This is a story they don’t want you to know. Much of it had to be prised from the grip of officials in Whitehall and the local town hall. Yet it demands to be told, because it shows how democracy and accountability are being drained from our schools, and how a surreal battle now rages over who knows what’s best for a child: the parents and teachers, or remote officials and financiers. The Guardian reports.
Just days before last Christmas, when a classroom’s mind is normally on the nativity play, Ofsted inspectors dropped by. Three long months later, they damned Waltham Holy Cross as “inadequate”. In the Conservatives’ “all-out war” on mediocre education, that is all the excuse needed to take it off the local authority and turn it into an academy. A trust called Net Academies will soon turn it into a “model school”.
This version of events does not match the views held by any parent I’ve spoken to, nor does it fit the facts brought to light by numerous freedom of information requests, reported in a newspaper for the first time. Reported today in a newspaper for the first time, they reveal how little say parents and teachers have over the future of their children and school once it is forced to become an academy. In 2016, the then chancellor George Osborne ordered all schools to make the same conversion. Public outrage forced the Tories to back off then, but next time this story could be about your child.
That Ofsted inspection prompted a furious letter from the headteacher and chair of governors, alleging that before the visit had even formally begun, the lead inspector told staff that “based on the previous year’s [SAT] results, our school would be inadequate … judgment had therefore been made from the very first instant”. The private complaint reports inspectors shouting at the head, and telling staff they wouldn’t move their car away from the electric gates because “I’m Ofsted, I can park wherever I want”. Even being told that a child with autism is in his safe space didn’t stop an inspector barging over, “sitting next to him and quizzing him on what he was doing”.
Once absorbed by an academy, Waltham Holy Cross has no way of returning to local authority control. This is a form of outsourcing, but with even less control than a contract with Carillion.
Those leading the fight against this academisation aren’t politicians or unions, but parents. On being told in March their children’s school was going to be forcibly converted, the meeting exploded. A group of them began firing off freedom of information requests and peppering officials with awkward emails. They have become what one councillor from a neighbouring borough calls “the most dogged parents I have ever come across”.
For Shaunagh Roberts, it began when she first looked up Net Academies – and got a jolt. “I just sat there researching for days, wearing the same pair of pyjamas.”
She’s been told how Net Academies successfully runs four academies in Harlow, Essex. Two of Net’s seven academies in Warwickshire and Reading have been ranked “inadequate”, a third “requires improvement”. According to the latest Education Policy Institute report, Net Academy Trust is the sixth-worst primary school group in England, falling below even the collapsed Wakefield City Academies Trust.
Read the full article It’s worse than Carillion: our outsourced schools are leaving parents frozen out
Have parents opposed your school being turned into an academy? Do you think we will we see more parents and schools rising up and asking questions? Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin
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