening of a free school has been held up for at least a year, saying: “The introduction of free schools removes democratic accountability and oversight from children’s education. There will undoubtedly be people running free schools who have the best of intentions but the scandals we have seen so far involving a number of free schools will probably prove to be the tip of the iceberg…Frankly, the government’s free schools programme is barking mad and seems to have been dreamt up by some ideologically driven obsessive somewhere in the bowels of Conservative headquarters.”

The Warren Comprehensive School in Dagenham and their local Council have won the first step of their legal challenge to the Secretary of State and have called a halt, at least temporarily, to the school’s forced academisation. There was good news too in the West Midlands for Galton Valley Primary School in Smethwick. Back in summer 2013 parents there said they did not need an academy chain to improve their children’s school. In December Ofsted re-inspected the school and graded it ‘good’

Education Select Committee

This expose comes just in time for the Education Select Committee’s enquiry into aspects of academies and free schools. Along with many individuals, trades unions and other organisations, the Anti Academies Alliance has submitted written evidence. All of the statements are here. and here.

The DfE’s evidence of the success of sponsored academies cited the 69% SATS result at the former Downhills school in Tottenham; not so striking when compared with the 67% achieved before it became an academy! The Ofsted PR spinning machine seems to be in overdrive as well. Writing for the NAHT, Warwick Mansell says “there is good evidence from last month’s [Ofsted] annual report that, while statistically individual inspectors seem to be treating schools of different types even-handedly, at a national level in terms of the interpretation of complex statistics, Sir Michael [Wilshaw] may not be: he seems to be making allowances for sponsored academies which he has not made for non-academy state-funded schools”.

Wednesday 22 January 7.00pm: West London Education Question Time Chaired by Adrian Chiles. Panellists include Christine Blower, General Secretary, NUT and the former children’s laureate, Michael Rosen. It’s a free event but please reserve a place. This is the first of a national series – look out for more dates. The next will be on 27 February chaired by Fiona Phillips in South London where panellists will include Gus John and Lib Peck, leader of Lambeth Council.

AAA public meeting and AGM
Saturday 25 January 1.00pm: Campaigning for Education – Gove’s Reforms in Trouble
Speakers include Christine Blower, Rob Kelsall and parents from the victorious Save Snaresbrook campaign. Everyone is welcome but please follow the link to register.

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