Monday, 10 March 2008

Nooks and Crannies (find the hidden posts)

Hello all
Just to say that we are receiving more and more interest in the campaign and blog-hits. It has taken me an eternity to finish, but the entry covering our first public meeting is finished and you will find it a few entries below this one. I'd love to hear your thoughts if you attended, or questions if you didn't. Also, now that we are in March, last month's entries were archived. If you want to re-read, or are just visiting the blog now, click on "February" on the archive bar to the left, which will make the page display all of these posts. If you want to focus on one topic and/or read the comments, simply click on the title of the blog entry, either in the archive bar or at the top of that post. This will take you to a page dedicated solely to that entry. WE LOVE YOUR COMMENTS- KEEP THEM COMING IN!


Anonymous said...

Rather than focusing on the negatives of the proposal, perhaps you could come up with more constructive alternatives.
For instance, what do you propose to do when the Grammar School loses its 6th Form and more teachers are made redundant as has been the case at MIS last year.
Does your organisation support the change of age of transfer? If it does, how do you propose a new school will be built?
Perhaps more pragmatism and less politics would be better for all concerned, particularly our children.

PS Just received your yellow leaflet - full of errors and half truths which has prompted this comment.

Trabb's Boy said...

Anonymous, we are all for the betterment of our children's education. Pragmatism vs politics is an interesting one. We in NAME are local people who care very much about our schools and the impact on the children. Plenty of people in the campaign have children who will be going through the system during this change- so it is actually in our interest that the best outcome is achieved. Can these statements be said of Andrew Adonis, an unelected POLITICIAN, architect of the academies programme who thought that Midhurst needed an academy?

We would love to be able to come up with constructive alternatives, if only we as a community were given the time and opportunity. The community evidently supported the age of transfer change- this is not the same as agreeing to giving over 3 schools to a sponsor in order to open up one academy.

The LA of Haringey recently was "pragmatic" enough to actually consult its community- and they secured funds to build a community school. The academy option (we haven't been given anything other) was comprehensively rejected. It is possible. An academy is NOT the only way to secure BSF as is repeatedly suggested.

What on the yellow leaflet is an error or half-truth? We realise now that WC are not "co-sponsors" as stated, and apologise for that; but we point out that that information came from the press, and Winchester College itself: "Winchester has accepted an invitation from the United Learning Trust to sponsor with them the development of a new Academy in the Rother Valley" (from WC's Headmaster R Townsend).

If you think something else is in error, please tell us- our research was very thorough and we wish to engage everyone in true debate.

Anonymous said...

Trabb's Boy

Thank you for your response. I would like to know how much time you think we have to resolve the secondary education issue. What is at stake right now is the future of any form of secondary education in the area. As I said before, the first closure will be the MGS sixth form, this could happen within the next 18 months to 2 years - this is not scaremongering, this is reality. Exactly what do you and your group propose in the time available?
I have been involved in major fundraising projects - to provide the facilities necessary to attract more students from other schools providing secondary education will not be achievable within a minimum of 2 to 3 years. By then it will be too late even though I have no doubt another action group such as Name will come together to oppose closure of the 6th form.
If you belive our so called democratically elected LA will find the necessary funding you really are in cloud cuckoo land so I ask again what are your alternatives?

On one further point you seem to avoid is the direct question of whether NAME agree to the age of transfer change - do you or don't you a simple yes or no answer would suffice.

The errors or perhaps misleading statements on your yellow leaflet include:

a) There is no evidence that subjects such as History, Geography etc. will not be delivered through an Academy - this is simply trying to frighten people to agree with your views.
b) Academies are inspected by Ofstead - other state schools also now receive a "softer touch" unless in special measures. The LA will also be monitoring the Academy closely as no doubt will groups such as name. In practice they will be monitored more intensly than other schools.
c) I am sure that some staff will lose their jobs - that would happen because of the age of transfer change whether an Academy or not. Some staff will lose their jobs in any case due to falling roles even if the "do nothing" options prevails. I believe ULT have made very clear during the consultation meetings what their position on terms and conditions are - there is no questioins as far as I can see on teachers being paid less. Your statement to the contrary is vey misleading if not a deliberate error.

I reiterate, to do nothing is not an option - what are your proposals for dealing with what are immediate problems for secondary education in this area?

Trabb's Boy said...


Thank you- I appreciate your frank opinions and willingness to discuss the points. As for the sixth-form, I personally can't say that I have a definitive answer on that one. I don't have the figures to hand to support any argument that might be made. This is the first that I have heard this case. I had read Mr BR's statement that secondary schooling would disappear altogether in the Rother Valley if we didn't have an academy, but haven't yet met one person who buys that. But you are right, in that we would campaign against losing the 6thform from MGS. We don’t see that as incompatible with your point and still don't accept that the academy is the answer. We believe that the skills and dedication of those involved in Rother Valley education could bring about a positive and creative proposal to address that. The academy project was brought about very suddenly, and I don't believe for a second that the people who engineered it had any of our students' or schools' needs as their priority- this was a purely political move from the very top. I do think that people within the system (say governors) have agreed to the academy because they believe it is the only option, and so for the best, perhaps. That is understandable. It is just very disheartening that all of us are being denied the opportunity to hear all sides of the story. People do want to actually consider what is happening to our schools. This so-called consultation process is rushed and flawed and that surely is not good for anyone, whatever their viewpoint.

I'm not in cloud cuckoo land. I wish I was otherwise I might not feel so very depressed at the mess we have been put in the Rother Valley. I share you sceptism at the prospect of funding coming through from the authority. After all, they have had plenty of time and opportunity to address our issues and to invest in our schools. I have understood from some quarters that in fact this is the reason that some people have agreed to go along with the academy- they will be glad to be shot of the Local Authority. Nonetheless, however cavalier some officials may act, I would say that there is some good in the system, that at least they are democratically elected and locally accountable and that certain people aren’t there forever. The sponsors on the other hand report to their board and central government. They are given a lease to our school of 125 years. May I remind readers that there is a commitment for all secondary schools to be rebuilt or refurbished, so we are not proposing to do nothing- we are proposing that we have genuine considered consultation and hold the authority to their own assertion that we deserve re-build. According to Mr Back, we are in Waves 12-15 of BSF, but recent evidence shows that we are in fact Waves 10-12. And there are authorities which have not taken up their allocated funding, in which case others in the queue possibly can be bumped up. If the new argument is that the 6th form will disappear in 18 months, so we must have an academy in September- may I also point out that there will be only a change in ownership. Unfortunately, I have heard of as many parents anxious to opt out of the Rother Valley, resulting from this fiasco as I did when MGS first went into special measures. I think that if we could make it clear to parents that there is improvement on the horizon which the community can be a genuine part in, there is hope.

You seem very keen to pin the campaign down with a “yes or no” to your question on the age of transfer. Why is this? I can not speak for every member of our campaign group- there are very many in the group with very many views, so it would be unfair and misleading of me to answer either way. What I can say is that whilst in the group there are people who support the intermediate school system, the age of transfer to age 11 has been accepted. End of Key Stage transfer is not the same as agreeing to an academy, and the almost every person with whom we have spoken has indicated that a great unhappiness with the way the age of transfer has been used to justify the academy. People feel very used and deceived. So I am not avoiding your question at all: a pat answer may suffice for you, but not for many others.

Whilst I do truly welcome your comments and willingness to engage in debate, I must take issue with your allegation that we don’t have any evidence for our concerns and that we are just doing it to “frighten people”. I must say that I personally take offense at that particular allegation. On what possible basis do you make such a charged accusation? Do you really believe that we, many of whom have worked in education and in the Rother Valley, many of whom have children whose education is our main concern, would just dream up random statements to get our way??? I would actually understand if you believed us to be misinformed, but suggesting lying is another matter altogether. If you look at the blog entry outlining the questions and answers given to the local press this week, you will see a breakdown of our main sources of research. We would be happy to point you in the direction of any further reading. To address your specific charges:

a) Research from academies in existence DOES show a narrowing of the curriculum, with a worrying trend whereby arts and the humanities have dropped significantly from their predecessor schools. No one here is stating that this will be the case in our proposed academy, but neither can anyone say that it won’t be the case- thus the nature of our concern. I think ULT are miles better than many sponsors, and tend to give them the benefit of the doubt, but my concerns were intensified when reading their consultation document. They stated their specialisms of Science and Maths with Business and Entreprise along with the other core subjects (maths & science already mentioned) English and ICT, plus RE, PE, PSHE, citizenship, and careers and work-related learning. What about those other subjects which lead to a broad and balanced curriculum? There is a mention of things such as music, art and drama in the paragraph about “enrichment activities” and “extracurricular activities” which begs the question; will they not form part of the main curriculum? Maybe they will; I hope they would. But given the research, given their own document, I think it is entirely fair to flag up concern.
b) No one said academies aren’t inspected by OfSTED. We know about the supposed “light touch” (ask anyone who’s had to do a SEF how light it is). No one is disputing that. Personally, I think OFSTED is an unfair system to all. Our point is that it is not like-for-like with academies and other schools, so parents can not get a fair representation easily. The more intense monitoring of which you speak is interesting as it relates to the protocol for the AG, a special team of 8 inspectors, the only ones allowed to inpect academies (and oddly whom also inspect the predecessor school in some instances). If there are concerns an early “visit will be helpful in promoting the Academy’s progress”.
c) ULT have said that TUPE will apply for transferred teaching staff, a much better deal than many sponsors give. They have made it very clear that they will NOT follow National Pay and Conditions for newly appointed staff. TUPE does not mean that staff will get the jobs they want, or are in their best interests, but that their pay and conditions are kept. It is not clear what will happen if staff apply for jobs within the academy after TUPE (say for promotion). In other academies, in taking up a new post, staff have given up their old post and their previous terms and conditions. It is not uncommon for academies to “re-structure” after opening, with further job losses for those who thought they were protected.

Not deliberately misleading.

May I ask where you get the information from which you have made your assertions? Is it, like many others who have been asked to go along with the academy, based exclusively on presentations from those who have vested interest in this academy- West Sussex and the sponsor?

I do thank you for your time.