Thursday, September 13, 2012

King Solomon High School
Proposal to convert to an Academy

On Tuesday afternoon (11th September), after school hours, I attended a meeting in the Fullwell Cross Library organised by Redbridge GMB on the subject of the proposed Academisation of King Solomon High School. It was aimed at parents, teachers and staff, of which I am none, but not knowing much about the subject I went along to find out what it is all about.

Most of the talking was done by the speaker from the anti-Academies Alliance so if this account seems biased you are perfectly entitled to put me right in the comments.

The first thing of note is that Academies were introduced by the then Prime Minister, Tony Blair. This was an initiative to address “failing schools”, which King Solomon obviously is not, and involved the injection of large sums of money, up to £30million each, sometimes a new school building plus other measures. The schools in question had no choice, they were just taken over. Some have improved and some have got worse, (sorry can’t remember the examples).

Since then, we have a new government with new ideas and a different kind of Academy, where schools can opt in to Academy status, and out of local authority “control”. In truth local authorities have little control over schools and no control at all over the regulations imposed on state schools by central government and which the local authority is responible for enforcing. All state schools are now autonomous, this was done some time ago under the previous government, and the local authority merely hands the government grant over to the School Head to administer. They keep a small amount back to provide support services to all the schools within the authority, such as those for special needs children like for example Speech & Language Therapists.

An Academy is therefore just another name for a so-called Free School. The word “Free” here does not mean it is free at the point of use and it does not mean it is free from Local Authority control, because they don’t really have any. It means it is free from government regulations. It is free to hire unqualified teachers. Free to set its own curriculum. Free to decide how much play area it needs. Free to set its own (un)healthy eating policy for school meals and free to set its own admissions policy. It becomes, effectively, a stand alone business in competition with all the other schools, instead of a collaborative network.

It was claimed that the government are pursuing a policy framework based on the Swedish model which did well for a while but has now imploded and is producing far worse results than the previous system. It is ideology driven on the notion that private companies provide better more cost effective services than the public sector. It is, in effect, a social experiment with the future of the current and a few more generations of our children.

And once a school has taken Academy status there is no turning back. They can’t change their mind if things get rough. There is no legal provision to do this at the moment.

This begs the question, if it is the regulations that are the problem, and that government and not local authorities are in charge of the regulations, why doesn’t the government just scrap the regulations? The schools are pretty much autononmous already.

We also have to bear in mind here that since just after the council bid to take over the Ilford Jewish Primary School as a community school, the law was changed such that Local Authorities are now not allowed to provide any new schools. They can expand existing schools, as they are doing with Beal High, Mossford and others, but they can’t provide any new ones.

The Local Authority have a legal duty to provide education for all the children within its remit and now have very little powers to do that other than rely on the whims of private sector profitability at a time when there is a shortfall of 90,000 school places in Greater London.

Challenge & Discuss

Other reading:

Academy schools put authority budgets and jobs at risk

GCSE results 2012: Why GCSE is broken

cabinet agrees to provide thousands of new school places in the borough

16 comments:

  1. Ah academies - the bane of school life now. I didn't know KS was considering it. I wonder if the new building going up has hurt the cash flow and it's simply about obtaining the "injection" of dosh to cover it. If so, it's a bit like closing the gate after the horse has bolted. As I watched the cranes blot my view of the sky yesterday, I wondered how tall this new building is going to be and whether it was going to be an eye sore to my already narrow view of the open sky and hamper the amount of sunlight I get.

    The subject of academies is a bit of a sore one with me as Hainault Forest High School did a cursory obligatory survey of the parents asking their opinion on becoming an academy and then proceeded to do so quickly and quietly without answering any concerns or questions parents had. Certainly there was no meeting to discuss it. Since it has now become "Forest Academy", it been an absolute joke. All the kids got a new PE kit for free, yet last year when my daughter went on geography field trips, parents were consistently asked to make a "voluntary contribution" of £10 to help cover the cost of the coach. They can afford to spend millions putting up a new building (not a very inspiring one at that - the new cafeteria is beautiful but the rest of it looks like a white'd over hospital), but they can't seem to afford the costs of a field trip that will enhance the education they're supposed to be providing. It seems to me there's an anomaly somewhere.

    Yes, sore spot. Thankfully it's my daughter's last year at Forest Academy. Hopefully she'll move on to a sixth form or college where there's less nonsense, but the way things are going, perhaps not. :/

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  2. probably going to be told off for this,but i used to live in clayhall back ten years ago Clayhall was a very affluent,friendly,and a lovely place to live,with a very high Jewish population that a large number of high school age children fed King Soloman.I do not see this any more and worry as to what the site will become in the future,I can only assume that the people who run the new school where IJPS once stood are saving up right now........

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  3. this is part of the governments "localism" agenda is it?
    allowing schools to opt out of accountable local authority control and into ... central government control?

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    Replies
    1. Just a rehash of the 1980s grant maintained arrangements - a recipe for anarchic chaos to replace planned order.

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    2. good gracious mr hickey are you pining for the pre 1979 soviet style 5 year plan here?

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    3. No. And I make my comments openly under my own name, not shielded by the cloak of anonymity.

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    4. Anon or not it is a good question, Morris.
      Would you like to explain how traditional Conservative "Planned order" differs from Soviet "Control" in the context of education?
      It is a matter of public record that you are the Chairman of governors at a local High school and your comment above describing the present arrangements as "anarchic chaos".
      Your thoughts on this would, I think, be very helpful in this debate and much appreciated.

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    5. "Anarchic chaos" is my view of the academy system -to which I am opposed (as I was to GM).

      Like my friend the Portly One I think it is monstrous that academies can "cherry pick", kick out those they consider too hot to handle, and leave the local authority (now deprived of its schools) to pick up the pieces. So the policy started by New Liebore has now been continued by Blue Labour - one of the reasons why I am no longer a member of Clamourclown's Conservative Party.

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    6. So Morris, what I am hearing here, from a Conservative, albeit no longer a member of the Party, is this ...

      "Anarchic chaos" or the "Free Market" is fine when it comes to selling baked beans or for that matter Marstons Pedigree, but it is not fine for fundamental public services like Education.

      Is that a fair summary?

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    7. "The limits of my language are the limits of my world" - Wittgenstein

      So expand my limits.

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  4. once the school becomes an academy, there is no turning back. You can not reverse the process; I wish parents knew the truth about academies, then there would be a lot more opposition to it. I am a teacher, and there is no way I would want my own children educated in one - poor treatment of staff, viewing children as consumers, run like a business - the healthiest environment to educate children in is a community school. This is the only place where there is a commitment to child-centred learning. Don't let the government break-up something so valuable as state education - there is no going back.

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  5. King Solomon started going downhill when they opened the "Amstrad Technology Centre", the only known instance where those three words have been used in the same sentence.

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  6. So many anonymous correspondents. But all from the same broad perspective.I notice that there is not a great leaping to the defence of academies, so I'm encouraged by that.
    Many of the "sound, educational" reasons behind Michael Gove's justification for academies are just a pack of lies and half truths. The biggest one being that schools will be freed from Local Authority control and dogma. In these days of devolved budgets schools are run by the Head Teacher and Governors. True, some Redbridge schools (including the one where I am governor) use the borough's HR, teacher/governor training etc. But only through choice....and it is paid for from the school budget.

    And if the National carriculum isn't good enough for some schools, why is it good enough for others?

    And the "freedom" that academies have over their admission policy is just selection by the back door. Gove also trumpets the ability of academies to suspend and expel "disruptive" pupils. They are exempt from various regulations that also make it easier to refuse entry to "unsuitable" pupils. But where then do these children go to school? Why, the Local Authority schools. You know.....the ones that can't be trusted!

    Alright, I admit I am probably going to be accused of left wing bias and will be reminded that Blair had the idea first (He was wrong as well). But I am firmly of the opinion that any school that chooses to be an academy does so because the Head Teacher and Chair of Governors put their considerably oversized egos before the interests of the staff, pupils and parents.

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  7. What seems to be missing from the blogs are the following:

    --- They are grant maintained schools in disguise.
    --- Who foots the bill for school repairs( a drainage survey costs over £1000
    --- Do they accept expelese from other schools, this is one of the reasons Haimault High was deemed to be a failing school because they had to accept all problem kids from other schools which do not themselves accept from other schools.
    --- Why would Solomans feel the need to go accademic when they have benifactors like Alan Sugar.
    --- I see there is much work going on at present there
    --- Sounds like just another government trying to make a name for themselves by trying to improve education

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  8. Education, Edctn, Edn. #legacy #Blair

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