Not for Profit
Tristram Hunt says there’s clear water between Labour and the Conservatives over ‘for profit’ state schooling. He should be warned that the current legal structures of academies and free schools leave them vulnerable to the privateers. Swedish company IES runs Breckland free school in Suffolk – rated inadequate by Ofsted – for profit and the contractual arrangements behind all academies and free schools mean they’re vulnerable to any future government allowing ‘for profit’. If Labour is serious about preventing ‘for profit’, Hunt must address the legal standing of all of our schools and return them to the public sector.
The DfE has announced that 38 new free schools have been given permission to open in September 2015 – a fraction of what’s needed to meet the place crisis. One of the new schools is to be opened by STEM, the same organisation that tried to implement zero hours contracts for its teachers in Islington. Another of the newly approved schools, ARK Pioneer Academy will be offering ‘blended learning’ in Croydon, South London. Blended Learning is an American euphemism for primary aged pupils being taught via the internet for part of the day.
Following the Trojan Horse affair in Birmingham, the Guardian reported that new schools and converter academy contracts will include a clause enabling the education secretary to close a school or dismiss its governors if he thinks that any member of the academy trust is “unsuitable” because of “relevant conduct”. This has been defined as anything “aimed at undermining the fundamental British values of democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs”.
It is irony beyond comment when a government minister can determine what constitutes British values while simultaneously undermining the democratic accountability of our schools.
Taken for a Ryde
Parents in the Isle of Wight have been collecting their children from AET-run Ryde Academy
as they are sent home or to ‘isolation’ for wearing the incorrect uniform. It appears that the Principal there has form. Back in 2012, Rory Fox tried the same approach at the troubled Basildon Academies
Prominent tweeter @miconm noted ‘Oh weird. He goes around the country straightening ties’
Victory for Colmore Parents while Cavell Fight On
Congratulations to the parents of Colmore Infant and Junior Schools who have fought a well organised and now victorious campaign against conversion to academy status. Parents at the schools, in Kings Heath Birmingham, were delighted to be told that governors were ‘not convinced that at this juncture the potential benefits of conversion outweigh the potential disadvantages’.
Barking and Dagenham Council along with the governing body of the Warren School take on Gove 25 June in the High Court. Please email messages of support to firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet @BarDagNUT
Parents at Cavell Primary School in Norwich continue their principled stand against forced academisation of the Norwich school. The Interim Executive Board has admitted that while it has been consulting parents ‘the IEB … has had to consider the inevitability of the statement made by the DfE and the LA that irrespective of a decision made by the IEB the school will become an academy.’ Meanwhile the preferred sponsor – Right for Success Academy Trust – is facing questions over its handling of a primary school conversion in another part of the county.
The DfE offers only one solution to ‘failure’ and that is forced academisation. Yet Camden in North London is one of the country’s most successful local authority areas and had no academies until the arrival of UCL Academy in September 2012. Now in June 2014 Ofsted has rated the £30m academy as requiring improvement.
Teachers from the NUT and NASUWT joined together to take strike action at Darwen Vale High School in Lancashire. The school faces forced academisation despite improving results and a successful Ofsted progress report.
Meanwhile on South Tyneside, the two teaching unions struck together to protest at workload demands at St Joseph’s Catholic Academy. Jill McManus of South Tyneside’s NUT branch, said progress had been made over a pay dispute but extra workload issues remain unresolved.
The Good Old Days
When the Prospects chain folded, new sponsors had to be found for their six schools and it seems that Bexhill High is to be handed to the newly formed Attwood Academies Trust – Director Tom Attwood. Is this the same Tom Attwood, millionaire financier, former director at Centre for Social Justice (cited as a major influence on Cameron’s Conservative Party) who resigned from the TKAT Kemnal Academies Trust in 2013? The DfE says that Attwood is the preferred sponsor, yet Attwood Academies Trust, set up in October 2012, appears to have no other schools. The Interim Principal has written to Bexhill High parents: ‘In the good old days every school was under the control of East Sussex County Council…. If you feel sceptical don’t. If you feel slightly uncomfortable by business people taking over schools, again I would ask you not to. That is what the government wants, and it can, and does, work.’
Visit our website to click and see which other Tory millionaires are helping themselves to a slice of academy pie.