Thursday, 1 May 2008

"Open your mind"

Far from being the ‘only show in town’, it now looks less likely than at any previous time that it will be possible for the Academy to open in September. This is, in large part, because of the continuing opposition expressed in meetings and through interviews during the consultation process. The breadth and volume of the opposition has come as a bit of a surprise to some, and will require careful ‘processing’ ahead of its presentation to the cabinet member due to make a decision on whether to proceed to ‘formal consultation’ at the end of this month. This will take time. It is the very least that our elected representatives can do to scrutinise in more depth the deal that is being presented to us, and allow residents and parents adequate time to take on board the long-term implications of moving down the Academy route. If all this due process means that the DCSF’s deadlines cannot be met – what then? Adonis wanted his Academy, and he wanted it now. We are still being told that if it can’t open in September, it can’t open at all; after all, by next year, MGS will be just another well functioning, successful rural comprehensive, much like the many hundreds of others which are not earmarked to become Academies. We await decisions made at central government level in the summer with great interest.

Far from being a 'once-in-a-generation' opportunity, the plans as currently presented to us represent an opportunity missed. WSCC could have started its consultation processes now well ahead of its receipt of Building Schools for the Future money in two to four years time. It could have asked us what we want. It could have drawn on the goodwill of the community and basic democratic principles to rejuvenate the Rother Valley schooling system with public money, retaining public ownership and public control. In fact, that opportunity is still there – and still will be in two to four years time if this ill-conceived and ludicrously expedited Academy plan falls through, as we intend to ensure it will. Now there’s an opportunity! ‘Open your minds’ to it!


Anonymous said...

I have to say that I was rather disappointed with the meeting last night. I thought the chairmanship was second rate to the extent it was indeed both offensive and deliberately restrictive. Had I known that the meeting was only going to allow “ parents” to object I would have thought twice about going. I have to say that that decision was outrageous and a further slight on the local and national tax payer who in the end pays for all this experimentation. When is it that thought might be given for value for money instead of all the time focussing in rather general terms on the “good of pupils/students” without any detailed evidence to support this. Why is it that constantly the debate refers to the apparent need for new buildings at MGS as the answer to all problems? Some of the supporters of NAME also seem to indicate there is a need here and I disagree with this. On the standards of “fit for need” most of the historic buildings even Winchester College old buildings (In fact most of the public schools in the country would be torn down). New buildings in the end do not make good schools by themselves. Adaptation and development can be as good. And is any thought given to the aesthetic quality of the new buildings produced by ULT. Goodness knows that the new buildings already on the MGS site eg that dreadful entrance to the upper school admin block are bad enough.

Continuing improvements at MGS are dependent on so many more factors than a new glass block.

I have to say that I was not jmpressed by the Headteacher of Swindon Academy and how she was not truly tested and indeed allowed to get away with banality. The needs of that part of Swindon cannot be equated with the experience of MGS and yet blandly this was accepted. What discipline was this Headteacher ? Are the heads of these Academies given cash handouts or more money ?

I am now even more depressed when I read in the local paper that the Town Council is now concentrating on the site issue and by implication accepting that an Academy will happen ( may be a defence of that land in central midhurst is their correct responsibility) and finally the Adonis piece in the Independent today!!

Anonymous said...

What Swindow Acadeny's headteacher had to say last night was very interesting. The thing i picked up on was when she said there had been no problem with the three school becoming one. As we all know with big changes some thing always go wrong and with some thing this big some thing must of gone wrong. It's not to down to bad leadship , it is just things we have no control over even if we think we have covered every point possible. It makes me wonder if she has been brain washed or is being paid off. Do ULT really think we will believe it will be all plan sailing

Resist! said...

I agree with all the points you make. The one about new build is, I think a particularly important one. Whilst we might be holding out for additional moneys for renovation to be made available from central government, I for one see no reason why that should be put to use in flattening existing buildings, when large parts of them need nothing more than refitting. I also wholly agree that the models of academy architecture to be found universally among existing academies would look entirely out of place in either Midhurst or Easebourne, and would simply add to the sense that the Academy represents some alien thing transplanted into the community rather than an outgrowth of it. An out of town exam factory run by messianic advocates of business-led change for change's sake would be the worst of all possible outcomes.

As for last night's meeting, I have to say it largely lived up to my expectations. One fully expects a company to push a new product line hard, but I suspect it isn't just me that baulks at the hard sell when the product on offer is a brand of school. I thought the sales pitch was in many ways rather slick, and well selected, but embarassingly overblown when it came to many of the specific claims for the benefits of the deal on offer. In the next few dyas I'll look through my notes and see if I can find a few pins with with to prick the over-inflated advertising balloon.

The notion of it being 'parents only', I can only assume was a way to try to sideline anti-academy campaigners - this despite its having been advertised as a 'public' rather than 'parents'' meeting. I was pointedly asked if I was a parent, whilst less worrysome characters were not. And any claim to its being about 'consultation' didn't really take long to evaporate , did it?!

Trabb's Boy said...

Hello to those of you reading this. I thought that you might like to know that there is another comment about this meeting on the blog entry about the first public meeting. I'm not clever enough to get the html to work in this comment box, so am not able to post the link to it. You can find it by going to the Archive bar on the left of our main blog page, then click on April and then click on the post "The Worst That Can Happen..."

Anonymous said...

I felt the meeting was not telling us anything now, only trying to convince us that becasue it worked in Swindon, then it can work in Midhurst! The headmistress was very proud of what she had managed to do since last September- fantastic stuff, alot of it quite innovative, but wouldn't any new head in any new school be it private, state or academy make changes etc when they come in. The GRammar School hasn't been able to prove itself as it has not had a full head since going into special measures.I am not knocking Mr. Barrot, he has done well, but he has been limited to what he can do as he is acting head.

Trabb's Boy said...

Yes, the Swindon principal had vision and passion for her school- I am personally not knocking that. She was quite a good speaker, too. Somebody briefed her quite well, and she addressed many of NAME's public concerns point by point. Even though she was an effective spokesperson for ULT, I can't say as though she allayed our concerns overall.

A few people, I guess, were more impressed than I was, some people much less so. But I think the point you make, anonymous, is true: a good leader can make the world of difference to any school.

Mr Barrot, as acting head, seems to have made a great difference to MGS in a short period of time- bringing it out of a particularly low ebb- being able to motivate staff and students alike. The two students who spoke at the first public meeting at MIS were testaments to this. They were proud of their school under his leadership. And they should be.

Anonymous said...

Building Schools for the Future - current programme

Wave 1 12/2003 first opened 2007
Wave 2 6/2005 first opened 2008
Wave 3 12/2005 none open
Wave 4 2/2007 none open
Wave 5 6/2007 none open
Wave 6 no data

MGS is in Waves 13 to 15, since 2003 there has not been 2 waves per year, current average is 1 per year, so it could be 4 to 10 years from now before funds are allocated to MGS, with a further 2.5 to 4 years before the new school opens. At best under Building Schools for the Future we get a new build school in 2014, on average 2018, at worst 2022.

Resist! said...

Thank you Anonymous for your helpful and well-informed comment. You are right that the early waves of BSF allocation were very slow. This, as you may know, was a source of acute political embarrassment, resulting in the 'remodelling' of the programme (see ). If we are to take the schools minister at his word as a man of integrity, then we must trust to his pledge of a rapid acceleration of the BSF timetable along the lines suggested in previous information published by NAME. We will look again at the exact rate of the increase in frequency of waves, and seek assurances from the DCSF. However, in the meantime we stick by our figures, drawn from DCSF timetables. Specifically, the wave allocations we have highlighted come from PfS, and post-date the banded alocations to which you refer, with MGS presumably falling into the 'mid-sussex' band (allocated, as you rightly suggest to waves 13-15). These bands certainly pre-date the remodelled accelerated BSF (having been on the DCSF website since last year or before). Make of that what you will. Our calculations regarding average time from allocation to procurement to build are also calculated on the most recently available figures. However, as we were told at the recent Midhurst Grammar School ULT meeting there is "a lack of clarity" over BSF allocations (Mr Back's exact words, transcribed at the time) and if you have access to more recent and as yet unpublished data, we would love to hear it!