Friday, 25 April 2008

Dunn Deal and Haste

Given this would be the fastest-ever establishment of an Academy, how can you possibly ensure the process would be executed effectively, so schools, their staff, and, most importantly, the children won't suffer as a result?

The county council and ULT, as proposed sponsor, have entered into this programme with real commitment and enthusiasm and see no reason why we cannot work together with current staff and the wider community to achieve good outcomes quickly. Commitment and enthusiasm are great, but I can see plenty of reasons why good outcomes can’t be achieved: there isn’t enough time! Two years is considered fast for academy establishment. I am still looking to find feasibility studies carried out in less time than we’ve had just for consultation to academy opening. Given the Herculean experimental nature of this proposal, we should be taking more time, not less to ensure that everything is done properly, if it is going to happen. Just look at the nature of the consultation so far and how rushed that’s been. How many schools- 17?- were asked to consider changes to their schooling PLUS age of transfer arrangements PLUS an academy in 6 weeks. Other authorities who’ve held rushed and flawed consultations have given more time for consideration of academy proposals alone. WSCC could have done this and done this even half-decently if there was time to do so.

The building work and any agreed final age of transfer arrangements would be arranged so any possible disruption can be minimized for children and staff. If the gains of the proposed change to Academy status can be delivered sooner we should try to do so. No we shouldn’t. If an academy must be delivered, it must be delivered well. How can you guarantee minimising disruption when you’re rushing? The primary objective here seems to be to get the Academy through, no matter what, then we’ll worry about the nitty-gritty (like what happens to the children; where the academy might be). Please tell us how you propose to arrange building work and age-of-transfer BEFORE you tell us it will all work out nicely. By the way, staff and pupils at Paddington Academy (ULT) have a very different story to tell about disruption. The Local Authority were not happy, but too late- nothing they could do about it.
The governing bodies, leadership team and staff of the three secondary schools, in particular, have been involved in the consultation process since the Academy option was first given the green light by the DCSF in late January this year.It’s not my place to comment on the GBs, leaders or staff of the secondary schools (until we’ve been given consent to, which we have not asked). I think they must be going through a very difficult time.

I would counter this question by asking one of my own... Are you content the current decline in secondary school numbers should be allowed to continue? No, but again, I think there are answers to be found which do not involve an academy. At the very least, people should have been informed of alternatives, or given a chance to put these forward. Instead, all of us have been told at very short notice, that there will be an academy (pending consultation, an interesting example of circular logic), and have been given nothing but sales pitch. Some people have bought it; a few people have embraced it; many people want to know more specifics and have more time.Or would you like prompt and urgent action to be taken to begin to address current and future challenges? Prompt and urgent? Perhaps. Rash? Definitely not.Children have only one chance at their education... and for the adults responsible for providing the very best educational opportunities in the Rother Valley, time is of the essence. I’d like for my child to have the best chance and in 5-10 years and on down the line when the academy’s “additionality” has dried up, when we could have been seeing some funding for our state school, I have no faith that my child will have the very best educational opportunities. “Time is of the essence”: I ‘ve heard that before. Oh yes, it was in minutes of a meeting called by local headteachers with Mr Back so that they could plan for sustainable schools offering the very best educational opportunities. If there were to be any changes, the timing would need to be right, said he. But on the subject of change: “there is no immediate push from us, but we may well respond if there is pressure to push for system change.. Unless there is a clear steer that change is really desired, we would not come to you.” What are we supposed to believe?

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