Monday, 3 November 2008


The fight against academies taking place in 3 areas of the country were highlighted in a broadcast on the BBC Radio 4 Today program this morning. These are Camden in North London, Barrow in Cumbria and of course our very own Trentham/Stoke-on-Trent.

Rosa Curling, solicitor from Leigh Day and Co., who is acting for the TAG and the other groups was interviewed. She stated that councils have duties under the EU procurement directive when deciding on academy sponsors. This directive requires an open and transparent process which she says is not being followed.

The government is due in court this week for a judicial review over a proposed academy in Camden. This is the first of the 3 areas which are taking legal action, the others will follow.

In Barrow, Mike Stevenson, ordinary parent, became involved in the local campaign against academy schools. He is now councillor Stevenson, having deposed the leader of the local council, as he and 3 other independents secured seats on the council in the May 2008 elections. They are against plans to replace 3 comprehensives with an academy and will now take this to the high court.
Ian Hookway spoke out for the TAG on the plans to close Trentham High and build an academy. He said an open competition is needed, both in terms of sponsors and the type of school that is chosen. He explained that there is a much more compelling case for Trentham High to be run as a cooperative trust where a parents cooperative takes over running of the school, leaving the head teacher and staff to continue their excellent job of educating the pupils and achieving great outcomes. The TAG are also mounting a legal challenge.

The councils in all 3 areas declined to give interviews.

The legal cases could potentially change the way sponsors are chosen for academy schools.

Government has said it will be rigorously defending itself. Jim Knight’s stated argument is that he does not think EU procurement law applies to the selection of sponsors. He also claims that the sponsors raise money for the school rather than profit from it! Now personally I do not find that in the slightest bit credible.

What do you think?


nita said...

Nicky, I don't think we the people have been given enough information on these Academies. All we are told, is we have to improve education, and this is the way forward. Having spoken to many people, they still have the opinion, that these schools will be selective, and their kids won't get in them.

If you do a bit of research, many of these, are currently on the list of failing schools, that have got to improve. On the otherhand, some are doing very well.

Academies had, according to the guidelines available on the Dcsf web, supposed to replace, unpopular and failing schools. The question is where does Blurton and Trentham come into this. Should St Peter's really be an Academy, as this is another good performing school. Okay, the majority of our schools are not performing to the national average, but many are not that far off. To lose a school that is perfoming excellently, like Trentham, is an absolutely ridiculous decision. We are having to lose this school, as we are told it will not have enough pupil numbers. This is where I totally disagree with a one size fits all. Why not allow for a smaller school in this case? A good performing school attracts more pupils, so maybe, the pupils that have been opting for Staffordshire schools, would now return.

I have read, that there are many areas across the country that are objecting to these Academies, and staff are actually threatening strike action.

We will not know the answers, until these schools are up and running. They may be the best thing to happen, then again, they may not.

gary elsby said...

It may be the case that Academy sponsors raise money for the school and not for profit, but then say who they award contracts to.

Anonymous said...

The council is trying to fool the electorate and council.
My understanding is that the money promised is from a single source through PfS, but is split between BSF and funding for academies.
According to the DCSF, the BSF money is not reliant on there being any academies, but the council has elected to have academies and will recieve funding based on the number they propose.
However, as far as I can tell council members and the public have been misled by statements made by EMB/Serco employees that if they make changes to the proposal they will lose all the funding.
Since the BSF proposal is only at SfC part 1, the details of the schools reorganisation have not even been submitted to government yet, so claiming that keeping THS open will lose the city the funding is a blatant lie.
The only money that could possibly be affected by changing the schools reorganisation at this stage is the academy funding and that is down to the EMB. They are the ones that have tried to fit in as many academies as possible, regardless of whether they are wanted or even suitable.
It is clear that an academy is not the preferred or best option for THS. The only academies that have performed better than THS were not community schools in the first place and the average pass rate for GCSE's for all academies is below the average for Stoke-on-Trent.
What is the councils aim? It certainly doesn't look like its the improvement of our childrens education!
It looks to me like a number of councillors trying to score the maximum number of brownie points with their political parties regardless to the cost to the residents in this city.

Gary Elsby said...

Well don anon.
My gut reaction for Labour is that the very idea of no money coming if we don't accept Academies, is false. That is not Labour thinking.

I can accept someone with an idea trying to dispossess me of my view via canvassing support, what I don't accept is the idea of bullying.

No chance do I accept that this Government is blackmailing Stoke into only one view, that being theirs.

SERCO have a job to do and they'll do it come what may.The people of Stoke have spoken and they don't like the way it has been done and it can loosely be claimed that SERCO have an unwanted gift of schooling for our children.

The idea of Academies only causes me a problem when they that promote them, can't tell me why they promote them.

I don't profess to be the brightest star in the sky but I do know that a £50,000 Rolls Royce with no petrol will get you nowhere!

So why sell me a dud with no proof?
And what about the school next door?

My own three children have recently escaped from compulsory school in S-o-T and with 30 GCSE's(A*-C) between them. I'm assured they pushed the school up the table. I don't know how they achieved this but I do blame the parents and teachers!
And I want to change this?

Lost4Words said...

Sorry, forgot my username on the above posting.

brooneyes said...

Having had a brief look at the way the money is split into different accounts for PFI and BSF, I was told last week that Meredith is planning on combining the two sets of funding into one large account, thereby making it almost impossible to trace where money has come from and where it has gone. There are serious questions
over how monies from these two funds have been spent, but being deliberately blocked by the council from inspecting the accounts, despite this being illegal, leaves us with limited knowledge of these accounts. There is a group of three, and we are to see the audit commission representatives this week, and we will try and get this council induced mess sorted out, hopefully
ending in us being able to view the city accounts.

As these are the funds that will supply our new schools, then
commonsense would dictate that we tread carefully and not rush into anything, afterall this level of investment won't be available very often. Academies are big and impersonal, teaching children in this way is the equivalent of battery farming. What we need to be doing is farming organically!
Smaller schools that encompass a
feeling of compassion and inclusion
are what we need, perhaps even splitting high school in order to teach those with no interest in academic subjects, more practical,
handson skills.
There is so much we can achieve with the education of our children,
it just seems madness to allow the council to railroad us like this.
And if they won't listen, then bring in a charge of "no confidence", and push to have them removed.

nicky said...

Some good points made there. We haven't been given information on academies by the council, firstly because they are not giving us the choice so why bother to give us the information and secondly because there is no good educational case for these schools. If you wanted to get Peter Kent-Baguley to do another blog he could do a great one on academies, he knows a lot about this and knows how bad they are. I've never liked academies because I think there are some things that don't do to be privatised and education is one of them. But the TAG looked into academies and found how bad they are in terms of performance. The few good ones are those that have been some other type of sponsored school previously, those that have converted from community schools do poorly. Governance is shocking, control is firmly in the sponsor's hands with pupils, parents and staff having virtually no say. I'm not convinced the views of people you've spoken to who don't think their children will get in are accurate though. In principle they could be as the academies can be selective and will try to do that to step up their probable awful performance. But in practice, given that many families will be trying to get children into Staffordshire schools to avoid these academies, they will probably be making an effort to fill places. I am certain that these academies will not be the best thing to happen.

Gary, you've hit the mail on the head there. The sponsors are in it for themselves, they will award contracts for anything they can that the schools need to companies they control or are linked to. And much of the money they claim to be raising is actually coming via government routes straight from the pockets of we the taxpayers. Jim Knight is clutching at straws with his weak arguments, I hope the courts will see this.

Lost4words, some truly excellent points so very well put! It's all for political brownie points and land deals at the very least, not to do with education. You have to question why the council have still not submitted their strategy for change part 1. I think the answer is that they are still trying to fake an education based case when there isn't one. They have to show how the plans will improve education, and it blatantly won't.

Gary, the same point, the idea of academies causes you a problem because they that promote them, can't say why they promote them. That is because there isn't a sound educational reason.

Craig, that's very interesting about the money. But presumably this is planned bsf money as they can't have got far enough in the process to have obtained the money yet from government. And Meredith's trying to cover tracks? Does this mean perhaps that they have spent some of this bsf money before getting it? I like what you say about compassion and inclusion. This is why you need strong links between families and schools and proper representation on governing bodies, not impersonal sponsor control. I also agree with you about options for different pupils, but currently the problem in most schools I think is forcing pupils too much down the vocational route in their options. There needs to be a split in key stage 4 with a hands on or vocational selection for those who choose it and an academic selection for those who choose it. And schools will have to collaborate in order to deliver the entitlements of the 14-19 white papar anyway. Yes if the council won't listen, have them removed, good idea and good progress with Meredith's P45 on it's way for May. Need to follow on and oust the other foolish ones, starting with Ibbs.

I hope Camden win their case as it will be a step in the right direction. OK it's only an argument about sponsors but it's the argument that can be made. Then we can hope that councils might see it doesn't do to try to force academies on people when they are not wanted.

nicky said...

Rob Flello is in a debate on Stoke-on-Trent schools:

He is doing fantastically! He is speaking out very forcefully especially for Trentham and Longton.

Jim Knight doesn't appear to be listening - PLONKER!

He has approved strategy for change part 1 - PLONKER!

He's basically saying pupils in Trentham and Longton can be sacrificed - PLONKER!

What ever happened to every child matters!

nita said...

Nicky, on the front of today's Sentinel it says, Jim Knight has now signed off the plans in principle, but it will be upto the Council to decide the fate of each individual school.

Rob Flello, is a good MP, and can put across a good argument, but if you are talking to a brick wall, you will always be fighting a losing battle.

gobowen said...

All power to Trentham in their efforts to become a Co-Operative Trust along with St Josephs. Anything to throw a spanner in the works of SERCO and their ideas for trentham and Blurton. Have a read about the state of some of the Academies that are open at present and their results.