Friday, 8 April 2011

Meeting with School Management 7-4-11

Introduction & Posting Guidelines - Please Read First

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.


  1. Why do you think the school is not going to organise a meeting for parents? Did they give you any good reasons for this? Did they say whether they might ask for a democratic vote from teachers, students and parents or is it simply a case of management and governors knowing best?

    When will it be possible to find out clear figures for funding? How can any decision be made until these figures are available? Is it really true to save savings can be made by opting out from the LEA? Have the management done their homework on the quality of provision they can buy in cheaper or is it just a case of cheaper is all we can afford, rather than what is best for the students?

    Do the governors know if or how funding might change in the next 12 months so that the school is on a more level playing field? I thought the government were looking at re-adjusting funding for all schools next year anyway, so what is the big rush towards an academy conversion? Can management simply hang on for 12 months so they can reassess the situation and also look more closely at other academies and how they are faring after conversion?

    It seems to me this is a leap into the unknown and that it carries with it massive risks. I agree that we, as parents, need to know much more and I will be seeking an appointment with Mr Birch and the governors after the Easter break. I would like to see the figures for this year for the school budget. Can the school sit back for 12 months with the amount of cash it has? If so, I think this would be a more sensible option than rushing in with little assurances for the future.

  2. The school is doing what it is required to do.

    Schools are only democratic in so far as the systems in place that appoint the governing body to run the school on our behalf, and more broadly, the electoral systems for appointing our political representatives are democratic.

    I think it’s also important not to conflate ‘negotiation’ with ‘consultation’. The former is a requirement, for example, to negotiate over the TUPE regulations or land or building transfer arrangements, which are regulated by various laws.

    The latter is more open to interpretation: and it could be fairly said that the school is already doing more than have many other schools that have completed the conversion process.

    Whether that is acceptable or not is, as I have said, a matter of opinion.

    I don’t really have enough information to be able to answer your other questions. Sorry.

  3. With the current scramble to become academies, it looks like we might end up with two management systems. I guess that will have to constitute the longitudinal study on whether the academy model works or not. I can't help feeling, given the magnitude of the changes, that it would have been better to take more time and conduct that study properly in the first place, with a sufficient sample size over a significant period of time.

    If you do go in after Easter, go in as well informed as you can be, with the questions you want to ask and the information you want to get as clear as you can in your own mind. And bear in mind that school management genuinely have the best interests of GHS at heart and want to do the best they can for the school and its pupils. They have been PLACED in a very difficult position by government policy - which is not their fault.

  4. The fact that there has been very little real consultation both with parents and staff should alert those who will be affected by academy conversion to the fact that an academy trust will run the school in a similar way. Just because the government has not encouraged transparency does not mean that the course of events has had to pan out in this way. The whole sequence of events has been underhand and parents are being quietly manipulated with staff taking the brunt of the blame for disruption to the school. Staff are fully aware of the consequences of academy conversion but we fear parents are not - we would urge them not to be misled by weasel words and thinly disguised smears on the hard working staff of this wonderful school. Staff have been on strike as a last resort because there has been no democratic consultation. To pretend that there has been is a lie.