Anyone else experiencing Academy 'blackmail'?

08 Jan 2009

  A parent in Tamworth has contacted me about proposals to reorganise schools there to create  new Academies. The issue has national resonance as it goes to the heart of government plans to use Building Schools for the Future (BSF) funds to promote City Academies. As is often the case, there is a fear that if the plans for the Academy are not approved, the much-needed money will be lost to the schools in the  area. 

 Under the plan, worth £100 million of BSF money,  the 5 schools in the area will be reduced to 4, each losing its 6th form.  A new 11-16 Academy sponsored by Landau Forte will be opened and a 6th Form Centre will be opened, governed by the Academy Trust. 

 The consultation period for these dramatic changes was very short, running only from 10th November 2008 to 15th January 2009, a period which included Christmas and New Year. 

Below you will find the views of parent Carolyn Lang. The official answers to questions about the plan can be found at: http://www.staffordshire.gov.uk/education/schoolsandcolleges/BSF/FAQ/Tamworth/#one

I would be interested in other views and experiences.

'Carolyn Lang writes:

'I am a parent of a current Year 7 pupil and a Year 5 pupil and unfortunately we are near the end of our consultation period for Staffordshire's changes under the BSF programme. 

I believe my family is one of 1000's affected nationally by BSF and the governments push to have 400 academy schools by 2012.

Our consultation process has also been handled very badly and as parents we have nowhere to go to demand that this be remedied.  Our consultation process began on November 10th with Christmas in the middle and ends on 15th January.  Government guidelines recommend 12 weeks minimum, plus extra to be added on if a holiday period is within the consultation period. We have only had 8 and a half weeks, including Christmas.  Our consultation document says that Academies are 'state' schools - even though it is a legal requirement that they are entered on the independent schools register and are a private company limited by guarentee.  Staffordshire CC is pushing for 2 academies in Tamworth purely on the "fact" that they raise standards when this is clearly not the case, as stated in Price Waterhouse Coopers 5th annual report. Why as parents are we not allowed to be told the truth.  Staffordshire CC have also stated that no academy means no 100 million pounds for Tamworth - blackmailing parents I feel. 

As parents we have only had one consultation meeting of 2 hours duration for each high school, where no questions were properly answered and no detail given as to what will happen to our children.  The county are also "selling" this proposal on increasing choice and diversity for parents, in our Town we will only have a 6th form academy and an FE college - no state run 6th form to send your child to how does that increase choice?  The Academy has also stated that it will give priority to "internal" applicants from the 11-16 academy therefore reducing choice for the rest of the 3 high school pupils.

I have been following the stories from other locations across the country, many of whom are fighting their changes under BSF proposals, alot of which seem to include merging schools to release school site's - for redevelopment perhaps - is this the great school playing field sell off under a different title??  In the Tamworth case - the high school that is under threat of closure is the largest site, only to have a 6th form building for the least number of pupils in one corner and as stated on the expression of interest document they plan to dispose of the rest of the site - I assume more houses will be built on the site and we will have no schools to send the children to.

The proposal is not due to be completed until 2013 at the earliest by which time my eldest will have completed all but one year of her secondary education conducted through massive disruption., Are we all happy to sacrifice a generation of children's education for a few shiny buildings and no improvements in results. As  no-one has explained to me how BSF will improve my children's education, I feel this is too great a risk.

  We will have 3 brand new schools built in Tamworth, 2 of which will be given away for nothing to Landau Forte and a generation of children educated in portacabins and across 3 secondary schools - is this acceptable?'

   Please post your comments below.

 

 

User Comments

J. Morgan - 21 Jan 2009

Academies

I am also the parent of a child affected by the BSF proposals for Tamworth. I am in favour of our educatonal standards improving but not this way. What worries me most about the BSF process is the complete lack of democracy nd openness involved in the application and consultation procedures in addition to the lack of public accountability that accompanies the take over of our mainstream schools by private sponsors. However we are not alone. Readers may wish to view the Anti Academies Alliance website which has details of the many campaigns taking place all over the country (see: http://www.antiacademies.org.uk/)

It astounds me that the widespread opposition to BSF has not become a national issue and is not widely acknowledged in the media. The privatisation of our state schools is creaping in through the back door simply because of local authority spin and the lack of disclosure to the public of the full facts on academy governance.

The schools in which we currently have a proper say on governance, in addition to the right of recourse to the LEA if there are problems, will be lost for good. Gone will be the large representation of parents on the governing body (the majority of which will subsequently be appointed by the sponsor), and gone too will be the rights and protections hard won by working people over the decades. Children and parents will lose the protection of much of the Education Act, staff will lose the protection of national pay and conditions agreements, while academies are exempt from the Freedom of Information Act and therefore not subject to proper public scrutiny. This is, in my view, totally unacceptable in a society which supposedly represents freedom and democracy!

Gerry German - 15 Feb 2009

Academies

My organisation, very much grassroots and community-based, provides advice, support and representation for parents experiencing problems relating to school admissions, school exclusions and special educational needs assessment.

Academies are an educational anamoly. They are neither representative of nor accountable to their communities.

While they seem to accept a representative group in the summer, there is a tendency to exclude quite a number in the first term of Year 7, most of them in the lower ability groups! Selection by the back door?

They have no need to respond to local authority efforts to coordinate education provision in such things as managed moves between schools, for example.

Local authorities argue in favour of academies on the basis of ill-founded assunmptions about performance - a number of academies are under-performing and very much in the special measures category despite the exaggerated claims being made on their behalf.

Local authorities seem to be responding to funding bribery when they should be arguing for all children and young people to be accorded their full educational entitlements within a solid framework of properly asserted human rights.

We need to go back to adequately funded, properly staffed comprehensive schools under local community control.

Gerry German
Director
Communities Empowerment Network

V K Lockwood - 18 Feb 2009

Parkwood School, Sheffield

In Sheffield, towards the end of 2008, Parkwood High School progressed its plans to become an academy. Parkwood has for many years languished at the bottom of the league tables in the city, serving one of the most economically deprived areas in South Yorkshire. It is crying out for investment in its buildings so when BSF funding became available it was a strong contender for major rebuilding. Strangely, however, it appears not to have been considered for a new build but rather for refurbishment so when the promise of a £15million rebuilding programme was put forward if the school became an academy there was a rush to embrace a sponsor.
The new Liberal Democrat council had previously made promises that all future applications by schools to change their status would be put to a ballot of parents of the schools themselves and their feeder primaries. Once the ballot process was announced, however, it soon became apparent how little regard was to be paid to anything resembling democracy with the flow of information to parents through literature and public meetings strictly controlled to deny any contrary opinion being expressed. All requests for balance in the information were refused. Denied direct access to parents, opponents were at a cripling disadvantage. More than that, it became starkly obvious that the message to parents had been a simple one: if you do not vote for the academy, there will be no new school. It was a message reinforced at every turn, often in subtle ways and not least by the local MP, David Blunkett, who took a prominent position in the debate. Opponents of the academy plan simply found it impossible to break through this misconception.
Statutory Notice has been published but, in an unexpected twist to the story, the plans have been frozen while the investigation currently underway into Edutrust is conducted.
Have any lessons been learned? Not at all. A new ballot of parents at a further secondary school in the city wishing to become a Trust school has gone through the same process to produce the same eventual outcome.
For many of us, it has been a searing lesson in how easily the normal assumptions behind the democratic process can be set aside to suit an agenda which springs initially from governement and cascades down to local communities. For all the lip-service that is paid to them by politicians, it is local people who ultimately are the victims.

Keith Turner - 23 Feb 2009

Proposed Ark Academy endangers The Royal Docks Community School in London Borough of Newham

After the summer holiday, teaching staff at The Royal Docks Community School returned for what they presumed would be a normal INSET day to find 2 leading Authority officers who told us we were going to be turned into an academy. Imagine the shock! Many new teachers could not believe the minefield they had unwittingly entered.
We argued against the proposal immediately and all 3 teaching unions held meetings at lunchtime that day to plan opposition. leaflets were drafted and handed to parents; a booklet arguing our case was drafted; many articles have been printed in both local papers for a period of six months; public meetings have been held; a successful one-day NUT strike was held in December; a planned two day strike involving the NUT and the NASUWT was suspended while the NUT Deputation met the executive Mayor; we have spoken to other school groups and to UCU meetings, plus many other activities. A branch of the Anti Academies Alliance has been created in newham and has met monthly since october to plan activities.
At no point in this process has a case been made for an academy. It has been a case of a fiat and a command that there shall be one. None of the stakeholders have been asked to submit their views - parents, teachers, community. there has been no democracy, there has been no consultation. There has been a surfeit of dictatorial arrogance.
At the end of January we were told the academy sponsor would be Ark, the offshoot of hedge fund and venture capitalists, the very people who have helped bring the British and world economies to the brink of ruin. And we are supposed to accept that these are proper role models to be in charge of a school. At the start of the process we were told not to worry as they would find a good sponsor.If this is good, I would hate to think what a bad sponsor might look like.
We are now getting to hear that Ark do not want a 8-form entry school as at present, but a 6-form entry, which would mean that over 5 years 300 places currently available for local children would not be available anymore. presumably, they would have to travel further to more distant schools and unsettle current admission procedures across the borough. Also Ark do not want to take our PMLD unit (pupils with Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulties; they had thought it was an authority unit they could despatch elsewhere, not realising it was an integral part of our inclusive school. We also think they want to add a sixth form and thus be in direct competitionwith our borough sixth-form college, NewVic. There is some speculation that they actually want to create a 3-18 school with primary section, thus competing with all our local state primary feeder schools.
For these and a host of other reasons we areplanning further actions in the coming months. the two-day strike may be ressurrected. A borough wide demonstration may be called. Coincidentally, one of local ward councillors has died and there is a vacany. Enquiries are underway to see if an Anti Academies Parent/Resident candidate could be stood. Also, there is a possibility of a parent with union and AAA support could explore the possibility of a Judicial review over the PMLD unit, which if successful would halt and delay the process.

Caz - 21 Jun 2010

Ark Academies

The youtube video 'Ark Academies, Schhools and Eugenics' describes what Ark Academies are actually about. Also the youtube video 'ARK and the Adam's Family, the John Adam St Gang' to know who are behind this. This is the Committee of 300, the John Adam St Gang.

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