Friday 16 March 2012

Downhills: Governors sacked, IEB installed, Academy Order issued and results of Parents’ Ballot in….

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Dear Friends,

As you may have heard, we’ve had a shocking and distressing couple of days at Downhills School.  Our Interim Head and Chair of Governors were both called before 8am yesterday morning and informed that the school’s democratically elected and accountable governing body was sacked forthwith and an Interim Executive Board now in place.  Nobody from this IEB has ever visited the school.  The Secretary of State, Michael Gove, also issued an Academy Order to force Downhills School to become a sponsored academy with Harris as the named preferred sponsor.
The make-up of the IEB is concerning.  The Chair is Les Walton who runs the Young People’s Learning Agency, which funds academies and provides the main assets for companies like HCTC Enterprises, a subsidiary of the Harris Federation.  Also on the board are Dan Moynihan, Chief Executive of the Harris Federation, and Robin Bosher, Primary Director of the Harris Federation.  Part of their role is to ‘secure the future of the school’ by consulting with parents and the wider community about conversion to academy status.  Given that 3 Harris employees have been appointed to the IEB and the Secretary of State has already named Harris as the preferred sponsor, we’re not convinced that any ‘consultation’ will be particularly impartial.
With this in mind, the (now-ex) governing body started a consultation whilst still in post, and the results were counted today.  147 parents voted against academy status, 14 for and 5 didn’t know.  This ballot was conducted after the Ofsted inspection results were made public and after Leslie Church had resigned.  Even in these difficult circumstances, approx 90% of parents who voted are against the school becoming an academy.
Harris himself has donated millions of pounds to the Tory party over the years.  The Harris academies which have been successful were those set up as new schools under the last Labour government, with millions of pounds thrown at them.  This is very different to converting an existing community school – against the wishes of stakeholders – with no extra funding available.
Even with very short notice, about 15 parents gathered outside the school yesterday morning, wearing t-shirts and carrying placards and tried to speak with Dame Sylvia Morris – another board member – as she entered.  Dame Sylvia Morris declined to speak with parents.
http://www.haringeyindependent.co.uk/news/topstories/9592486.Protesting_parents__disgusted__with_Downhills_governors__removal/
Many people have asked how they can help.  Well, we should all continue to lobby our elected representatives like Councillors and MPs to resist the DfE’s attempts to coerce other schools into becoming sponsored academies.  We continue to write to the Secretary of State, asking him to explain why sponsored academy status is being forced upon schools when it is no guarantee of school improvement – you may be more fortunate than us in receiving a response from him!  Very importantly, it’s essential to let as many people as possible know what is happening to schools around the country.  The forced privatisation of schools wasn’t in any party’s Manifesto at the last election and the Government’s agenda is clearly to rush this through as quickly as possible.
Thanks so much for your ongoing support.
Best wishes
The Save Downhills Campaign
savedownhills@hotmail.co.uk
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6 comments

  1. KenGovernor said:

    So you want to become a school governor.

    You do lots of reading about education, school finance and administration, education law. You stand for election as a parent governor: you get asked difficult questions by other parents. You get elected and you give up many many hours of your time doing governor induction training. And you have to arrange for your own child care. You go to lots of meetings. You try to get your head around hundreds of acronyms and specialist educational terms. You read long and detailed reports. After a couple of years you are beginning to understand the role of governor. You get no payment whatsoever apart from a cup of tea and a biscuit.

    And then, early one morning, a government official tells you that you’re sacked……..

    17 March 2012 at 2:49pm
  2. Janet said:

    Not only are you sacked, but you’re replaced by senior officials from a company who have been promised the school by the Secretary of State. They will ‘consult’ with stake holders over whether the school should become an academy or not. The DfE denies any conflict of interest.

    And their political opposition ie the Labour party stand by and, eh, do and say absolutely nothing.

    17 March 2012 at 8:35pm
  3. Rodger Williams said:

    As a resident of Croydon, it would be worth submitting a FOI request about their admission’s policies and also challenge them as well. If you look at Harris Academy Crystal palace (their flagship academy), although they reportedly use a banded admissions policy only 4% of the students are below average ability and 56% are above average ability. The ability of the cohort is skewed towards the higher ability students and out of line with ability of the students in primary schools within 1 to 3 miles of the academy.

    18 March 2012 at 12:49pm
  4. Cllr Kevin Maton said:

    In Coventry we may be facing our first enforced Primary Academy. So this sort of information is essential as word of mouth will be very important, warning parents and governors of the reality of this threat. Thanks for the information and hopefully we can start a network of schools to put up some resistance.

    18 March 2012 at 2:26pm
  5. Rodger Williams said:

    No problems, and I have added some links that you might like to read.

    This link is about Harris Academy using court injunctions to silence complaints about their exclusion policies:
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2009/oct/27/high-court-injunctions-protests

    This link is about Harris Academy using BTech courses to boost their results and limiting student choice (regardless of their potential):
    http://www.civitas.org.uk/press/prcs98.php

    Also if you check the DfE website for the latest exam performance figures, once you strip away the BTech courses there is a dramatic drop if the performance of virtually all the Harris Academies. in fact if compare the GCSE grades that high, mid and low ability studets at Harris Academy Crystal Palace (Harris’ flagship academy) achieve, they are no better than what is achieved by the vast majority of secondary schools in Croydon.

    Given this I wonder why so many of the Harris Academies are rated as outstanding?

    18 March 2012 at 6:30pm
  6. Rodger Williams said:

    Unless low ability students are not applying to the academy, there is no reasons for their skewed ability cohort. I believe that Harris Crystal Palace should publish the KS2 performance of all the students that applied to the academy and hold their random allocation of students to bands infront of a wide public audience, to avoid criticism of thelm using a back door selection policy that denies local low ability and deprived children..

    This link is about Harris Academy using court injunctions to silence complaints about their exclusion policies:
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2009/oct/27/high-court-injunctions-protests

    This link is about Harris Academy using BTech courses to boost their results and limiting student choice (regardless of their potential):
    http://www.civitas.org.uk/press/prcs98.php

    This link is about Harris Academy denying a place to a disabled student:
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-11814690

    20 March 2012 at 5:01pm