Staff to strike over Kenton School academy plan

TURNING one of the North East’s biggest schools into an academy will pave the way for a private take over, it was claimed.

The message comes as 200 staff voted in favour of strike action to stop the controversial proposals at Newcastle’s Kenton School.

Kenton’s current governors and head teacher want to change to an academy in order to give staff more control over funding and over what is taught.

But in a letter to the Chronicle, three former governors have urged head David Pearmain and the school to “step back from the brink in order to preserve and protect educational standards.”

Dr Martin Levy, Coun Margaret Carter and Dr John Lingard said by becoming an academy the school will have to break links with the local authority.

They say: “Such important links now face the risk of destruction if Kenton decides to become an Academy.

“The link with the local authority would be broken and Governors will no longer be answerable to the community. ‘All different, all equal’ – the school motto – will no longer apply as the school will no longer have a responsibility to the wider community.

“Indeed the road will be open for private interests to move in to take over the school at some future date.”

Their letter piles further pressure on school bosses, who are currently fighting strike plans voted through yesterday.

Ian Grayson, a teacher at Kenton for more than 25 years and the NUT national executive member for Tyne and Wear, said strikes will take place on September 22, 27 and 29.

He said: “Our view is that the high level of risk involved in academy status far outweighs any of the suggested advantages.”

Mr Pearmain today said: “I am afraid union leaders have misled our brilliant staff, telling them that their pay and conditions will be worse if we become an academy.

“The Governors have promised repeatedly they would not do this, even if they were permitted to in the future and the regulations do not allow it.”

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83 Responses to Staff to strike over Kenton School academy plan

  1. Parent of potential future Kenton Student says:

    I do not know what worries me more as a parent of a potential future Kenton student. The government agenda, the in fighting amongst the profession, the level of mis trust on all sides, the lack of clarity or the apalling spelling and grammar of the teachers posting on this thread.

    One thing from the outside looking in is the average man and woman on the street does not know what this means for their son or daughter and it is obviously very worrying for teachers, parents and students alike. I am afraid given my lack of knowledge I am not in a position to give an educated, evidenced response on the pros and cons of Academy status.

  2. Maclaren says:

    A Kenton Teacher:
    Well said. AKSM was abusing this forum to express a personal vendetta and ill-feeling towards the Head and another, dedicated teacher and should provide an apology. This is an annonymous forum and that is to allow freedom of speech, not to unleash a personal attack on colleagues you might have a personal problem with. AKSM is a disgrace to the school. Regardless of our feelings to academies, we now have to move on with making sure Kenton remains outstanding. Maybe this would be helped by AKSM handing in their notice?

  3. A kenton teacher says:

    This is a comment to the member of staff entitled ‘A Kenton staff member’ or suchlike. Many people have expressed opinions on both sides of the argument. The decision by the governors has been taken. we move on, and do the best, as we have always done for our pupils. I, however,found your descriptions of Mr Pearmain to be insulting, AND furthermore, your obvious delight in making seemingly anonymous comments, which were blatant jibes about a particular member of staff to be crass in the extreme. I am fully aware of the Head,AND the member of staff you were so clumisly insulting. Neither deserve your scorn. Kenton, for all the tribulations of recent weeks, is a good school with excellent staff. Let us move forward and not resort to bewildering attacks on colleagues.

  4. Maclaren says:

    A Kenton Staff Member:
    I’m afraid that your comments to DKT were quite inappropriate as they only provided assumptions to the reasons behind the strike at Kenton. As teachers and staff we are part of a vocational profession – the care and responsibility to the kids is a primary concern and just because the strike was officially due to the threat to out terms and conditions does not mean that that was the only reason.

    I was striking because I do not believe that academy status for Kenton will benefit its pupils. I feel as this decision was made without open consultation and will not bring the advantages promised by the Head and his supporters. For me, three days of strikes would be the lesser of two evils compared to the potential threats of exclusion from admissions criteria that would be allowed by the school becoming an academy, as well as the school losing vital support from the local authority for SEN provisions.

    This was not my only reason for striking, however, and the threat to my own pay and conditions was a concern – with a family to support why should I not exercise my democratically elected right to demonstrate my opposition to a decision that was made by an unelected group of governors? For me, not being consulted as a parent and a staff member was disgusting. There’s no exaggeration there. I am an incredibly balanced person and my decision to strike was not a selfish one. Please don’t assume otherwise.

  5. Dedicated Kenton Teacher says:

    I have and always will work incredibly hard for the students of Kenton School, absolutely NO-ONE can say otherwise (even if you take into consideration your personal view of the 3 strike days). I always do above and beyond for the students of Kenton. And the colleagues who were also striking work equally as hard.

    Just because you don’t agree with our side of the situation – does not automatically make it wrong. We genuinely were striking for the future of our school, our students, our education system, our community, our local authority and the people who work their… And (whether you agree or not) using our legal and democratic right to strike/demonstrate to emphasise this is not a waste. There are many disputes that if you are looking from an opposing standpoint could be argued as a waste of time, money, resources, people’s lives…but were incredibly important that they occurred. I am sure the Afrikaans thought the black South Africans and the ANC were totally out of order and wasting their time!

    I am not naïve in thinking both the causes in our situation even compare to such massive issues, but the passion, beliefs and good intentions of both sides – to improve the school, the education of the students and to increase their future prospects – are proportionally as important to the people involved, here and now. The future is so uncertain for both LA education and Government Academy education that no-one can really know long term (and possibly even short term) which will be the best thing to commit to. It is, therefore, a matter of personal belief/feeling/opinion which is a freedom that people should be allowed without a personal attack like yours.

    You have no right to say what you have said, especially when you are now aiming it at me, I know for a fact I do my job to the best of my ability, and my colleagues and friends at Kenton also know this.

    I would also appreciate it if you did not tell me that my thoughts, opinions and views are exaggerated. If you are entitled to be disrespectful toward the people you work with, being rude and undermining about the Headteacher and other outstanding members of staff (making it very obvious in many instances who you were talking about), then I am entitled to use the word ‘disgusted’ to describe my feelings toward such unjustifiable unprofessional behaviour.

  6. A Kenton Staff Member says:

    DKT. I find it disgraceful that a mostly well paid and protected group of seemingly educated and balanced adults have wasted the time and education of a fantastic groups of kids. I find it saddening and depressing that only very rarely have the proponents of the strikes mentioned the kids. Instead they refer to what are fundamentally abstract concepts to our students and many parents. Paternalism or patronisation?

    And while I’m at it, I find the smell of faeces disgusting, as well the sight of death. Please do not do what many of us in our pressure cooker of a workplace do all too often – exaggerate. The idea that our backgrounds bears no relation to the lives and education of our children is naive in the extreme.

  7. Dedicated Kenton Teacher says:

    Personally, I find they way some people who have commented on this site to be totally out of order.

    I find it disgusting that they are personally attacking hard-working members of staff in order to supposedly win an argument. How dare people make assumptions about people’s financial stability and make comments about finding jobs elsewhere (why should we/they?), and also bring into conversation people’s backgrounds/upbringing and current social class. I am proud to work at Kenton, and am privileged to work with the staff there. They work incredibly hard and as a result have earned the right to live their lives the way they want without it becoming fuel for someone to use against them. Apart from anything, some of the comments/statements (especially personal ones) seem to suggest a complete lack of manners.

    I hope that, my colleagues would be trying to educate our students that making personal slights toward people (for any reason) is completely wrong. I tell my students that they should put themselves in other people’s shoes and think about their feelings etc before saying or doing anything to them – especially if it has potential to upset or insult them.

  8. Another Kenton School Worker says:

    Yeah I saw that and had mixed feelings on it. Not really relevant that it’s an academy though…schools were able to do this anyway.

  9. Bobajob says:

    On a note to share with all, has anybody else seen the artical on a school which changed to academy status? The support workers (cleaning staff, groundsmen etc) have been replaced by the sixth formers where possible. As they can pay them less than they would pay a adult over 21 they have made significant savings. Good news and i have to admire their ingenuity but i’d rather the pupils studied and let people who need work do these kind of tasks.
    If i can find it again i’ll post the link as it was photocopy i saw.

    Thanks all.

    BTW – yesterday Kenton applied for academy status.

  10. Another Kenton School Worker says:

    Oh is that true that only 11 out of 22 governors support it? I wasn’t aware of that figure; shows that this really may have gone either way then.

  11. Maclaren says:

    AKSW: Apologies for getting the meeting wrong. However, that event was not in the school diary, unlike every other parents evening and event, that was released at the begining of term. It was very convenient that it happened to fall on the same day as an anti-academy meeting being held nearby.

    Sadly Mr Pearmain was very quick to use the voter turn-out in his stance against the unions. I don’t understand how Mr Pearmain is happy to take Kenton School to an academy with 11 out of a possible 22 governors supporting the idea, and then complain that a minority of Kenton staff voted to take industrial action.

  12. Another Kenton School Worker says:

    MacLaren: You will notice above that when I initially mentioned the internal staff survey (the first time I brought it up) that I did in fact state that many staff did not participate in the survey. This raises the same question as I wondered when a similar number didn’t vote towards industrial action…why not?
    But, if the unions are satisfied that less than half of staff voting is enough for a strike then surely it is only fair that it works the other way round too? Also, the head’s meeting was not on the same night as the meeting in the Duke. In fact the meeting that night in school was regarding KS4 Maths and English.

    Bobajob: I apologise if you found the tone of my writing in any way offensive. I didn’t mean to come across that way at all but I can see how I have so I am sorry. I disagree that I don’t listen to the opinion of others however; if you have been following this discussion from it’s early stages you will note that I have often appreciated opinions that disagreed with mine and have never said that anybody’s opinion is wrong.
    You are quite right regarding the meeting at the Duke…if you didn’t know about it then you can’t attend. I’m not sure how the unions advertised that. Similarly, if you weren’t present at the target setting day then you wouldn’t have been able to take advantage of a meeting with the head. Fair point. All I meant was that these things were available.
    I still find your points about stopping students using phones to be easy. I’m not sure what you are getting at, although I must assume that you have worked in a school before? How did you stop every student in school doing it; it would genuinely be the first case of a school succeeding in this that I have ever heard of and would be useful to know. You implied that David Pearmain can’t stop students using phones and then later said that it can only workj if every staff member is on board. very true. Are you therefore saying that the staff member not on board is David Pearmain? We have over 300 staff and nearly 2500 students in this school. I can assure you that, wrong as it may be, there are many staff and students that are very lax when it comes to following rules such as these. Same with walking on corridors or wearing hoods up indoors…it just takes one member of staff to ignore it and the system goes to pot.

    You say that my opinions are reaching a personal level…however, I have yet to call anyone narrow minded or ignorant nor have I questioned your capability to do your job, or your personal circumstances or how you spend your own time.

    You may disagree with what I say and think that my opinions are incorrect or irrational, but we are both on the same wavelength on one thing…that we are considering this from the point of view that we want what’s best for the children. We may have different ideas on the right path to achieving that but nevertheless, that is what we both want and, as long as that remains the case, I will contiune to respect your opinions and hope you can do the same with mine.

  13. Bobajob says:

    Dear AKSW, i find your tone quite insutling. You are becoming irrational and do not seem able to listen to anybody elses opinion but your own.
    Let me give you some facts;
    1.No i did not turn up at the target setting day on the first day of term. My wife did and as usual it was a quick turn around as my Autisic son finds it hard to deal with the commotion normally associated with this day. It’s something we have to manage as part of our daily lives.
    2. I was not aware of any meeting at the Duke. How was i not made aware? Again, your tone was derogatory ‘It seems unreasonable that you would sit and complain about having no information if you don’t take advantage of the numerous opportunities to gain some’ – how can i attend something i’m not told about.
    3. Actaully it’s reasonably easy to stop the kids playing with their phones in class but it needs the support of all concerned and cannot be done in one hit. Yes this point may be irrelevant but i mentioned it to show that there are current issues not addressed.
    4. My ‘insults’ were not insults but my own opinion of this gentleman. His replies to my messages have led me to come to this conclusion. I can give you examples to support every one of my ‘insults’.

    Perhaps you would like to tell us who you really are. Or if you’d prefer not to do this and i’d perfectly understand why not, perhaps you can share with everyone what your role is, just as others have. You seem to have an extraordinary amount of time on your hands. Maybe you work part time, maybe not, but if one of my staff was spending so much time on this website i’d be having a chat with them. I cannot afford this luxury and have to rely on reading this trail before work or at lunch time.

    Your opinions on this forum are now, in some instances coming down to personal level and i suggest to you that you may want to consider your writings before publication.
    Please AKSW, this forum is for discussion and the opinion of all and it is not necessary for you to have to correct everyone who posts.

    At the end of the day we must consider what is best for our children and ensure that their needs are met.

  14. Maclaren says:

    AKSW has said that 50% of staff support the academy conversion. What he has not said is that only 56% of staff took part in the survey. Mr Pearmain was very quick to criticise the number of teachers who voted to strike, saying it was an unfair minority, but he was even keener to tell the Chronicle that half of the staff support the academy. 50% of 56% is not half of all teachers.

    I cannot help but feel disappointed by the way the Mr Pearmain has treated his staff, the parents and pupils of Kenton.

    Mr Pearmain has sadly shown himself in an all together different light in this issue. He has kept his own position in regards to the YPLA very quiet (as a staff member and parent I was very surprised to hear this along with many others who had no idea). He has become immovable on the issue, refusing to listen to the teachers on the picket line or even discuss a compromise or delay to the final decision of the governors. I don’t believe he wants to have any kind of public debate or discussion with parents because he is scared they will turn against him and dislike the proposals. And I believe he has done so because he stands to lose a lot of face with the quango of which he is a board member. How can he encourage schools to become academies if his own school refuses?

    I was also disappointed by the way he arranged a parent meeting on the same night as the public one organised by the unions – this was not in the school diary for the year and was clearly planned to reduce parent interest. He has not given any similar opportunities for parents to openly discuss academies in a large group and hear both sides of the argument.

    I am dissatisfied by the way parent consultation has taken place and the fact that his offer of one to one discussion was so poorly advertised at the parents evening. I was also saddened by the disregard of the initial staff petition that all but 6 unionised staff members signed. I believe that the whole Kenton community should be engaged and consulted and not merely informed of the school’s intentions to convert to academy.

    I am also disillusioned with Mr Pearmain’s hopes for the future. A world class Kenton is a lovely dream to have, but I think he should realistically concentrate on maintaining Kenton’s current outstanding rating rather than aspiring for something beyond his ability. As a Head, Mr Pearmain has done a lot for the school, which cannot be denied. However he is NOT the school. As a Head he remains distant, unapproachable and out of step. It has been a long time since he regularly stood in front of a class let alone took the time to get to know pupils at the school. He has no idea what my name is and I have been teaching at the school for years now. How can he and the governors have the best interest of the school in mind when they do not know the school community?

    I shall be standing alongside other members of the school community this evening, calling for the decision to be delayed so that proper, open consultation with parents and staff. Mr Pearmain very clearly told one of our members of staff that “This is NOT a democracy”. I disagree. It is because we are the parents and teachers and staff of Kenton that we deserve to be asked and not told how the school will be run.

  15. Another Kenton School Worker says:

    I understand what you say but it is as much today’s issue as next week’s.
    The facts are all out there, but of course you will find more opinion than fact. These academies are younger than the coalition so there are very few facts available yet.
    There is a contact the Head button on Kenton’s website and has been for years.
    I am assuming you turned up to the target setting day on the first day of term. There were signs up inviting parents and students to go and see David Pearmain regarding academy conversion. There was also a meeting at the Duke for the entire community to attend (not run by the head but by the unions) Did you turn up to that?
    It seems unreasonable that you would sit and complain about having no information if you don’t take advantage of the numerous opportunities to gain some.
    ‘At the moment, he can’t stop kids playing on their phones in class…’
    That’s a seperate and somewhat irrelevant issue but I would hearitly disagree with it. Nobody can ever STOP those things completely…go to any secondary school and you will see it goes on. But compare Kenton to what it was like a few years ago and the differences are immense. Most staff in the school will agree that the school has improved greatly under David Pearmain…and OFSTED do too.
    As for the personal insults to the man at the end, that is neither mature, nor helpful, unless you can back them up with any justification?

  16. Bobajob says:

    Dear AKSW, you seem to be very much in touch with Mr Pearmain. If only he was focused about what actually happens in the school. He has pursued this academy thing relentlessly. At the moment he can’t stop the kids playing on their phones in class, smoking in the yard, and as for those poor kids in the ARC – well to be honest i don’t think he even knows where it is!
    I must have missed his mail about the open forum as i would have loved to discussed this with him in a open manner. Again i will ask him to try again and discuss it further with him.
    However, i think you are missing the point of my comment. I’m not prepared to tak ethe risk with my childs education until he gives us all teh information, not the information he wants us to see. It’ sno use looking to the internet for such detail as it’s riddled with opinion.
    As you work at Kenton and are an adult then you can make your mind up whether to stay or not. As parent i cannot just take my child and put them in another school without risking his development.
    This man is narrow minded, inflexible and ignorant to the current needs of his school so how can he put together a proposal for future development. I’d rather he channels his energy into todays issues not next weeks.

  17. Someone Else Who Works At Kenton says:

    Some people are missing the point if they think it is even partially about the current incumbent, Mr. Pearmmain. Regardless of what all of us think of him personally (and for most, he has demonstrated that he is a selfish, distant bully who has forgotten what it is to negotiate meaning in a classroom), it isn’t about him and his remaining years as caretaker of the school. No, what most of us fear is the opening of the door to companies who will put profit first, not the education of children and the end of local, democratic accountability to a community who may disagree with a future direction a future leader or leaders take. There will be no elected official spurred on by fear of loss of power, no Civic Centre to get on the bus to and kick off at when it becomes apparent your kid is being given a raw deal. There will be some never-seen Trustees who won’t care what 30 mams from Cowgate think.

    That is the point. The rest is noise.

  18. Another Kenton School Worker says:

    In fairness, there IS no evidence that the majority of people oppose it. In fact, the majority of Kenton staff, judging from recent strike action figures and a recent internal survey, are actually in favour of it; and they are professionals too who know Kenton School inside out and all want the best for it.
    And the primary schools will have their own reasons for declining the change, not necessarily because they disagree with academy conversion on principle or even that they think it’s a bad move for Kenton themselves.
    And there have been several meetings arranged with the public regarding the issue. The Head held an advertised, open forum drop in session for all parents on the first day back after summer to which two parents attended. And unions arranged a well publicised public meeting at the Duke to which only a tiny handful of the community attended.
    The head says that there are no disadvantages; this is perhaps quite misleading however. He is right in that there are no proven disadvantages-yet-but noone from either side can deny that there are risks. However, in my view, after much discussion and research into the matter, the potential positives far outweigh the potential negatives

  19. Bobajob says:

    Well guys, it appears it’s a bun fight on this site. I’m a parent that recently e-mailed Mr Pearmain with my concerns, my reply from him was not very calm.
    I’ve asked him what the negatives are to changing to academy status – he says there are none. I am struggling to believe that this is the case.
    His openeing line to me was ‘There is no evidence that the majority of people do not want Kenton to change to academy status’. He then followed this up with ‘of the 8 feeder primary schools only 4 have declined to agree with the change’. That’s 50% when i was at school, not a majority but still a significant amount. And these people are education proffesionals and understand it better than us parents.
    I’ve encouraged the Head to talk to everybody more instead of simply sending out letters (something they’re all to fond of at Kenton and how much does that cost).
    I’m not in favour of the change but this needs to be discussed more and not communicated from either side of a very tall fence.

  20. Another Kenton School Worker says:

    Nothing more to add to the ongoing argument that hasn’t already been said.
    But interesting to note that on an internal staff survey, 50% voted in favour of conversion, 27-ish % voted against and the rest didn’t know. Over 100 staff didn’t even bother to take the survey so can’t really be interested either way one would assume.
    Interesting results in a situation where people would have the public believe that the entire staff are up in arms.

    And, just to clarify to A Kenton Staff Member (who is not the same as I and a check on our IP addresses will surely confirm that), I am not a senior member of staff in anyway but do love the school in which I work and just want to get on with the job I enjoy and, which I feel I am good at.

  21. A Kenton Staff Member says:

    EKSW. Thank you for the compliment. Maybe DP will seek me out and offer me a performance bonus for clarity of argument? And I assure you that AKSW and I are not one and the same person.

    I’m loyal to someone who has a brain and is willing to use it for the good of the community and wider, as well as someone who has the ability to argue a case clearly. It is though not argued well enough for the less sophisticated out there, so he might want to simplify it for those who struggle. Differentiation? I’m also, more importantly in my view, loyal to the kids and the families we serve. They deserve the best. And loyalty is not about personality, it’s about character and achievement.

    Hubris? Maybe, but high ambition is surely a good thing, although as often is the case their (his?) argument is not really grasped by the staff. As to what does world class mean? I should have thought that’s simple. Results, results, results! That’s how I read it, although others might find a wider, slightly woollier definition.

    As for DP’s nepotism, I don’t think the authority took it that seriously and it wasn’t widespread and while the person was there, they did a good job. In conversations I had at the time, LA workers were more interested in gossiping and criticising him for this rather than acknowledging his achievements at Kenton School. And I don’t think he’s fallen out with the Authority, although I think he and others were exasperated at the farcical money asked for the last significant service agreement the LA tried to negotiate. The straw that broke the camel’s back rather than a falling out.

    @Jane. I too was listening to a staff member of a recently converted school recently who had full grasp of the financial circumstances and the benefits that have accrued. the most significant of which is the ability to plan at least three years ahead given the guaranteed funding stream, rather than as now, a couple of months once the capital grant has been filtered though the LA. That’s a significant and rather important improvement don’t you think? The bribe as you call it (maybe ‘incentive’ is kinder?), is the icing on the cake, rather than a central part of the funding.

  22. Jane says:

    2 days ago I listened to a headteacher of a recently converted school arguing in favour of becoming an academy. Her school became an academy on 1st August, so will be benefitting from the financial bribe to convert early. We are now at the end of September and, although she claimed that her school would be financially better off, she also said that up until now she had not heard how much the school would actually be getting!

    I find it astounding that anyone should be prepared to sign a 7 year binding contract without knowing the full financial consequences.

  23. Ex Kenton School Worker says:

    Sincere apologies. My remarks were in response to ‘A Kenton Staff Member’, not ‘Another Kenton School Worker’. (The style is so similar, one could be forgiven for thinking they were the same parson).

  24. Ex Kenton School Worker says:

    You raise some interesting issues AKSW:
    – From what I could see, your colleagues were protesting rather than picketing. What did you expect? Orgreave?
    – You seem to be very loyal to Mr Pearmain, but even you realise that a great deal of what comes out of the SMT is pure hubris. World class school? What’s that about? No-one can possibly criticise the concept, but what on earth does it mean, and why does Kenton have to be an academy to even aspire to it?
    – You say he is stymied by local authority constraints in funding and philosophy. If that is so, why doesn’t he explain to the community exactly what that means. You seem to be making a better job of it than he is.
    – You mention Mr Pearmain’s ‘nepotistic tendencies’. I know nothing about this. Perhaps you do. But if he has ‘nepotistic tendencies’ isn’t it right that the Local Authority – his employer – should be concerned? Mine would.
    – Does this give a clue as to why he’s fallen out with the Authority?

  25. A Kenton Staff Member says:

    AKSW. I’ve no idea who you are, but good for you my friend; a sensible voice among the panicked masses herein. I’m not sure I can match you. In fact I won’t attempt to, but can I just say, that despite what others say, yours is a very sensible, thoughtful and objective voice (and maybe a relatively senior one, or at least a rapidly rising one?) amid the hair pulling many on here.

    I just wish everyone would calm down, be it in respect of the Kenton conversion or for that matter any other conversion. What is it that you’re so upset about? Children’s education? A reasonable and noble thing as they are the ones who provide us with a living. But can anyone show me any realistic, objective evidence that conversion to an academy necessarily has a detrimental effect upon outcomes? I’ve not seen any.

    Job protection? A job for life? A worthy ambition, but a luxury and arguably an impediment to true creativity and progress in pedagogy. The private sector, be that in education or any other field is way ahead in that respect. There is also an utterly irrational assumption woven around our publicly owned sacred cows of the NHS and state education that they are necessarily better because they are state owned and controlled. Nonsense. Where is the evidence for this? There is more to the contrary. I am not pedantic enough to suggest that the state cannot offer education with excellent outcomes, but I’ve seen enough of the Independent sector, both selective and non-selective to know that both can produce excellent examination results and rounded human beings. I would argue that it is only the command economy ideologues who are opposed to all things independent, whilst the consumer of education or healthcare, irrespective of their background, just wants the best possible services. You are protecting and defending nothing other than your own marginal ideological niche. Please just back off and let those of us who wish to progress do so.

    AKSW is correct in noting that if we don’t do it now, we may lose out. Like it or not (who does?), we are only in the first stage of public sector cuts and public sector budgets will only contract. And as long as Kenton or any other school’s budgets are filtered through the sticky paws of the local authority, they will shave more and more off the education budget to fund other front line services as well as marginal services. Of course that’s morally reprehensible, and those that decry our wish to protect our funding seem to wish to make us all suffer in a pit of shared budgetary despair. Cuts are a fact and unless the revolutionaries amongst you are going to rise up en masse (about five of you?) and create a worker’s utopia in north Newcastle, then I suggest you become realistic about where we are locally, regionally and globally. No-one is having a financial ball anymore unless you’re Chinese, Indian, Brazilian and possibly South African. And even then it is a tiny minority. This is a time of global austerity, growing social conservatism (I decry the latter, but it is happening worldwide) and we have a responsibility to the community of Kenton to provide them with a successful and creative beacon for their children to aspire to, not a remnant of seventies ideological nonsense that failed a generation.

    If the motivation for this campaign is resent about David Pearmain, or some other personalised agenda, then please grow up. The man has his failings, lacks a few social graces and I personally wouldn’t invite him around to dinner and I’m reasonably sure he will continue to ignore me on the corridor in the same awkward way he does with most people. So what? Really, so what? I’m half tempted to say ‘whatever’ as well, but won’t, because it does not matter. Why on earth – be that one produced by a deity or Darwin – should he and the Headship Team suddenly turn into nine headed tail lashing, worker bashing hydras because of a change in funding status? I’d be tempted to given your ridiculous and petty arguments, but that’s why I’m not a headteacher, nor am I ever likely to be in the public sector. David Pearmain has, with a compliant staff, in the last ten years turned around a school that was failing in most areas and produced one that the local community can be proud of. He has done this by being allowed to by the community and the governors and for much of the time, in spite of the Local Authority. They were more interested in his nepotistic tendencies rather than the progressively outstanding education he and the staff were delivering for the children of north Newcastle. The reality now is that he and the SLT can move no further whilst stymied by local authority constraints, both in funding and philosophy. I too am slightly suspicious of our drive for world class status, now that OFSTED think we’re outstanding, but where do we go after that? The universe and beyond? I know, there’s a lot of Blairite spin and packaging that comes out of the SLT suite, but there’s also a lot of substance.

    Fellow colleagues, if you’re worried about your pay and conditions, then do what most mature adults do, go somewhere else where you’re less worried. We’re all grown ups here and as a staff, mostly middle class and able to make reasonable and rational decisions about our futures. Just look at the car park, bursting with brand new cars and the occasional, fully unionised five litre V8, God’s own Yorkshire, Tory Anglican Jag. Never thought I’d see the day and on a picket line! Mind you Norman Tebbit was a Union Leader in his pre bellicose heyday. The vast majority of families on Cowgate, Kenton Bar and In Blakelaw and Kenton don’t have new cars, nor lovely retreats at the coast, in Jesmond or the rich Northumberland countryside; they exist in the now with far fewer choices and trust us and the SLT to provide an education for their children who they value as much as we do ours. Thus far they have and what possible nefarious or perverse motivation would SLT have to not continue to do this? Those notions that do exist are in the panicked or ideological frozen minds of a few.

    Let’s please move on.

    Let’s all please calm down, pull together, put away notions of moral collapse, false notions of privatisation, personal resent and get back to doing a fantastic job for the local kids. And if they do turn into nine headed worker bashing hydras, then I’ll join you on the picket line and trust me, I’ve seen a few and they were nothing like the gentile rubbish you lot presented over those three wasted days!

  26. Governor in Heaton says:

    Many of the anti-academy posters on this site to themselves and their cause a huge disservice by making personal attacks against an Kenton teacher (AKSW) who clearly cares a lot (and thinks a lot) about the school they work at and the service it provides to its community.

    I’m a school governor at a Newcastle Primary School who has rejected academy status at our school, along with my fellow governors – but not because we think ACADEMY STATUS IS WRONG, but because we don’t believe that in our case it would benefit our school and the wider community we serve. We recognise that the issue is complex and that all schools will find themselves in different circumstances – but I’m not foolish enough to believe that I understand enough about the situation at Kenton to know how the balance of argument stacks up. Will moving now to academy status benefit the current and future pupils of Kenton and its local community? What impact will it have on other schools in the city – and how will that impact develop over time? I see that AKSW is thinking about these questions seriously… I wish I saw the same evidence or genuine enquiry in those opposing academy status.

    I shan’t be returning to this website again – surely issues of this importance demand better than the one-sided polemic contained in the majority of writing found here.

  27. Concerned Kenton Parent says:

    When did Mt Pearmain ever tell parents about being on the YPLA? I do not believe he ever has told us, and it certainly wasn’t when we were being consulted about the academy issue?

  28. Another Kenton School Worker says:

    Yes, I’m sorry I musn’t be clarifying myself very well, that’s probably my own poor communication.

    I never said I thought there would not be redundancies…I do.
    BUT, it is not the main line of my argument, I don’t support academy status merely on the basis that we should avoid these cuts that I THINK will happen and it is not the most troubling cut to me. There are other cuts aside from anything to do with staffing which worry me more.

  29. Lou says:

    Sorry to go on about this- but check your post at 4.21pm.

  30. Another Kenton School Worker says:

    Lou: Just a small point; I said that cuts don’t JUST mean redundancies, meaning that there is a broad range of things that I fear will be cut. My own personal worry is SEN.

    DKT: I’m sure it does happen on the other side too. It isn’t acceptable from either side, as everyone is entitled to their opinion. It’s a very divisive issue and, whatever the outcome, I don’t think any professional and personal rifts that have been created will just go away. And that’s terribly sad as it’s usually a very happy place to work.

  31. Lou says:

    I’m sorry if you think I’m being stand offish. I was merely trying to point out that I can’t follow your argument not that I dont agree with it! You actually say in an earlier post ‘ cuts will inevitably lead to redundancies’ hence why I sought clarification on it. Later on you say ‘ for you cuts mean redundancies’ but clearly they also mean the same for you.

  32. Dedicated Kenton Teacher says:

    I hate to say this, because I love the place, but there has been similar negative behaviour toward strikers and picketers.

    Either way it is wrong and everyone should respect the right (people campaigned, fought and died for) to freedom of speech and thought!

  33. Another Kenton School Worker says:

    Kenton Staff: I have heard this too, from some people.
    I can understand the viewpoint. I would be interested to know the cause of the mistrust; I would anticipate that it is more to do with gut feeling rather than experience of being lied to.
    But, there are some who mistrust the SLT and longetivity in a position, like you say, doesn’t guarantee trust.
    I put it to you, however, that it is a two sided thing. SLT have fed out that staff have been misled. Unions have fed out that 200 staff voted to strike. They also fed out that over 100 members of Kenton staff were on the picket line and over 900 people chose to join a supporting Facebook page. Both sides have spun things in their favour, particularly where the media is concerned. It is wrong to do so on both sides, I agree.

  34. Another Kenton School Worker says:

    DKT: Thank goodness for someone who can legitimately outline their opinion whilst still respecting that others have differing ones without trying to resort to belittlement.

    Lou: I thought you had decided to cease correspondence with me because I disagreed with you?
    If that isn’t the case, I’ll respond to you briefly as I feel answering fully would be raking over old ground once again. The best thing I could really offer is to refer you to my previous points on this page.
    To you, cuts just mean job losses. My bigger concern is the cuts to what students receive, with particular regard to special needs. Believe it or not, there are teachers in the school who care more for student welfare than pay or conditions so when I said that LEA cuts were a bigger danger than academy conversion, it was certainly not just to do with the pay, conditions or redundancies or anything of the sort. It was to do with the services our students receive, with my own particular fears to what further LEA cuts would mean to SEN provision.

    Two hours later (not sure this is true but that would just be pedantic) I said that SLT haven’t threatened job losses which you are suggesting is a turnaround in my position or priorities. I repeat what I said though: The risk that there may be future redundancies is not my reason for supporting academy status. That has never changed, so please don’t suggest to know my opinion

    It would possibly be better to stick to discussing your own opinion and justifying it, which is your absolute right on a public forum. I really don’t see what you have to gain for your cause by trying to suggest that my opinion and standpoint is not what I say it is?

    And most other people can disagree with decent, human courtesy. It’s unpleasant to be stand-offish with someone just because they have a different opinion to you. There wouldn’t be such a divide if there weren’t a great deal of representatives on both sides of the issue.

    And just to answer a point made by my colleague, I agree that there was no reason to fear the picket line. It was conducted in a pleasant way from what I heard (I don’t know as I never saw it) That doesn’t stop it being intimidating for staff, and there are many that have been belittled and upset before and since for their decisions not to strike or picket. Not during the actual picket but actually within the school. And it has been from a small minority.

  35. Kenton staff says:

    Another Kenton School Worker:

    I feel that a major issue at present is that there IS NOT the level of trust for the senior management team that they think that there is. Trust is not determined by how long a head teacher has been in charge and recently i have heard many, many members of staff state that they do not trust the SLT and that they are fearful of voicing true opinions (on any matter, not just academies) as it may “blacklist” them. A culture of fear is not a good place to work and inspire young people. Worse still is the repeated claim that staff “mis-understand” what is happening around them – these are not stupid people and part of the mistrust of SLT stems from this refusal to accept that the staff do understand and do have genuine concerns about the academy plans.

    This, obviously, cannot be proven here – i cannot expect anyone to believe the word of one person on a forum – but these concerns have been raised, are an issue and i firmly believe that SLT do not realise, or do not care, that this is the case.

    Thought it was worth mentioning this.

  36. Lou says:

    AKSW: I certainly am not converted at all to remaining a part of an unstable LEA ravaged by cuts and with more to come. That to me, is a bigger danger than a conversion to academy status
    2 hours later AKSW: SLT haven’t threatened job losses, nor have I said that my views on academy status are to do with moving just in case there were job losses. I was merely responding to a question which you directed at me. Nowhere did I say that it was my main (or even a prominent line of) my argument.
    Maybes you should read back through your own points and get it clear what exactly you are trying to say?

  37. Dedicated Kenton Teacher says:

    I feel quite upset that a colleague of mine is blackening the reputations and integrity of people who hold the alternate view/opinion.

    I am a hard-working member of staff, who will do anything for the students of Kenton to help them fulfil their potential, and care deeply about their future.

    Additionally, I am an educated person (as all Kenton Staff are), who has made the very difficult decision to strike (as I do my job for my students). My reasons for doing so are because the Government Pay and Conditions give a fair and clearly set out scale of pay and progression for staff, moving away from this would create uncertainty for existing staff and new staff. The guarantees by Mr Pearmain and the Governors could be taken out of their hands by government and global economics. If the ‘Academies’ money runs out (reports suggest the ‘Academies’ budget is already in trouble) we will then be in a situation where we either get the same budget or less and then STILL have to buy back all our services, forcing redundancies and or pay cuts etc whether they wanted them or not. The extra money could be very short lived. And I can assure you this argument has not been created as a result of being bullied by any of the unions.

    I also feel very strongly that we should be supporting the LA (and their jobs), if we pull out of the LA, we could be fuelling redundancies of people who work there. (Maybe parents of our students could lose their jobs) It is equally short sighted to be reducing jobs in the public sector/local government, as these are some of the future job for our students.

    Additionally, if we remove ourselves from the LA, we disadvantage other schools around us, maybe even our feeder primaries. All this could in the long run affect our potential to keep improving, if their budgets decrease and the services they receive start to reduce in quality.

    The members of staff you have spoken to regarding their reasons to strike may have given you their answers so not to show any opinion either way. Those who have been scared to come in because they fear the picket line have no fear – it has been a friendly and relaxed demonstration. And any member of staff who behave negatively toward colleagues for their decision either way (to strike or not to strike) should be ashamed of themselves. Bullying and intimidation from any side is appalling, and should not be happening.

    With regard to the financial stability of Kenton School, a question was asked at a meeting regarding Academy status, whether there was a dire financial need to convert, and both Mr Pearmain and the Senior Finance Officer said there was not. If we are in debt, what has happened?

    The question should also be asked, why there has been an inability to get answers to questions regarding conversion to academy status, when Mr Pearmain has been involved in a government organisation which must be investigating and sharing the answers to such questions, with the aim of helping schools make this difficult decision from which there is no return.

    The facts are: There is a great deal of uncertainty whichever route is taken from here. And, there are NO hard facts how either will unfold in the short and long term. But…everyone should be entitled to their own opinions without being criticised and disparaged for them.

  38. Lou says:

    They haven’t threatened redundancies?!Did you not read the email from DP where the threat to teacher’s jobs is clearly outlined if we remain in the LEA. Was it perhaps too subtle for you? I think I’ll stop corresponding with you, as I find your line of argument illogical. Why would you even mention job losses in connection with LEA if you weren’t trying to highlight the advantages of being in control of your own budget? Or are you just on an anti-academies website to make totally irrelevent points?

  39. Another Kenton School Worker says:

    SLT haven’t threatened job losses, nor have I said that my views on academy status are to do with moving just in case there were job losses. I was merely responding to a question which you directed at me. Nowhere did I say that it was my main (or even a prominent line of) my argument.

  40. Lou says:

    Redundancies? Like the ones we have seen across the public sector, which in Newcastle have largely been managed through natural wastage ( part time contracts, retirement, voluntary redundancies). Or another suggestion, perhaps not having meetings in the novotel or matfen hall ( whatever it’s name is!) every 5 minutes when there is absolutely no need to go there? That might save a few quid! What you seem to be saying is you don’t know for sure what the cut will be but we better move, just incase? How bizarre. I find this rush to become an academy to save jobs a ridiculous policy. May I suggest it is not striking staff who have been brainwashed by unions but that you have been frightened by SLT’s veiled threat over job losses.

  41. Another Kenton School Worker says:


    Regarding your question about cuts, nothing has been cut directly from education or healthcare budgets but instead from city council budgets which, in turn, will mean they will have to make cutbacks from education.
    Not just Kenton, admittedly, but every school in the LEA
    There was a big chunk cut this year and an even bigger due to happen next year. the school is in debt already. Any further cuts will inevitably lead to redundancies.

  42. Lou says:

    Absolutely it’s a conflict of interest and you have every right to be concerned. If it wasn’t any issue, why don’t the staff and community know about this?

  43. Concerned Kenton Parent says:

    I have just read Councillor Carter’s post, and she’s right about Mr Pearmain’s letter. I am really quite shocked that he’s never mentioned his links with the Young People’s Learning Agency. To be honest I had never heard of the YPLA before. Information about it is easy enough to find though. I have just looked. He is clearly a member, and its job is to support academies. I have no idea whether or not he makes money out of this, but either way it could be influencing his thinking. I thought the rules about conflicts of interest were very strict these days. This is a conflict of interest isn’t it?

  44. Lou says:

    I’m sorry, bit confused. I thought the cuts werent affecting education or the NHS yet? Do you know otherwise AKSW? If so please can you outline the specific cut to Newcastle LEA and in turn how that will affect Kenton’s budget?

  45. Another Kenton School Worker says:

    Sorry Margaret, that second paragraph was actually directed to Jane. Apologies for the confusion!

  46. Another Kenton School Worker says:

    I assume that your accusation was directed at me.
    For you to assume that anyone who has an opposing opinion to yours must have to be an alias of David Peramain is both short sighted and immature.
    If that is your only counter argument then I’m wondering with what mentality I am debating with.
    154 staff came into school on the last strike day. I am just one of those people.

    And Margaret, nobody is saying that DP can guarantee pay and conditions after he goes. But can you guarantee that pay and conditions will remain untouched if Kenton remains an LEA school when a new governing body comes in? Of course not; there may have been all sorts of changes by then. To use such an argument is futile; nobody can predict the future whether we are LEA or academy

  47. Councillor Margaret Carter, Newcastle says:

    I’ve been involved with education in Newcastle for over 60 years, as a teacher, then headteacher, a governor of Kenton School, and local councillor for Kenton. I was Newcastle’s Lord Mayor in 2003/4. I need to declare an interest: I was NUT branch secretary for 18 years.

    That was more than two decades ago, and I’ve had to run faster than I would want to just to keep up with what’s happening over possible academy conversion at Kenton School.

    I’ve done my homework, and I’ve been astonished to read Kenton headteacher David Pearmain’s claim that he’s given the unions meaningful guarantees about future pay and conditions at the school.

    I now know that he cannot give any such guarantees. However well-intentioned he is, he won’t be there forever. Nor will current governors. The ‘academy trust’ which will take over responsibility for running the school cannot be bound by David Pearmain’s promises. The government has made it clear that it wants academies to set their own pay and conditions.

    I am genuinely surprised that Mr Pearmain doesn’t seem to be aware of all this. In the spring of last year, the task of funding and supporting the academies programme was given to a Whitehall quango called the Young Peoples Learning Agency. David Pearmain is an appointed Board Member of this agency, representing schools, so this apparent gap in his knowledge is a real shock.

    I was a Governor at Kenton School until I resigned in July this year over the academy proposal. I do not recall Mr Pearmain’s role with the YPLA ever being raised in governing body discussions about the proposal. It’s certainly not mentioned in his consultation letter sent to parents in August. It’s not a secret however: the information is there for all to see on the YPLA website.

    Nevertheless, I really think it would have been helpful to those being consulted if they had known that David Pearmain, the moving force behind turning Kenton into an academy, was a member of the body charged by the Government with administering academies

  48. Jane says:

    AKSW says “For a start, current academies are entitled to the same amount of government funding as state schools PLUS the additional funding that comes with academy status. the old academies relied on a sponsor or a business so if they ran out of money then so did the school.” This is false. The old academies also were funded at the same level as local authority schools, plus they had a 3 year start up funding and then in addition the upfront money the sponsors were SUPPOSED to provide (in reality many did not or provided services instead).

    “There are, as yet, no similar stories for the new style academies, both because the funding is the same as a state school and also because they are far too modern for any situations like this to arise yet.” Exactly. We only have the experience of the old style academies and that indicates that independence from a local authority is not the way to improve education.

    As already posted, the DfE website did contain the warning that the current system for funding academies could not be sustained. One has to wonder why that warning has now been removed. There have been stories about splits within the DfE about Gove’s headline rush to smash local authority oversight of education.

    “At the moment, we are being forced to introduce an even more academic approach and yet we have a hugely broad range of students.” Who is forcing you to do this? Heads with integrity are providing the courses which suit their students regardless of the league tables and regardless of Government, as long as they can justify it. The problem is that some heads have used alternative courses in a cynical way in order to improve their league table position, regardless of suitability for the students. Which one is David Pearman? Man or careerist?

  49. Sam says:

    What is really interesting on these comments is that David Pearmain thinks he can fool people by masquerading himself by commenting using fake names. I would recommend that if you want to be posting propaganda on here….. at least use your own name!

  50. Lawrence Wong says:

    We have just achieved 75% A* – C, 68% including English and Maths. We have achieved this in collaboration with the LA and other schools. As a family of schools, our NUT group has voted to remain a LA school, as have the Governors. There are 97 schools in my borough, 37 ‘outstanding’. If all the ‘outstanding’ schools seek to go it alone as Academies, how do we collaborate with other not so outstanding schools? My school was ‘bottom’ eight years ago. Ofsted recently judged it ‘outstanding’. We would like to help all schools achieve this, as we ourselves were helped when we collaborated with other schools in our LA.

  51. Mr On The Fence says:


    As startling as that information is, it relates to the acadamies of old so could have no real bearing on Headship Teams’ desires to apply for academy conversion under the coalition. The academies are too new and there is nothing yet to suggest that there is a trend of senior leaders receiving pay increases.

  52. Tony Dowling (not anonymous!) says:

    Ever wondered what the attraction of academies is for Heads & Senior Leaders?
    A new survey by the Labour Research Department (LRD) confirms what appears to be an emerging trend in school leaders’ pay – that pay for senior staff in academies is outpacing that of their local authority counterparts.

  53. Former Heaton Manor Pupil says:

    Just wanted to voice my support for those striking against Kenton becoming a academy.

    While in Heaton Manor my school was almost forced to close as part of a disastrous private building project to rebuild the school (PFI) – changing schools into academies is another part of the attempt to marketise education.

    The idea that some schools should be better than others – have a ‘academy status’ – in the current day and age is morally repugnant. The idea that schools should be free of popular democratic control is a throwback to darker times – heads and governors should not have the freedom to run schools as their own private fiefdoms.

    There’s also no reason why pay and conditions for teachers should be different in some school – a national pay scale is the fairest and most sensible way of arranging pay.

    and the idea that they “want to change to an academy in order to give staff more control over funding and over what is taught.” is ludicrous in the light of staff going on strike because they don’t feel their views on the issue are being listened.

    Best of luck to all of you in Kenton (and anywhere else having these changes forced upon them.

  54. Another Kenton School Worker says:

    Hi again John (still wondering who you actually are, incidentally, and what you actually know (or don’t more to the point) about Kenton School)

    First off, on a pretty irrelevant tangent, i feel I must point out that there is little need to be unpleasant in your tone when debating. We are all entitled to our own opinion (particularly those of us who work at Kenton School and who will be directly affected by what is going on) and I feel mutually respecting eachother’s right to an opinion is a far more mature way of conducting oneself. You claim that other people today have been ‘demolishing’ my points but I have experienced something much different: a respectful discussion and respectful disagreement.

    I’ll answer your points in the chronological order in which you bring them up. I am assuming that you had first hand experience of the ballot at Kenton School, as I did. The ballot WAS initally about pay and conditions, I don’t disagree with that. In fact, my earlier point that staff don’t really know why they are striking is backed up by this. As the ballot was about pay and conditions, one would expect this to be the staff’s issue. Yet striking staff expressed anger that Mr Pearmain and the media portrayed that the dispute was about pay and conditions. Confusing, no? Many have said that it was never about pay and conditions as even the majority of striking staff have claimed that they feel secure regarding pay and conditions. Mr Pearmain has been headteacher of Kenton School for a long time and there is a certain trust even among the most militant of staff that if he says he has no plans (in his tenure…as nobody can claim to know what future leaders will do) to alter pay and conditions then he won’t. He would have no reason to for a start.
    So, now the strike is apparantely about an issue that wasn’t even balloted on! This suggests to me that many staff really don’t know what this strike is about. It’s important once again to reitorate that only 94 staff balloted in favour of a strike out of over 300 staff. Out of those, some claim it’s over pay and conditions, some claim that it is over the principle, some claim it is something to do with privatisation (although can’t explain what)….so what IS it about? I’m glad that you brought that point up. Again, I would need clarification on what position you have in this entire situation as I haven’t come across your name before but it seems to me that you think the dispute is regarding pay and conditions. At Kenton, the general consensus is that it is not. Come into the school and speak to the striking staff if you don’t believe me.

    You talk of a firm pledge in the Daily Chronicle (a newspaper that also inaccurately said that 200 teachers voted to strike and that it was over pay and conditions) I’ll paste it again to save you scrolling up:

    “I am afraid union leaders have misled our brilliant staff, telling them that their pay and conditions will be worse if we become an academy.

    “The Governors have promised repeatedly they would not do this, even if they were permitted to in the future and the regulations do not allow it.”

    This IS a firm pledge, yes, and one that I believe. David Pearmain only talks about himself and the current governors. Even it THEY were permitted to in the future, he says. How can you expect him to speak for future governors? Nobody can predict the future. for all we know, a whole new government could be in place by then with another new initiative. So what pledge can you really expect him to make? He’s given the best one possible; he even offered to sit down with union leaders to make a joint written assurance on pay and conditions which unions would have a say on. They refused to do this; now why would that be?

    The regulations do allow it for new staff yes, not existing who are protected by TUPE. But for what reason would a school bring in new staff on different pay scales…it would cause a staff divide and be detrimental to the fantastic work force in place. David Pearmain has repeatedly assured us of his belief that the workforce is kenton’s strongest asset and he would seek to do nothing to damage that. break up the staff and you break up the school. He has given just as many assurances that he and the governors would categorically not introduce new staff on different payscales.

    And your last paragraph is a summary of more of the same, so I don’t really have much to say on it except to disagree with your notion that I suggest that the only reason I am in favour of an academy conversion is the possibility that national pay and conditions could detoriate in the future. I have never once said that.

    I look forward to a reply if you choose to give one, but i hope you may deliver it in a less heated manner like everyone else has managed to. However passionately you feel about the issue, there is always an alternate opinion to yours and, just because you disagree with it, it doesn’t give you the right to be unpleasant. if anything, it just serves to weaken your own argument.

  55. John Bendix says:

    Please forgive me AKSW for picking out only one of your feeble arguments. I think Jane had spent most of the rest of the day demolishing the rest, so I make no apology for going back to the pay and conditions point which is what the strike ballot was all about, even if union members, as they cast their votes, also had in mind the many other reasons for not becoming an academy

    In your first rant, you said “The head has guaranteed pay and conditions, the governors have, an independent solicitor has and TUPE has. So you can’t wave that one anymore.”

    After I rubbished that argument, you then wrote “You say that the head and governors can’t guarantee what will happen after their tenure. Very true. Everybody knows that.”

    However, in the Evening Chronicle, Headteacher David Pearmain said “I am afraid union leaders have misled our brilliant staff, telling them that their pay and conditions will be worse if we become an academy.

    “The Governors have promised repeatedly they would not do this, even if they were permitted to in the future and the regulations do not allow it.”

    To some, that sounds like a pretty firm pledge, but it’s utterly meaningless in the long term, even if you realise this and he doesn’t. And the regulations do allow it, encourage it even. Haven’t you been told this by your ‘independent solicitor’?

    Yes, it’s possible that teachers national pay and conditions could deteriorate in future, but that doesn’t seem to most teachers a very sound reason for embracing a future employment relationship where the power is there right now for an academy trust, their future employer (and yours) to worsen pay and conditions any time they like.

  56. Another Kenton School Worker says:

    Staying as we are as a double dip recession approaches is just as much, if not more, of an experiment.

  57. sarah dodds says:

    As you say, no one knows….
    One massive educational experiment with out nations kids and teachers all inside.

    What I know is that the Deputy Director for Children’s Services in Lincolnshire has already talked about “uneconomic models” of academy trusts developing up here. Any caring government would be having a slow, steady pace of reform. This would mean that problems could be ironed out, and services to replace those provided by the LA put in place and regulated. It means that heads who do want to have a go would have proper peer support and training. It would mean that parental votes would be needed before conversion, and that accountability would be retained.
    But no, what we have is a full scale wrecking ball smashing our education system to bits.
    It is ideologically and not educationally driven and deserves to be opposed.

  58. Retired Heaton Manor Teacher says:

    Just wanted to add my support to the Kenton voice of opposition to Academy status – can’t see how this would be the best way forward for your school……

  59. Another Kenton School Worker says:

    You say there are no differences between old academies and new but you are incorrect on this. There is no way you can compare the two. For a start, current academies are entitled to the same amount of government funding as state schools PLUS the additional funding that comes with academy status. the old academies relied on a sponsor or a business so if they ran out of money then so did the school. I was utterly against that ‘style’ of academy and still am. But this is a HUGE difference. Also, the academies (the new ones) can still elect to pay for the services that the LEA provides. This is the same as using the LEA funding to do so. The times when the academy would elect to buy the services elsewhere would more than likely be where the services are cheaper. So there is no danger than Kenton School as an academy would end up in a situation where, to use your example, it would have to pay three times more for SIMs.
    The stories you tell relate to the Labour style sponsored academies which rely on the success of the sponsor only. There are, as yet, no similar stories for the new style academies, both because the funding is the same as a state school and also because they are far too modern for any situations like this to arise yet. Like I’ve already said, it’s too early for any evidence either way to come out about these new style academies. You gave the example of an academy failing 3 years down the line and that we don’t hear about this (suggesting that it is hidden) But of course we don’t…none of these academies are 3 years old!
    Now, this backs up your argument somewhat that it is a risk as there are unknowns and I agree to an extent. But every time of change comes with great risk…and to me, the biggest possible risk is staying stubbornly and blindly where we are, refusing to embrace change and being left behind with the scraps. That’s when a once outstanding school runs the highest risk of becoming a failing one.

  60. Jane says:

    Sorry, it should read: when the DfE had on its website (it is now removed) that the current system of funding for academies was unsustainable

  61. Jane says:

    AKSW: my own experience was that the school I was in became 2 academies (sponsored) and the staff believed everything they were told. I was fortunate – I took redundancy and retired. However, of those who had been passive, many of them regretted it. Once the Funding Agreement is signed, there really is no difference between the old academies and the new. There is a myth that the old ones were “failing” schools but this is just not true. There is no basic difference between the old and the new

    It is still almost certain that the academy trust will appoint governors, rather than that they be elected. It is also quite probable that the school will have to pay more for contracts with private companies. One school in my area is paying more than 3x as much for SIMs as they were under the local authority. Another, I am told, cannot afford work experience because of the cost of insurance.

    This in a climate when the DfE had (it is now removed) that the current system of funding for academies was unsustainable; when academies employ more unqualified staff than LA schools and when in 2010 over a third of academies showed a drop in GCSE results.

    We are being led by the nose about how wonderful academies are and heads and governors are being bullied to go down an unproven, expensive and dangerous route. What you hear about are the few successes – you don’t hear about, for example, the one which was an outstanding local authority school and, 3 years down the line as an academy, was failed by Ofsted.

    Whether you care about terms and conditions, the education of children, local democracy or whatever – I firmly believe that academies are the wrong answer.

  62. Another Kenton School Worker says:

    I understand your use of a comparative model but it can’t really be used as evidence can it? The fact is, that without a replica of the academy model, nobody can say for sure yet whether or not they are a good or bad thing. The advantages I see, for Kenton school, (I refuse to speak for the entire country as I do not pretend to know the politics in depth enough) is the ability to take control of the curriculum. At the moment, we are being forced to introduce an even more academic approach and yet we have a hugely broad range of students. Many of our students come from disadvantaged backgrounds and many have skills which are far more suited to work related qualifications as opposed to academic. At the moment, we are trying and failing to get an apprenticeship innovation off the ground and are also struggling to make the most of non academic subjects and the Wider key Skills programme due to government red tape. Given the freedom of academy status, we could introduce a curriculum that caters for our full range of students, not just the academic ones. It would allow us to rethink the English Baccalaureate, which, from what I know, is aimed at academic students. We could introduce a whole programme of work related skills, work experience, apprenticeships and all sorts of alternative qualifications which at the moment are getting phased out of the national curriculum.
    Another advantage is the growth of our SEN department. We recently developed our exclusion centre and New beginnings service and offered it to the wider community, which the LEA refused. We have resources which the whole community of the North east could make use of and it is going to waste. If we had the freedom to expand this to students outside of the school, it would only strengthen our community links and not detoriate them. We recently experienced cuts to the SEN department, meaning non replacement of leaving support staff and less people to cater for our pupils with special needs. With the additional financial benefit, these staff could be replaced and our SEN department (one of the biggest in the North East) could continue to develop rather than detoriate. Now, while you are correct that there is not yet any evidence to say that this has been done well yet (as it is much too early), these are some of the proposals our headship team have put forward and they sound good to me. There is no evidence either way as these academies are a brand new thing.
    What concerns me is people’s perception of the word academy. many associate them with the schools run by companies or religious sponsors but these Labour academies are different to the new ones being developed now.

  63. sarah dodds says:

    Do you see any evidence of possible ADVANTAGES to the academy policy in principle?
    So far what I am hearing, (and again I respect the integrity of your views entirely), is that you see academy status as the best way out of a bad situation.
    As for evidence for the negatives, there is loads of evidence to suggest that Charter Schools in the States have had a very negative impact on their surrounding communities. That is the nearest comparative model that we have.

  64. Another Kenton School Worker says:

    As I say, I respect your opinion and value your right to one. It differs to mine completely, as I do not see the disadvantages people speak of and certainly see no evidence towards them whereas I do see evidence on the contrary.
    I may not be fully converted to the idea of an academy, but I certainly believe it to be the way forward for my school and the surrounding community it serves and will continue to serve. I certainly am not converted at all to remaining a part of an unstable LEA ravaged by cuts and with more to come. That to me, is a bigger danger than a conversion to academy status

  65. sarah dodds says:

    apologies for my crap grammar early on…

  66. sarah dodds says:

    No, teachers are not politicians.
    But more importantly, politicians are not teachers.
    If a schools seek academy status because it, (as an entire democratic community), believe it to be right,then I will fall on my sword.
    But my overriding concern is for people such as yourself who do not seem in any way converted to the academies policy, but who see it as being inevitable. It is no way for decisions to be made.
    And it is a fight for the ENTIRE education system of this country. I am fighting the Louth campaign not just for Louth, but for a national system that I work in, love and believe in. I am fighting not just for my 3 kids already in school, but for my two year old who will start his secondary school life in a system that could have been privatised for a decade.
    It is not just about Louth, it is not just about Kenton. Our entire education system is being demolished because well intentioned people are only taking decisions for their school in the here and now, with no thought for the impact it has on the infrastructure of the system as a whole.

  67. Another Kenton School Worker says:

    That is an interesting viewpoint Sarah and I do respect you for it.
    However, teachers are not politicians and they do not have the power to fight an entire government. Kenton teachers are striking on behalf of Kenton not on behalf of the entire education system in England. Any who say otherwise are fooling themselves.
    Striking to stop Kenton becoming an Academy will not stop the Academy program, even if it does successfully stop Kenton becoming one. The teachers of Kenton need to consider what is best for the school. In some opinions, that is remaining as it is and embracing cuts, redundancies and falling results. In mine, I see no alternative so the best way forward for the school is to take the only real opportunity that it is being offered.

  68. sarah dodds says:

    But that is the problem, AKSW.
    There is no alternative. And in my view, where there is no alternative with integrity or value, the only thing to do that indeed HAS any integrity is to fight and resist what is on offer.
    Even though I wish they could, the AAA and the unions cannot just wish academies and free schools away.
    But any end result will be better because people did not take this bullying passively.
    To use that well worn phrase, to let evil flourish, all it takes is for the good to do nothing.

  69. Another Kenton School Worker says:

    Sarah, I think you may have misunderstood my argument. You may have honed in on what particular sentence and ignored the wider view of my entire argument. That is certainly NOT what I am saying.
    My argument is much less dramatic than that. But I am still interested in answers to the question: What is the alternative? Still no responses I notice…

  70. sarah dodds says:

    Another Kenton School Worker
    I find your argument disturbing.
    I think you are saying that “we must do a bad thing to stop and even worse thing happening.” Hardly an educationally balanced response.
    In a few years time, we will have an education system that is founded on the results of fear based decision making.
    Hardly the sound platform to base the future aspirations of generations of children.

  71. Another Kenton School Worker says:

    Well, John Bendix (whoever you are), I assume that you work in Kenton School every day like I do and speak to the striking colleagues on a regular basis? I can assure you that that is NOT why the vast majority of the 92 people who voted to strike are doing so…and they would be quite upset at your insinuation. Even the ones who are genuinely passionately against the academy (not as many as you may think) have categorically stated that it is not about pay and conditions. There is a human trait called trust which in situations where there can be no guarantees from either side, has to be levelled at the people who provide evidence and not propaganda.
    Every evidence the union has supplied so far has turned out to be false.
    We are not talking about Further Education, whose pay and conditions are being altered in a regrettable procedure which is seperate from academy status. We are talking about Kenton School. Interesting that you only have an argument (a bad one) for one of my points. I did raise several and you were predictably unable to answer my question which I put to anyone: What is your alternative?
    You say that the head and governors can’t guarantee what will happen after their tenure. Very true. Everybody knows that. But then, if we didn’t convert, can YOU guarantee what will happen when a new head comes in? Can you guarantee what will happen if a new government comes in? can you guarantee that every school will not be forced to become an academy anyway? Can you guarantee that the government will not detoriate pay and conditions via other measures? Of course you can’t. What a ridiculous line of argument. There are NEVER guarantees in life; nobody can tell the future, academy or no academy.

    And if Gove is so determined to ‘destroy pay and conditions’ like you so dramatically say, then you can guarantee the schools that are not in their own control and eventually fall into forced control from the Government and see further cuts to the LEA will be the one that experiences these destructions most fiercly in ‘decades to come’

  72. John Bendix says:

    That’s quite a rant from ‘Another Kenton School Worker’, and deluded to boot.

    He/she tells us that “The head has guaranteed pay and conditions, the governors have, an independent solicitor has and TUPE has. So you can’t wave that one anymore.”

    Do some research yourself, Another Kenton School Worker. Nobody can make any such quarantees. The Transfer of Undertakings, Protection of Employment regulations (TUPE) will protect employees at the point of transfer from one employer to another. They will not protect new staff. They will not prevent present staff from having changes imposed on them later, as is happening in many another academy.

    The head and governors, estimable persons though they may be, simply cannot make guarantees about what happens when they’ve moved on, and your ‘independent solicitor’ should know that.

    One of the aims of Gove’s academy scheme is to kick-start the process of destroying teachers’ national pay and conditions. It won’t happen overnight. It might take decades.

    But Gove has given each academy the power to set pay and conditions, because he wants to replicate what has happened in the further education sector. Twenty years after FE colleges were given those some powers, FE teachers have seen their pay and conditions fall behind those of school teachers, with FE managers lining their pockets. Already, academy pay structures are being loaded towards managers at the expense of classroom teachers.

    That’s why your colleagues are on strike, and why so many other teachers support them.

  73. London school worker says:

    Well done to the strikers at Kenton, whose students were also on the picket line to show support. Nice pic and report here.

  74. Heaton Manor Teacher says:

    Best of luck, Kenton, in your bid to fend off academy status – I can’t believe so many schools have taken this huge step and taken on academy status almost overnight. How can this possibly be in the best interests of the school community? Good on you!

  75. Another Kenton School Worker says:

    Of course, the figure in my first sentence should be 46%…I typed 48% while still having the figure of 52% that the other user had typed in my head.

  76. Another Kenton School Worker says:

    It was actually 56 per cent of staff in; so one must wonder where the unions get the idea that the overwhelming majority are against the school becoming an academy. The other 48% were certainly not on the picket line either…many felt duty bound by unions (or worse, in some cases, bullied) to stay off. others were off sick…several felt too afraid to cross a picket line. The ‘protest’ outside looked busy…but how many of those were actually striking teachers of Kenton? The union said over 100…not true at all. People from other schools, and even friends of staff were pulled along in the desperate bid to make out the entire workforce was against the notion. The unions fed to the press that 200 staff voted for strike action…again another lie. It was less than 100. Their other accolade was the overwhelming support that their Facebook page mustered…a massive 900 people. of course, they forgot to mention that this page added people without their permission and, on many occasions their knowledge! There are no more than 15-20 vocal members on that page…and only about 4 teachers from the school! It has gotten to the stage where teachers have begun to cross dangerous professional boundaries by trawling through current student’s Facebook pages and added them. Another desperate union method was to get their own relatives, friends, friends of friends and their goldfish just about to spam governors with postcards saying no to the academy. One suggestion was that people should make up names and send them out! And yet…the main argument of the unions is that senior management lie and mislead. Hypocrisy much?
    The vast majority of the staff I have spoken to either didn’t strike, didn;t want to but felt they should go along with the union democracy…or did strike but wasn’t sure why.
    I have asked several people a simple question: ‘What would you suggest instead of an Academy…nobody so far has given a logical response. I wonder if anyone here might supply one? It is IMPOSSIBLE to just stay as we are…there are £400,000 cuts to the city council next year. So our budget gets slashed some more…redundancies and depertments cut down are inevitable. And, as other schools become academies and some become selective of students, Kenton’s results will inevitably fall. When those results get below 50%, kenton is forced into becoming an academy anyway…the only difference is that there is no additional funding and it will be under government control, not it’s own. Where is the logic!? Those standing on the picket line shouting ‘Save our school!’ need to think long and hard and stop being sheep who blindly follow a scaremongering, agenda following union and ask themselves…’HOW is this saving kenton School. What do I want?’ if the answer is ‘I just want it to stay the same.’ try and explore the logistics of what and work out if it is feasible long term. A double dip recession is on the way with even more brutal cuts to follow…your job will be on the line, never mind the myth that the pay and conditions might suffer.
    This campaign is led by people that oppose for opposition sake. If the headship team offered a million pounds to starving children, they would oppose it because they are anti-management in principle and can’t open their minds. The head has guaranteed pay and conditions, the governors have, an independent solicitor has and TUPE has. So you can’t wave that one anymore.
    And as for the claim that you don’t want privatisation of schools; do you even know what that means or are you getting mixed up with the academies of old which were run by businesses and religions. Do some research if you’re confused.
    I’d LOVE for someone who is strongly opposed to this to come up with a concrete alternative that makes sense and is feasible. nobody, in any union meeting or protest has been able to so far. Some are just striking for the day off (I say this as I heard numerous people saying so…’I don’t know what’s going on but at least we get three days off!’)
    if people cared about the education of the children as much as they claim to, they’d get off their soapboxes, take along, hard look at the evidence, at the alternatives to an academy (ie school the school being forced into one anyway)
    My suspicion is that many people on that picket line are just excited to be on the news and feel big about ‘standing up to management’ (examine staff Facebook statuses if you don’t believe me) Anyone who claims to have the children’s best interests at heart but then get the students coming into school to join the picket line are what is making this situation give the rest of the staff who want to come in and teach a bad name. It’s time to end this futile fight. the only people that should hold their heads high on that picket line are the ones who can stand firm and come up with an effective, sensical counter-argument and who fully understand what an academy even is. I daresay that won’t be many.

  77. Jane says:

    Teach Newcasatle: I wish the issue of pay and conditions had been laid to rest. Unfortunately, it hasn’t. Pay and conditions in some academies are far worse than in local authority schools. Harris Federation, for example, offers a bit more money but less holiday and a longer week. Some don’t offer the extra cash.

    Committed teachers already work long hours and do not take strike action lightly.

    However, my main objections to academies aren’t the pay and conditions, they are: the fragmentation of education; the cost of changes of governance; the disruption and cost caused by constant meddling by politicians to very little gain; the inability of local communities to be involved in their local schools (when academies)…………and a host of other reasons.

    I don’t know David Pearmain so cannot suggest his motives. However, in other cases there has been a misguided belief that: the education system is broken; that the problems faced by schools are under estimated and misunderstood; a belief that education is about training and, of course, some are motivated by downright ignorance or see the academy programme as a cash cow – which it certainly is to those charging large fees for “consultancy”, “human resources”, etc.

  78. TeachNewcasatle says:

    Apparently there were 54% of teaching staff in Kenton School on Thursday. Maybe they were the people who listened to the guarantees that pay & conditions would not worsen – logically, why would they? Do people honestly think that David Pearmain is considering a plan that would be detrimental to Kenton School?
    Unions are hiding their real issues behind the ‘pay and conditions’ banner which has been laid to rest long ago.

  79. Nick (teacher) says:

    Good on you Kenton for standing up for the best interests of the children and community of the school. We’re all very proud

  80. Dave says:

    Good luck to you, and the former governors who have retained their integrity. Our neighbouring school,200 metres away, has just become an academy. They have deliberately isolated themselves from the rest of the schools in the LA. Where we used to co-operate there is now competition and mistrust. Instead of working together with local primaries it has become a free for all, and an unedifying scramble to try to tempt each others pupils away. Fortunately the rest of us have managed to work more closely to try to overcome the problems caused by mass sackings in the education dept.

  81. Kenton School Worker says:

    It is highly insulting that the staff of Kenton School are being made to look like they are only motivated by money. The reason I am striking on Thursday is that I believe privatising schools is morally wrong.
    The school has had outstanding OFSTED results so what we are doing now is obviously working. Why risk what the school has achieved for immediate monetary gain but an uncertain future?
    I would like to point out that I have not been misled by my union as I can think for myself and I am not simply a mindless drone who only cares about what I get paid.
    Save our school!

  82. London school worker says:

    Best of luck to everyone at Kenton. My school’s head an governors made moves towards academy status but backed off when both the NUT and Unison groups at the school threatened to strike.

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