Friday, 3 October 2008

Is This The End of The Road?

The Trentham Action Group had to face up to more disappointment yesterday when the latest council vote went against them. Inside reports suggest that Councilors Ibbs & Irving led the charge against the cities most successful non selective school, Labour councilors also failed to support the vote to keep Trentham High open which goes against the stance taken by the Stoke South MP Rob Flello (Labour).
Here are the thoughts of one of Trentham Action Groups main players who sat through the ordeal in the council chamber:

I was at the Council Meeting yesterday and was extremely encouraged to hear councillors from all over the city supporting Trentham High School and questioning the legitimacy of the so-called consultation (as we will soon be doing via the courts). Our elected Mayor pointed out that, should any part of the BSF process be reviewed, we would lose the entire £200m+ that is earmarked for the City. I find that very difficult to believe given that I have been given written assurances from the DCSF that this is not the case.

Similarly Councillor Irving tried to convince Council that the entire reason that funding for the BSF had previously been refused was because the closure of Trentham High School was not included in those proposals and the only reason that they might now be approved is because Trentham High School IS on the closure list. Again, I feel that the facts have been manipulated to convince the Council that the entire BSF funding rests on the future of one school, especially since Jim Knight intervened way back in February to suggest that saving Trentham High School would be an acceptable option.

Our elected Mayor also leapt to the defence of the Edensor head teacher in relation to his recent ill-judged decision to ship his entire teaching staff off to Spain. Whilst condemning the Marbella fiasco, he went on to point out how fantastic Mr Mercer is and how he has achieved great things in improving the percentage of pupils who achieved 5 GCSEs including English and Maths from 29% in 2007 to 34% in 2008. Well I am sorry but, in the same period, Trentham High School has leapt from 44% to 57% and that was under the threat of closure. Mr Meredith and his cronies repeatedly refuse to acknowledge how successful Trentham High School really is and instead continually hark back to the days when it was in special measures. Why is it that everyone else's improvement (including their own appalling Council star rating) is shouted from the rooftops and yet the biggest success story in this City is overlooked and ignored? Could it be because it simply doesn't suit their argument?

My only hope now is that Jim Knight reviews SERCO's proposals and questions why on earth they are attempting to close one of the best schools that the City has. If that doesn't happen, I am afraid that I will be joining the throngs of other parents in seeking out education for my children at schools out of the control of Stoke-on-Trent LEA. The legacy of this debacle is that it has (and will continue to) cost many Councillors their positions and will ruin the education of a generation of schoolchildren. It has divided most schools in the City and has gutted the communities affected. What a legacy for our esteemed Mayor to leave behind, he must be so proud!"
I really can not believe that the LA and EMB so so intent on closing such a high achieving school, it just does not make sense. The time has come for some answers in this city and we the people deserve nothing less than the truth.
Is the BSF funding reliant on there being a set number of academies in the city?
If there were no academies included in the proposals would the city still get the £230 million? It's worth noting that the previous occupiers of the education office always said that academies were a choice not a necessity so what if anything has changed?
Using a football analogy, isn't the best thing for the team in general to build the team around the best players?
Using a business analogy, if you employ a star salesman would'nt you using him/her to motivate the rest of your sales team?
The leaders and in particular the Elected Mayor seem hell bent on destroying the cities success stories!
We seem to stumble from one disaster to another especially in the schools fiasco.
Well you've listened to my rant on this issue now it's time to have your say on all things education and particularly the councils shocking decision to close Trentham High.
To read the Sentinel article on yesterday's meeting click here:

There is another report on yesteray's meeting. Hands Off Haywood had a representative there and his report can be viewed by clicking on the following link:

The pitsnpots hot line just hasn't stopped today! I've been asked to point out that the two main objectors to the TAG and their fight to keep their school opened came from Mr Ibbs & Mr Irving (2 out of the 3 Trentham Ward Councillors!) It beggars belief that these two seasoned politicians have gone against the wishes of their electorate. Surely this makes their position untenable? Their is talk of a petition against them and a possible vote of no confidence. Surely these two can not carry on representing this community when surely there is no confidence in their work and the question is, if they are not serving the people of Trentham just who are they serving?

Finally we must mention Karen Pate, what a heroine! She got to meltdown point after she listened to Mark Meredith our Elected Mayor told the council chamber that academies were the only way to improve education in this city. Our Kaz could stand it no longer, she was up on her feet shouting to the Mayor that he has NO proof that academies raise attainment in education and then she promptly walked out of the chamber. This lady stood up and took the decision that enough was enough and she could stand the spin no longer. Karen, we here at pitsnpots think you are a legend! Our own Steve Cotton sat through the CYPO&SC meeting and listened to the spin and when he had heard about as much as he could take he to got up and spoke his mind! People might think that these outbursts are wrong and they may have a point, but this is always going to happen when you are not given the right to voice your opinion and you know that what you are hearing is just not right.


Frank Fuller said...

Does anyone know which partys/groups voted which way, it doesn't say on the Sentinel?

nita said...

The BSF Programme was always going to cause some controversy, and there was going to be winners and losers. I have always said that, education in the City needs to improve, but I would certainly not criticize any of the current staff working across the city. They work hard, to ensure that every pupil gains the best results they are capable of. You have many students who sadly are not that bothered, and are happy to leave school with the minimum qualifactions. To put it bluntly they simply cant be arsed. Many schools have this problem, and this situation needs to be addressed. Will a new buildings resolve these problems, Im not too convinced, its a bit of a lottery isnt it. Many pupils have learning difficulties, and behavioural problems, these kids need all the support they can get. Sometimes, if a problem is severe, it may mean them moving out of mainstream schools, and there is no shame in that. All these things affect how a pupil learns, its not always down to good or bad teaching staff. Lets face it, half of us wouldn't like to do their jobs would we. Yes, its what they chose as a profession, but its certainly not an easy one. Now, I always thought BSF was about improving education, and building on what is good in the City. We have many schools that perform consistently well, and these are all remaining open, and so they should. To close Trentham, is a strange decision. Yes, it was in special measures a few years ago, but has gone from strengh to strength under Mrs Chesterton's leadership. I can see their way of thinking, that joining Trentham/Blurton on paper, should make a decent Academy, as both are now performing well. Will all the staff have an opportunity of applying for places? Where will the academy be sited is the major issue. I can understand how angry the TAG must feel, as it clearly states under the Dcsf guidelines , that the LA's should not be looking to close schools that are doing well, and also a one size fits all, isnt necessarily the case. Time will tell if these Academys will improve the standards. The worrying thing is that when the list of schools came out with a Notice to Improve, a lot of them were Academies. I will check my figures, but Im sure it was about 70-80 of them. To the TAG, you did your very best, and no one can say you didn't try and get what was best for your kids and the community, well done to all of you! To those schools that are safe, good luck to you too. What are your views on all of this.

nita said...

Im back, with my correct figures, and woops I was a bit out, well it is Friday!! Out of 83 Academies, 26 are are the Notice to Improve. Make of that what you want.

ian norris said...

Fight should be far from over read last months article

THREE of the Government's flagship academies are among at least 19 secondary schools in Yorkshire which face the risk of closure because they are still failing to meet a new target for improving GCSE results.

The academies in Sheffield and Barnsley are on a hit list of schools which are failing to get at least 30 per cent of pupils to achieve five A* to C grades including English and maths

Best Comment in Article "Barnsley Academy principal Dave Berry said the declining A* to C figure masked the real progress made at the school." :)

Keep it up.. and be strong, you'll need to be.

nita said...

Ian, thanks for your contribution to the site. I have followed your link, and it is very interesting reading. I just wonder how long some have been open? If only recently, you could say you need time to settle in, but if not, the evidence is worrying. Our elected mayor is following government policy on these Academies, I just wonder if he really thinks they will make a massive difference? They have after all stated, there is no guarantees. I have asked this question many times, why do they have to be Acadamies? Is it because they are no longer the responsibility of the LA, correct me if I am wrong on this one. Yes, the Governing Body will have members of the LA sitting on it, but as for the total running of the Academy, its down to the Sponsors. Why are some of the schools Trust? What does this mean? Can anyone help me out of this? Lets hope they get it right.

nicky said...

I didn’t attend the whole council meeting but I was there for the duration of the consideration of the motion of no confidence in serco etc. Frank fuller asked how the votes went in terms of political parties. Well they were recorded votes so you’ll know once the minutes appear. I can give you my recollection but I am no way presenting this as fact - I took no notes during the meeting and go by memory alone! (If anyone thinks I’ve got them wrong, please correct.) The 3 amendments, Peter Kent-Baguley’s, Alby Walker’s and Terry Follows’ own were defeated 26 votes to 25. The 26 votes were essentially labour/tory/libdem (best guess 16/6/4 respectively). The 25 votes were essentially anyone else (best guess 11 city independent, 9 bnp, 3 non-aligned, 1 potteries independent, 1 libdem-libertarian). Be interesting to see how accurate or total rubbish these guesses are when the minutes appear. I’m less confident on what way the vote went in the main motion (I concentrated less as I felt sure it would fail). I think the bulk of the votes against were labour/tory/libdem, the bnp wholly or at least largely abstained and the city independents were a bit split between the for vote and abstentions.
Some details of the motions have been covered in the Sentinel
and by Haywood, so here’s an alternative angle on proceedings:

My ‘awards’ (the prize being nothing except a comment from me) for performances at the meeting;
The least supportive and representative of their community award is given jointly to Roger Ibbs and Ross Irving for reasons expressed so well by others in the Sentinel that no repetition is required here.
The award for the greatest amount of smirking goes to our very own Mayor Meredith. Whether this is some unfortunate nervous expression or a way of staying awake during a mammoth meeting I am not sure. But I would seriously advise Mayor Meredith to become aware of or reconsider his facial expressions, as they could be mistaken for a display of enjoyment over the suffering of others, which I am sure could not be the case for the city leader.
The award for the most simplistic and condescending speech goes to Jean Bowers who believes she knows what families and children want but clearly isn’t listening to what we actually say in our protests.
The deep thinker award goes to Peter Kent-Baguley, whose persistence in disseminating the truth about academies, despite the fact that the 3 headed monster had gone to sleep, was admirable.
The bravery award goes to Terry Follows, for not bowing to pressure in advance of the meeting to withdraw his motion and for the question he asked the elected mayor about serco.
The award for treating fellow councillors with the most respect has to go to the bnp group. One reason (amongst several) why I couldn’t join the bnp would be I wouldn’t be capable of that degree of restraint. How they manage that I do not know. If I were a councillor in that meeting I bet I’d be letting rip and hurling insults just like others, but they seem to remain civil no matter what happens.
The award for displaying most passion for their communities has to go to the city independent group. But I would also add to that the non-aligned councillors. There were so many excellent, intelligent and supportive comments from amongst these councillors. It made me realise that if only we had a different system where the mayor didn’t ultimately rule or we could get the right people on the emb, the council could actually do great things.
The ultimate best speech award goes to Alan Rigby. Fantastic combination of passion and good thinking. Plus he highlighted some of the arguments that Save Trentham High had convinced the scrutiny committee with, including the flaws in the pupil numbers used by serco, whilst waving our (rather good I have to say) representation document for dramatic effect.
As always, I stress my views here are mine alone.
Has anyone else who was there got opinions, either in agreement or opposing mine? It would be interesting to hear them.

nita said...

Nicky, thanks for all that information from the Council Meeting. We've sat in them before, and they don't half go on and on, ever likely some Councillors find it hard not to fall asleep, ha ha. Even though the decision on Trentham didn't go your way, you can certainly say you gave it your best. Now all this has confused me more, and your words, "if we had another system in place, things could have been so different". This has possibly made me totally change my mind on the Referendum. Ive toyed with what to vote, and eventually I thought keep to the mayoral system, as at least we will have a say on whom this person is. Now there is great doubts in my mind. Can someone clarify the Leader and Cabinet choice? Help is needed!! If people chose this system, would the Leader have the final say on decisions made, just as the Mayor does now? Would his decision be final? To my way of thinking, if this is the case, then there is not much difference between the two choices is there. Now, lets talk about the BNP Councillors, and your award. Okay some of them may be outspoken on immigration and other taboo subjects, but at the end of the day, they are representing the people who put them there. Dont get me wrong, I am no supporter, but you have to give them credit, as they are doing what some other parties are not. Acting upon what the people want. That goes a long way. Do the parents in the city really want these unproven Acadamies, no they do not. Government policy says we have to have them to improve schools that are unpopular and failing. Our Labour Mayor has to follow these government policies, so now we are left with a whole lot of unhappy parents, pupils and staff. I would welcome any Councillor to give us their views on The Referendum, the BSF Proposals, or anything, but sadly it seems they are not allowed to speak out. This is such a shame, as they are only human, just like the rest of us. Gary Elsby made a good point on another article on this site. He said, anyone can become a Councillor, so if you dont like what the current ones are doing, have a go and put yourselves forward. How very true, are those words. Keep up the debate.

brooneyes said...

The BNP voted for saving Trentham High. It is commonsense not to close a school performing so well, but to encourage the federation with ST Joes. From what I can gather, it was the independents who abstained, and cost Trentham their school.

nicky said...

Well the minutes have appeared now:$$$Minutes.doc.pdf

And I wasn't far wrong in my estimate in the case of the votes on the 3 amendments to Terry Follow's original motion. I'd guessed the 26 against were labour/tory/libdem 16/6/4. In fact they were 16/6/3 plus Derek Capey! Now that fact slipped by me. I remember being unclear about him but I had assumed as he is City Independent he would have voted for, so I don't know why he did that and if it's anything to do with being Lord Mayor. The 25 for I'd remembered exactly right though; 11 city independent, 9 bnp, 3 non-aligned, 1 potteries independent, 1 libdem-libertarian.

Now as for Terry's main motion,
I was pretty accurate there too. The 7 for were all city independent. The 15 abstaining were all 9 bnp, 3 city independent, 2 unaligned and 1 libdem-libertarian.

Craig, you can ask them, but I believe the bnp are yes very much in favour of saving Trentham High, but Terry's motion also wanted to sack serco and they didn't want to do that. So faced with bits they were for and bits they were against, they abstained.
Remember this was on Terry Follows' motion.

It's not the end of the road because we will fight on. But it's also not the end of the road with regard to council procedure either. There still remains the fact that the CYP recommendation for the federation of Trentham and St.Jo's and taking Trentham off the closure list went back to EMB and they said they will discuss it and report back. That report back is still pending from them.