Wednesday 21 October 2015

DfE in extraordinary attack on parents

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Below is the DfE press release attacking parents:


·         School ‘physically attacked’ by campaigners now thriving

·         Pro-academy parents ‘scared and intimidated’ by ideological opponents

·         Campaigners spread ‘rumour and misinformation’ to block improvements


Leading headteachers who have turned around schools in the face of ideological opposition are today backing tough new measures to allow them to intervene in failing schools faster.

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan today said that bringing in strong sponsors through academisation is the best method of improving failing schools. She backed headteachers speaking out against hostile opponents to academies, claiming they seek to ‘deny children the opportunity of success’.

Drawing on her own difficulties in improving a school rated ‘special measures’, headteacher Kate Magliocco said that campaigners ‘scared and intimidated’ parents who supported moves to turn the school into an academy. The school, now Harris Primary Academy Kenley in Croydon, is rated as ‘outstanding’ and has improved test results from 65% of children scoring well on primary tests to 94 per-cent.

The leader of the Harris Federation, a top academy trust, said one of their schools was “physically attacked several times” by protestors who sought to deny it from becoming an academy. Downhills Primary had failed pupils for nearly a decade, but now under Harris’ leadership the school is rated ‘good’ and test results have soared by a quarter.

The new measures in the Education and Adoption Bill will sweep away the bureaucracy previously exploited by those who put ideological objections above the best interests of children.

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan said:

“We are committed to spreading excellence everywhere, and that means taking immediate action to transform failing schools.


“For too long campaigners have deployed underhand tactics, spread malicious rumours and intimidated parents in order to deny children the opportunity of success.


“Our new measures will allow teachers to get on with the job of improving failing schools and deliver on our commitment to extend opportunity and deliver real social justice.

Previously, campaigners could delay or block failing schools being improved by obstructing the process by which academy sponsors take over running schools. In some cases campaigners have delayed intervention by drawing out debates, refusing to provide important information and blocking vital decisions.

The Bill also tackles those schools which are deemed to be coasting along at ‘just good enough’ and are not pushing every pupil to reach their potential Schools eligible for intervention will be those which fall within a new definition of ‘coasting’ where performance data shows that, year on year, they are failing to ensure their pupils reach their potential, many in leafy areas.  Unlike failing schools, where there is no question that swift intervention is required, coasting schools will be offered help from the best education experts in the country to improve their results and will be required to produce a clear plan for improvement.  Where a coasting school can demonstrate that it can improve sufficiently, it will be allowed to do so.

A consultation has been published today which seeks views on the proposed definition of a mainstream school which is coasting as well as the options for developing a coasting definition for special schools and for pupil referral units. Views are also being sought on a revised ‘Schools Causing Concern guidance’ – which sets out how Regional Schools Commissioners will use the new powers in the Bill to turn around failing schools and to challenge coasting schools and other cases of underperformance.

Notes to editors

1.      The consultation document: Intervening in failing, underperforming and coasting schools will be published on tomorrow (21 October) and will run until 18 December.

Case studies and quotes

Harris Primary Academy Kenley in Croydon, South London

In 2012 Roke Primary in Croydon was given an Ofsted notice to improve and then placed in full special measures in 2013. A ‘Save Roke’ campaign was set up to resist sponsorship by the Harris Federation. A petition opposing academy conversion was handed to the DfE and the consultation was obstructed by campaigners, causing Harris to extend the consultation to deal with the delays caused by opponents.

The school eventually opened as an academy in September 2013 – 16 months after it was first judged inadequate by Ofsted. Since becoming an academy KS2 results have seriously improved, from 65 per-cent in 2013 to 94 per-cent in 2014 and the school was judged outstanding by Ofsted in June. Early KS2 results suggest Harris Kenley has maintained its good (94 per-cent) results this year.

Kate Magliocco, Principal at Harris Primary Kenley, said:

“In the run up to opening, there was a great deal of confusion about what it meant to be an academy and I know some in the community were genuinely fearful about what it meant.  It suited certain groups from outside the school to stoke these fears.


“But I also remember lots of parents and even grandparents confiding in me that they supported the academy but felt scared and intimidated to say so publicly, such was the hostility and anger from some of those opposing academy status.  


“By transforming standards quickly, we now have a successful school with a happy and thoroughly supportive parent body.  Whatever an anti-academy campaigner might say to them, parents know the difference between a child who is taught badly at school and one who comes home full of excitement about what they have done that day. 


“During all of the anger of the conversion process, the campaigners tried to convince parents it was impossible to combine high academic standards with a fun, caring and loving primary school environment. We have shown that this is simply not the case.”


Harris Primary Academy Philip Lane in Tottenham, North London

Another example of intervention being delayed is Harris Primary Academy Philip Lane, which opened in 2012 to replace Downhills Primary School, a Tottenham school that had been failing pupils for almost a decade.

Before opening as an academy, Downhills was rated ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted with over 30 per-cent of pupils leaving without good grades. Campaigners put up barriers to the process through a series of repeated unsuccessful appeals and reviews, which causeddelays.

Under the sponsorship of Harris the school has been judged by Ofsted as ‘good’ with ‘outstanding’ leadershipand reading, writing and maths results have soared by a quarter.

Sir Dan Moynihan, chief executive of the Harris Federation, said:

“The campaign against academy status for Downhills was organised and vocal, with the backing of several national campaigning organisations. Such was the hostile atmosphere, the building was physically attacked from the outside several times once the academy was open. 


“This aggression was obviously frightening for parents and staff, but we are delighted that it did not make an iota of difference to the success of the academy which thrived from Day One.


“The children were happy, the staff were happy and the parents were happy too. It improved from special measures to good by its second year and is finally giving its children the quality of education they had been denied for far too long under the predecessor school.”  


The Hewett Academy in Norwich

Under local authority control the Hewett School was placed in special measures twice in the last ten years.

The school’s GCSE results have been below both national and local averages for the last 10 years, while the school’s popularity has fallen with parents, with the school being less than half full.

Following a prolonged campaign from opponents to the academy programme, the school reopened as the Hewett Academy in September this year. The school is now sponsored by the Inspiration Trust, a leading trust in the region that has took Thetford Academy from ‘special measures’ to ‘good’ within 15 months.

Dame Rachel de Souza, chief executive of Inspiration Trust, said:

“The Hewett School had been neglected for years – a decade of falling pupil numbers, big problems recruiting staff, and poorly maintained buildings. Despite all that, a small number of local campaigners believed that more of the same was the answer to restoring the school to its past glories.


“We faced rumour, misinformation and politically-motivated opposition from a small but vocal campaign. Thankfully the Department for Education focused on the educational issues and the Inspiration Trust’s track record as a sponsor – such as taking Hethersett Academy from special measures to the top mainstream GCSE results in the county in just two years.


“We have an energetic new principal from an outstanding local school, and there is a renewed buzz throughout the academy, and a new hope that things really can get better.”

Tom Leverage, the new principal of the Hewett Academy, said:

“Having only opened in September it is early days for the Hewett Academy, but already teachers are benefiting from being able to work with fellow subject experts across the Inspiration Trust. Pupil attendance is up 10% and climbing and we have big plans to work with the local community to improve sporting facilities.”


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1 comment

  1. Janet Downs said:

    Thanks for releasing the original press release. The DfE published a toned-down one on its website but it still contained the three case studies and comments but was without the emotive headlines and sub headings. I commented on the original press release here.

    23 October 2015 at 12:43pm