Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Schools Cash In On Academy Status

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Schools that convert to academy status reap a big funding bonus, but could this be at the expense of more needy schools? Warwick Mansell reports

Academy Funding Unfair

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14 local authorities are backing potential court action by the Local Government Association over the unfairness inherent in Academy funding.

The DfE already recognises that the current system for funding academies is unsustainable and admits that “it is not possible, under the current system, to deliver transparent and absolutely comparable funding for maintained schools.”… -

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Test Card

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Garstang Academy Forum is taking a short break.  Normal service will be resumed on Monday 18th April.

Comments submitted from 5pm Monday 11th April will remain in moderation until that date. 

Friday, 8 April 2011

Meeting with School Management 7-4-11

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We met with the head, chair of governors and the business manager at GHS yesterday to discuss the proposal that the school become an academy.

It is clear that, from their perspective, there are potential benefits to the move. The school has been chronically underfunded for years, (they wouldn't be alone in that and they can hardly be held to blame for that). Indeed, the level of frustration that many schools must feel about this is entirely understandable.  The funding regime is complex and it is difficult to establish yet, what the per capita benefit to GHS would be following conversion as the data is not yet available.  However, with the ability to retain the top sliced component of their funding and the control they would have to economically source services and structure the curriculum in the most efficient way possible, I have no reason to doubt their confidence that significant savings can be made to the benefit of the school.

However, they know as much as we do, (read, very little), about what is coming down the pipeline from central government as they are subject to the whim of whatever administration happens to be in power at the time.  Essentially, when, and if,. Michael Gove, the current Education Secretary, gets his way and all or most schools have become academies, all you have done is swap one schools management system for another and the pie that feeds them all is not likely to get bigger anytime soon. When the next administration comes along, they will doubtless be subject to another tedious bout of goalpost moving and burial under another mountain of  'initiatives'.

One thing is clear.  If you want to get fully informed in this debate, you will have to make the effort yourself.  It was made clear to us that no meetings would be organised by the school for parents, either to receive a presentation of the pros and cons, or to meet together to discuss and debate the issues. If parents wish to discuss any concerns they may have in greater detail, they should contact the school directly to make an appointment.

The school feels that it is meeting the Department for Education guidlines with respect to consultation with parents and, although we recognise that they are free to do this, we expressed our viewpoint that this does not amount to meaningful consultation.

We take the view that it is impossible, on any reasonable measure, to consider that the information provided by the school to parents is sufficient or adequately detailed enough to enable parents, at this point, to arrive at a reasoned and considered conclusion on this important decision for the school

Further issues arising from the meeting will be dealt with at a later date.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

The anti academy movement is its own worst enemy

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Here, Liberal blogger and school governor Matthew Green makes a few observations about academies -  mingled, with a bit of superflous fashion advice.
"There isn’t much money in converting to academy status; for that you need an outside sponsor.  Since education departments are being cut back drastically (Lambeth is no exception, with the key decisions all being taken before last year’s election, not as a consequence of the Coalition’s cuts) the amount of support they can offer to LA schools is pretty minimal.  Most of the things that schools might want to do (including forming relationships with their neighbouring schools and local authorities) can be done under either model, which cuts both ways.  The best part of the process, one of the academy heads said, was that it forced the school to think about its vision and strategy, and how to carry it through."

"But leaders of schools need to do the best for their children and communities schools by working with government policy as they find it.  The academies decision is a delicate process of weighing up pros and cons, often with no killer argument on either side.   What is coming out of the anti academy movement is no help.  It is so tempting to think that if that is the best their opponents can do, academies must be a good idea.The movement is its own worst enemy."

Read the Article

Academies - Heads or Tales?

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Here two head teachers express their differing views on academy status:

For -  Lorraine Heath, Uffculme School, Devon

For us it's as much about preserving what we've already got, as it is about thinking what we can develop and improve in the future.

We know there are some cuts coming, we don't know how far they're going to go and when they're going to come, but opting out of local authority control gives us the opportunity to make some decisions ourselves about what we can preserve, what we can improve and where, perhaps, we can make savings.

I don't think it is true that academies take resources away from other schools.
The local authority receives money from central government for the education of all the children within the local authority. They make a decision as to how much they're going to top-slice that money. In Devon it's 8%, in some areas it's as little as 2 or 3%.

And they make decisions over how that money's going to be spent. Now that's our money, and all we're doing is asking for our share of that money so that we can make those decisions ourselves and not be dictated to by the local authority.

I think it will help academically. If we are are going to get additional resources and we decide to spend them on teachers in classrooms, that's going to help us to improve and preserve the really high standards that we've already got - rather than the money being spent on peripherals.

For me, the most important thing is having my teachers in the classroom teaching children, and to not be facing a redundancy situation, which a lot of schools are doing at the moment.

The passage of the Bill [to enable schools to convert by September] is quick. I have to say there's a lot to do.

We're a foundation school, which means we're already in a sense half way there - we already employ all our own staff, we already own our own land, so it's not as rushed for us as it might be for a community school.

But actually, knowing where you're going to be on 1 September is really important. I think there's a rationale for rushing it through, because schools need to know and need to make their plans for September.

Opposed - David Hudson, Wickersley School & Sports College, Rotherham, South Yorkshire

If we were to become an academy, it would in essence take money and resources from all the other Rotherham schools - and schools across the nation, and simply give it to us.

I am head of an outstanding, high-performing school. I'm already doing very nicely, thank you very much, so why give me extra money at the expense of other schools that need it?

What we've got in this country is an attempt to get, at the very least, within two or three miles of every child, a state secondary school that is good or outstanding. That's every child - not just my child or your child, but every child.

But if this present government is going to follow a "best and the rest" type policy, then we're going to have a situation where we have the haves and have-nots, which is what we used to have. They're busy dismantling all the good work that's been taking place in education over recent years.

In education, we collaborate. We compete with ourselves. I'm interested in the fortunes of all children, not just the ones I happen to teach.

They have been disingenuous in the naming of these new schools. The old academies were about giving failing schools a leg up. The data suggests it hasn't been particularly successful, but was a laudable attempt, and the intent was right and proper.

These are not academies in that sense, these are grant-maintained schools, they were around in the 1980s, the last time the Tories had power. They failed and these new schools will fail also. The two types of academies are very, very different.

I have canvassed all the staff and all the governors in my school in a secret ballot. We found that 83% of staff were against, 2% were for and 15% didn't know. The governors were unanimously against.

David Cameron says he wants to hear what parents have to say, and yet [on this issue] parents don't get a vote.

One minute we can ask the parents - but when we think that they may disagree with us, all of a sudden we don't ask. The government can't have it both ways.

Academies start to tap emergency funding

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New research by Syscap, the leading independent finance provider to the education sector, shows that in its first few months of operations, the Young People’s Learning Agency was forced to step in and provide £4.3 million worth of emergency funding to Academy schools. Syscap warns that the YPLA and local authorities may see more applications for emergency funding as schools struggle to deal with the impact of public sector cuts.

Monday, 4 April 2011

Funding for Academies - Garstang High School's Position

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[Article submitted by C A Goss - parent]

The government has made it very clear that there should be NO financial advantage or disadvantage in becoming an Academy.

This is clearly at odds with the situation as our Govenors and Headteacher see it.

Their argument for becoming an academy is that we will loose £1000 per pupil in funding from the local authority, and only academy status will ensure sufficient funding to allow the school to maintain or improve its standards and resources.

The Governors rightly say that they are legally bound to do what is in the best interests of the school and its pupils, and the level of financing is critical to those interests.

But the government clearly says that the financial situation is not to be an issue in the decision to become an academy.

So the question is; will anything parents, teachers, the unions or the community say, have any effect against the overwhelming financial pressure on the school to become an academy?

C A Goss, parent 03/04/11

Garstang teachers to strike in academy protest - Garstang Courier

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Garstang Courier - Friday April 1st 2011

The two biggest teaching unions, the NASUWT and NUT, have balloted members over strike action at Garstang.

The move follows a decision to consult over a possible academy switch, which would see the school opt-out of local authority control.

As The Courier went to press, NASUWT staff at the school had backed a strike and will not be taking any lessons next Tuesday (April 5).

The NASUWT executive member for the Lancashire area, John Girdley, said there was a strong sense of resentment among staff, who fear academy status could threaten their job security.

Read the Article

Friday, 1 April 2011

Industrial Action at Garstang High School

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Industrial action in schools is always regrettable as it disrupts the education of pupils and the work committments of parents, as well as increasing divisions within the school, leading to lower morale and an unsettled atmosphere.  Not good for anyone.

In such situations it is advisable for all parties to try to achieve absolute clarity when negotiating or imparting information.

As a general principle, it is also important not to impute or project motives onto individuals or organisations in communications to parents where a) those individuals or organisations have not been able to issue any statements to parents, and b) where they have no right, nor mechanism, of reply.

This arises because the NASUWT has called for industrial action at the school on Tuesday April 5th based on their understanding that the school has made the decision to proceed towards Academy status.

This is understandable because of this letter issued to parents on 28th Feb by Mr Ibison, chair of governors, in which he writes:

"Therefore, I can report that the Governing Body of Garstang High School recently convened an Extraordinary Meeting at which all the pros and cons of our prospective academisation were discussed.  Subsequently, the Governors passed a resolution that the school should proceed towards Academy status, as they felt that this would best serve the interests of our school community."

Read the Full Letter

The union has, as have I, and many other parents, taken this to mean that a final decision had been taken and that the school will proceed towards making an academy application.

This now seems to be contradicted in this communication to parents from the headmaster Mr Birch on 31st March.  Here he writes concerning the unions industrial action:

"The background to this strike action is our school’s consideration of converting to an academy at some stage in the next academic year. As you may have read in last week’s Courier, we are still at a relatively early stage of our consultation process, and no definitive decision on the school’s future has yet been taken.

It is evident, therefore, that strike action is being used pre-emptively, rather than as a last resort, to disrupt and undermine our stakeholder consultations."

Read the Full Letter

 To avoid any further confusion, it would be helpful, for all concerned, if the school could put together a consultation document (here is an example), explaining what the consultation process will be, when it will run from and to, who will be consulted, what meetings will be held and when a final decision will be taken.

Without this, it will be difficult to achieve the sort of clarity needed to deal with this very sensitive issue.  Everyone needs to know exactly what the process is and for there to be total transparency with everything, as much as possible, in the public domain.  Without this, it is most certainly not fair to slur the unions' reputation, nor by implication, the integrity and responsibility of any teachers who may take part in any industrial action.