Saturday 14 February 2015

Free School: No School

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A South London 16-19 free school won’t be opening in September because the sponsor has pulled out just days after promoting itself with promises of lessons in robotics and trips to the large hadron collider in Cern. Tony Sewell, chair of governors at STEM Academy Croydon Gateway said  ‘…setting up a free school is a major undertaking and at this present time we feel that we are unable to commit the level of resource required to successfully launch a new academy whilst also fully supporting STEM Academy Tech City, our existing 16-19 academy in Islington.’
The ‘level of resource required’ would presumably have involved proper terms and conditions for their staff. Last year STEM in Islington had to back down when teachers there held a victorious campaign for union recognition and against zero-hour contracts.
Apparently the plans to open the South Norwood STEM free school in Croydon had provoked concern from the Harris Federation. The chain operates nine academies in the borough. Croydon is also home to its headquarters where chief executive Sir Dan Moynihan earned in excess of £375k last year.
Brokers’ Bonanza

The Department for Education has admitted to spending an almost unbelievable £14m on academy brokers since 2010 but says it has reduced their pay rate ‘significantly’. Between them, these brokers have spent thousands of days travelling the country forcing schools to become academies sponsored by the DfE’s favoured chains. We still are no clearer as to why one chain is chosen over another as this is exempted from the Freedom of Information Act as ‘commercially sensitive’. Where governors refuse to comply with the brokers, as in Tywdall School in Kent, they are threatened with the sack. And in Lewisham, parents, students and staff have voiced their opposition to academy status for four local schools. Staff struck at Prendergast Hilly Fields, Ladywell Fields and Prendergast Vale, along with Sedgehill School where an IEB has been imposed.When academies go wrong …

St Adhelm’s Academy in Poole was closed for three days last week when parents were told there were insufficient staff to guarantee their children’s health and safety. This is the latest in a string of disasters to hit the Dorset secondary. Its sponsors have said they want to leave the school, after receiving an inadequate Ofsted judgement and a financial notice to improve, when managers fell for a million pound email fraud.
The Bournemouth Echo recounts a catalogue of problems which the current joint sponsors, the Diocese of Salisbury and the University of Bournemouth, have failed to tackle.
Sir David Carter, the Regional Schools Commissioner – the DfE’s viceroy in the South West – is now in talks with the Ambitions Trust to take over the academy. We note that the Ambitions chain may well be ambitious but it has no experience of running a mainstream secondary school.

‘You have failed….’

‘You have failed Braintree’ was the stark message from parents at Tabor Academy to Lilac Sky Academy Trust as it said it could no longer sponsor the Essex secondary, just two years after promising to make it ‘outstanding’. Ofsted judged it to require special measures. At first, chief executive Trevor Averre-Beeson, author of We don’t need no education: 101 ways to transform a school, suggested a name change but last week Lilac Sky said it would be pulling out, leaving the DfE to find a new sponsor as regulations prevent failed academies returning to their local authorities.  In its announcement Lilac Sky wished the academy ‘the very best of luck in the coming years.’

Staff Battle for Jobs

Teaching and support staff face an uncertain future at Helenswood and William Parker Academies in Hastings, East Sussex with 64 jobs under threat because of funding worries. The academies are part of the Ark Group, whose chair Tory donor Lord Fink, has been in the news this week regarding his banking arrangements.

And finally

We’d like to say a big thank you to everyone involved in organising and all who attended our highly successful AAA SERTUC conference last weekend. Please read our full conference report here.

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