Leathersellers’ back down – heads must roll

The letter posted on the Federation website yesterday that the Leathersellers’ Federation have ‘defer[red] the current conversion process]’ which still avoids the question of whether the orders for Vale and Ladywell have been rescinded raises questions about the role of the Governing Board as a whole and the judgement of the Chairman and Executive Head.

The letter says that the Governing Board have taken this decision, to our knowledge there has been no meeting since the legal action and we look forward to the minutes if such a meeting took place.

They were warned

During the phoney war whilst the Working Party ‘deliberated’, they were warned that there would be opposition. But they also failed to understand the scale and nature of that opposition.

As a campaign we have been deeply critical of The Mayor, and Frankie Sulke (Director for Children and Young People) especially over Sedgehill, but an experienced local politician he understood the storm approaching the Leathersellers’ was not to be treated lightly. And he told them so, but they were either too arrogant or too ignorant to understand.

At the 9 December 2014 Board, on the very day there was a strike across Sedgehill and the Prendergast schools and the campaign against academisation was starting to catch fire.

The minutes of the previous Board were amended to ‘correct their misunderstanding of the Local Authority’s views’. [insertions are underlined]

“the message conveyed by FS, of support to the proposals , having heard the reasoning behind the decision to consider a MAT conversion, that, while whatever decision is made, she will continue to support the Leathersellers’ and the Federation, her concern was that there should be no distraction from the focus on raising achievement at the schools. FS informed that the Mayor was interested in meeting with us to discuss; according to FS, he understood the idea of sponsored academies, but was less convinced by the arguments for conversion academies. That said, we were informed that he had an open mind would want to hear about our plans but was supportive of the Federation’s move subject to meeting and discussing our reasoning

and reference to the Mayor was changed to

“the Mayor offered his support in the event that the Federation’s GB decided to pursue Academy conversion, though he did explain that there might be some opposition that the Federation  might would have to deal with”

The Board failed to take sufficient advice

Chris Wheal has been doing some fantastic work on the secrecy in the run up to the Academy Order at Not being Secret. Where he comes to the conclusion that:

“We do know that the working party did not seek any legal advice of its own. All the legal advice had, conveniently, been received prior to the setting up of the working party. We have to assume it was either the executive head, David Sheppard, or the chair of governors, Christopher Barrow.”

and

“The working party did not look at all the options and independently recommend academy status – it was established to look only at academy status, with legal advice only on that specific option”.

As the Public Debate were told in no uncertain terms by the Executive Head (David Sheppard) that “the Governors are responsible” and “they will make the decision“.

The Governing Board should hold the Chairman and the Executive Head to account and demand they do the honourable thing and call for their resignation

VICTORY!

We have great pleasure in announcing that the Leathersellers’ have rescinded the academy orders for ALL THREE SCHOOLS in the Prendergast Federation.

Over the last few months NUT members and other trade union colleagues at the Prendergast Federation, together with students and parents, have mounted a tremendous campaign to oppose the damaging academy conversion proposals. Demonstrations, strikes, meetings – and now legal challenges over Government Regulations – have all helped to keep up the pressure on Governors to think again – and now they have! This is a major breakthrough for the campaign. It reflects the pressure that has built up over months, culminating in legal challenges that have left Governors with little option but to pull back from their plans. Every union member who has struck, every student that has demonstrated and every parent, SAIL campaigner and letter writer should be proud of themselves for standing firm and refusing to accept that the academy steamroller was unstoppable. The campaign has shown the lack of public support for academies and the lack of any evidence that academies help education. Although this is not yet a final victory. “The DfE will want to rewrite their Regulations so that the Prendergast Federation and other federated schools can start over with their plans. “However, we hope that Prendergast Governors will resist DfE pressure to do so and instead win back the goodwill of the school community in the interests of education” As parent Ned Boulting said, quoted in the Guardian,

“governors have created a rift [that] will raise questions with teachers as to whether they want to stay on at the school”.

Unless or until the Governors withdraw their academy plans altogether, then the dispute still continues. However, for now, the proposed strike action on June 3rd and 4th has been withdrawn. We are confident that, boosted by today’s news, staff, students and parents will be ready to continue their campaign if necessary. Let’s savour the moment

Thank you – Striking Teachers and Staff

Picket Line - Prendergast Vale

Picket Line – Prendergast Vale

Thank you – Defiant Pupils

Strike at Prendergast Hilly Fields - 4th March

Strike at Prendergast Hilly Fields – 4th March

Thank you – Feisty Protesters

After the Leatherseller's demonstration

After the Leathersellers’ demonstration

Thank you – the local community who came out marching

demo_april_2015

Marching April 2015

Thank you – our Legal Team

no photo’s – but you know who are!

Legal Action Success – but keep up the pressure

The breaking news on Friday that the Federation has rescinded the academy order for Prendergast (Hilly Fields) was very welcome news. However, the decision to carry on regardless with Vale and Ladywell Fields is confirmation (in spite of their protestations to the contrary – of being undecided until the consultation has completed) that the Governing Body is hell bent on this conversion.

The order was rescinded because of a challenge to the academy order for Prendergast Hilly Fields by a parent, that because the Staff Governor had not voted in favour – the order was invalid.

But I hear you say – how can the academy orders for Vale and Ladywell be valid – well of course the answer is – that is that they are not – they just haven’t got a legal challenge against them.

If the Governor’s had any decency they would have admitted they have been caught out and withdrawn the applications from Vale and Ladywell Fields.

So why have they carried on?

We already know from the MAT Working Party report that they have taken advice from the DfE South Division, Academies Group. The letters between the Federation and the Department of Education which were posted on the Federation website gives us an insight into this advice from an impartial civil service.

Barrow writes to the DfE at 3pm rescinding the academy order.

.Less that 90 minutes later, the DfE write in response to the letter from Barrow saying

“It would appear that our policy has progressed since the legislation was laid. I will inform the governing body about how they should proceed with this as soon as possible”

The DfE further advise that they should continue to proceed with the orders for Vale and Ladywell and add.

“It is disappointing that this issue has delayed the academy conversion of a school when the majority of the governing body voted in favour of the applications.”

Now, we have been told repeatedly that the issue has not been decided until the Governing Board meet in June after the consultation, do the DfE think that the conversion takes place irrespective of the consultation?

In spite of the DfE and the Governors knowing that the process is flawed they continue anyway.

The letters indicate that the DfE will bring changes to the law, to remove the requirement that a staff governor or parent governor have to vote in favour.

Looks like a job for our recently elected MPs. We would also like to know how many other schools have been converted where the legislation has been followed correctly.

DON’T FORGET TO KEEP THE SUBMISSIONS TO THE CONSULTATION COMING IN, see our Consultation Guidance.

Get your response into the consultation

The deadline for responses to the consultation is 8 June. We have prepared some guidance if you are stuck for words. To respond using the feedback form at http://www.leathersellers-federation.com/206/mat-consultation-papers or just want to email directly at consultation@leathersellers-federation.com (if you do please put Academy Conversion Question in the email header), or by writing to The Clerk to Governors, c/o Prendergast School, Adelaide Avenue, London SE4 1LE.

The guidance can be found at Consultation Guidance Document

Parental Feedback Form – how biased is it?

We have written to the Chair of Governors with some Comments on the Parent Feedback Form carried out by a trained survey professional.

To: Christopher Barrow

At the Ladywell Fields consultation meeting, you expressed surprise that the Parental Feedback Form was considered biased.

We have sought the advice of a trained survey professional, and asked them to assess the feedback form on the normal criteria one would have when producing a questionnaire (attached).

As you know the campaign takes the view that the most effective and democratic way to elicit the views of parents, students and staff and other stakeholders is for a fully transparent independently organised ballot.

In the absence of this, we would urge you to (at the very least) amend the current feedback form so that it is transparent and unbiased taking on board the advice enclosed.

yours

Stop Academies In Lewisham

The Academy Legacy or an April Fool?

If it weren’t so serious it would be laughable that the Governors (released on their website on April 1) a letter offering,  as a benefit of conversion, the grand sum of £70,000 for Vale, £70,000 for Ladywell and £50,000 for Hilly Fields.

This is a Federation that in 2014 had a combined income of £17 million, and made in what must surely be a co-incidence  (??)  the same amount, (£190,000) from facilities and services.

As a public service (since most communications from the school don’t actually reach parents) we reproduce them below.

And we would ask the question – where is this money coming from?

Ladywell Vale Hilly Fields
£70,000 £70,000 £50,000
A full time counsellor (supporting well-being for students);

 

A full time counsellor (supporting well-being for students);

 

Curriculum developments such as Latin or Mandarin in the curriculum Curriculum developments such as Latin or Mandarin in the curriculum Curriculum developments such as Japanese or Mandarin in the curriculum
Introduction of numeracy support classes in year 7

 

Introduction of numeracy and literacy support classes in year 7

 

Protection of small group subjects in the 6th Form
Gifted and talented maths groups in the Primary Phase

 

The Headteacher and his team would be able to vary the curriculum 11 -16 to meet pupil needs more effectively The Headteacher and his team would be able to vary the curriculum 3 -16 to meet pupil needs more effectively The Headteacher and her team would be able to vary the curriculum 11 -16 to meet pupil needs more effectively.
It would give the freedom at Key Stage 2 and 3 for subject experts to decide their own curriculum and prepare more effectively for Key Stage 4 and 5, than the proposed arrangements under the National Curriculum would

 

It would give the freedom at Key Stage 2 and 3 for subject experts to decide their own curriculum and prepare more effectively for Key Stage 4 and 5, than the proposed arrangements under the National Curriculum would

 

Academy conversion gives the freedom at Key Stage 3 for departments to decide their own curriculum and prepare more effectively for Key Stage 4 and 5 than the proposed arrangements under the National Curriculum would

Meet the Governors (and tell them what you think!)

You might be forgiven for missing the announcement at the end of last term that the Governors will be available to “make representations in person”. Details are:

  • Hilly Fields School – Monday 13 April (7pm)
  • Ladywell School – Tuesday 14 April (7pm)
  • Vale School – Thursday 16 April (7pm)

This will be an ideal opportunity to see whether they have actually come up with ANY arguments in favour of their proposals.

The detailed response by the campaign to the proposals if you want some bedtime reading before the meeting is available at SAIL response to the WP.

Hope to see as many of you as possible.