Hands Off Inkersall Primary School!
Inkersall Primary School is a very large primary in Derbyshire that serves the community for Inkersall. Over 400 children are educated at the school. Unfortunately, the school was deemed inadequate by Ofsted in February this year, and this made it a prime target for the DfE’s academy programme.
Due to its size and location, Inkersall Primary is a very attractive potential acquisition for an academy chain. The fact that a nearby primary (Barrow Hill) was judged inadequate in 2011 and has been left well alone by Lord Nash is very interesting. Perhaps it was left well alone because it only has 105 students; there would be less money for the academy sponsor to play with, and therefore they are not interested.
The financial attractiveness of Inkersall Primary is why suddenly parents’ views count for nothing. And governors are called ‘obstacles to progress’ and dismissed when they refuse to cooperate; this is what happened to the Inkersall Primary governing body recently when they dared to turn down Lord Nash’s invitation to become a sponsored academy. This was in spite of the school showing improvement; a fact clearly recognised by Ofsted in the Section 8 monitoring inspection conducted on the 8th May 2014. An IEB, composed of just four members, all with affiliations to existing academy chains, was appointed in September 2014, after just a few weeks in post for the promising new head teacher, Mr Brookes. We are clearly dealing with an unfair system that prioritises its own agenda and pushes aside or undermines anyone who stands in opposition.
The interesting, and very worrying, thing is that this IEB (our ‘new’ governing body) is actually impossible to contact. Parents have tried numerous times to contact the chair, David Wootton, to no avail. All they want to ask is when the next public meeting with the IEB will be so they can arrange to attend and help to secure the best prospects for their children. It seems that one governing body, that was allegedly ‘an obstacle to progress’, has been replaced by another that is unfit for purpose. Parents should be able to make easy contact with the governing body at their child’s school. Shouldn’t they?
Moreover, one member of the IEB is the CEO of the academy trust that wants to sponsor our school. This person has a clear interest in acquiring the school for her academy chain, and she has been allowed the privilege of governing our school even before the ‘consultation’ process has begun. This is just is not fair, and it isn’t right.
To add to this unfairness and lack of transparency, there is the blatant disregard for the opinions of parents and people in the wider community. David Wootton has made it very clear that forced academisation will be the most likely route for our school, regardless of the findings of the consultation process. And not only has the sponsor been chosen, but the CEO of the chosen sponsor sits on the Interim Executive Board. Furthermore, the demands made by parents and community members for a public meeting with the IEB and other stakeholders are not even being acknowledged. They are hoping that if they ignore us, we will go away! We won’t, of course.
Interestingly, the nearby primary, Barrow Hill, was recently rated ‘good’ after their last inspection. Surely this tells us that Inkersall Primary does not need to be forced into academisation to make it improve. Surely, with the right support from the Derbyshire Local Authority, improvements at our school will be made. Indeed, improvements have already been made. And we all know that there is no hard evidence to suggest that academies do improve education for our children. In fact, recent studies by the LSN have shown that primary-aged children are actually more likely to achieve more at a local authority school than a sponsored academy.
At the moment, Inkersall Primary (even with the ‘inadequate’ judgement from Ofsted) is a calm, happy, secure environment for our children. The teachers work extremely hard to make it this way – some of them have devoted 25 years to the school. They deserve our respect and admiration, not to be told they are ‘underperforming’ or part of a ‘failing school’. There is currently an unhealthy focus on the final results of our children, rather than the process of education. The children at Inkersall Primary get a decent education, even if the results currently do not appear to support this. And it is highly likely that this good provision will be undermined by the instability and upheaval caused by conversion to a sponsored academy. The school should not be made to submit to change for the sake of change because Lord Nash says so. Nor should it be swallowed up by an academy chain so that Lord Nash can pretend that his academy programme isn’t a failure.