ACADEMY STATUS

At the point of exercising the, much vaunted, “Parental Choice” in school selection we opted for a local school that our son could walk to.  Two schools met that criteria.  Both held open evenings.

The first was alienating and off-putting.  Learning technology was very much centre stage.The school’s pitch was how they would prepare our son for an insecure Labour force and global competition.  Hardly inspiring stuff.  Effectively their USP was:”We will prepare your child as cannon fodder for an increasingly harsh model of capitalism”. The second  school “pitch” was more rounded, child-centred and altogether more inspiring. We selected (fell for?) the latter’s marketing strategy.

Our son was due to start school in the Autumn.Before he starts the school becomes an Academy. I don’t believe there was any parental consultation or, perhaps, just not with “prospective” parents.  However it did not involve a sponsor so we were not too disturbed at the prospect.  We imagined that the school had felt compelled to make a pragmatic choice to secure funding for the school.

Unfortunately that was not to be the end of the tale. In circumstances ,not clear to me, the head teacher left during  the 13/14 Academic year.  Interim arrangements were made.This leadership team was in place for the next Ofsted inspection. The school was then rated “inadequate” which allows a sponsor to be imposed.  For more on this simply search “forced academies” you will find lots of articles dating back 5 and more years.

So who was our Knight in Shining Armour?  The Charitable Arm of a multi-national construction company. Interserve Plc.  Makes sense. I have long lamented the deficiency of expertise, in teaching, which could be readily remedied with some added expertise from the academic discipline of construction. I have lost count of the number of times I have echoed the refrain “oh if only we had access to the skills and expertise of a multi-billion dollar company with interests in  construction and facilities management”. Well now we do.

So what is in it for them?

Here is where it gets interesting.  Direct quote from their financial statement. “The assets ,liabilities and operations of Crawshaw Academy”  were acquired ” from Crawshaw Academy Trust for £nil consideration on 1st September 2014″  That is right. zero, nada, nothing.

Never mind, surely the entrepreneurial, risk taking private sector will energise the moribund state run school? Well not so much of the risk-taking. The liability of the Trustees to any losses is limited to £10.  Seems that , yet again, the state are losing the assets but retaining the risk. This is one type of “nationalisation” that  seems to be totally acceptable to the privatising Tory government.

It is made clear that “transactions may take place with organisations in which the trustee has an interest”.The articles of association (6.2) also set out  restrictions on profit making but sets out a number of ways that members of the company can “benefit” presumably financially. In the Master funding agreement clause 4.27 makes it clear that any disposal of assets/free hold land must have the permission of the secretary of state. Clause 4.30 cries out for more scrutiny. This paragraph set out the conditions on whether or not any assets could be sold and where the proceeds can go.

Parental Involvement.  In the Articles of Association at clause 53. “There shall be a minimum of two Parent Directors unless there are local governing bodies which include at least two parent members”.   I have checked the governance structure on the school website and there is a Local Advisory Board which provides for 3 parent members.  I go to check the Local Advisory Board. There is a link entitled Election of Parent Members to the Local Advisory Board.  I click on that.  “The Local Advisory Board is currently suspended”. I can find a new body which seems to have just one Parent, as the Chair. Minutes of February 2016 suggest another body is to be established and this will have two parent governors allocated (voted for?) . I will watch with interest.

Curriculum and length of school year are now in the hands of the Trust.  Teachers pay and conditions are to be determined by the Trust.  Clause 2A in the supplementary agreement sets out that the Trust may “employ anyone it believes is suitably qualified or otherwise eligible to plan and prepare lessons and courses for pupils,  teach pupils and assess and report on pupils’ development progress and attainment”. So not required to employ qualified teachers.

Not to worry there must be a reasonable process for terminating the agreement if certain standards are not met. Indeed there is. Clause 5a in the Supplementary Funding agreement. “Either party may give at least 7 Academy Financial Years notice to terminate this agreement”. Longer than the life of a Parliament.

When checking this site previously I found copies of 5 letters detailing payments of £500 per day,for 1 days work a month, to be paid to the “employer” of a number of the governors. £2500 a month.  I can’t locate these letters on the current website but I have copies which I will revisit and I will “follow the money”.

All of this information is in the public domain. I have picked out the salient points, for me, but I am guessing an accountant could do a better job of interrogating the financial statements.  A lawyer would also better decode the meaning of the numerous documents setting out governance arrangements.

Feel free to have a look: http://interserve-academies-trust.sites.interserve.com/who-we-are/governance-compliance/

I should point out that the teachers have my wholehearted support and I have not found them deficient in my dealings with the school. My worry is as much for teachers’ professional status, pay and conditions, as it is for my children.

Fast forward to 2016. All schools are to have forced Academy Status.  Finally laying bare the farce that is “parental choice”.

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10 thoughts on “ACADEMY STATUS

  1. * Academies are undemocratic in principle
    * All schools need to be locally accountable
    * State education should not be in the hands of profit making businesses
    * Why should we give away our school buildings and lands?
    * Why should free schools have massive subsidies at the expense of local authority schools?
    * The DFE has been shown to be failing in checking on Academy finances – LA schools are subject to regular audits
    * All children deserve to be taught by qualified, dedicated vocational teachers
    * Teachers should have fair pay as agreed nationally
    * Headteachers should be paid as per an agreement as was the case until very recently
    * Our children should be educated to think and problem solve – education to pass endless tests is pointless and sterile
    * Paperwork needs streamlining so teachers can concentrate on preparing interesting lessons
    * Academies have not performed as well as Local Authority Schools – so this is a political decision and is NOT based on children’s needs or evidence

    I could go on – basically we are fed up with the destruction of state education based on no evidence and political dogma.

    Children do best when taught by vocational, reflective and analytical teachers who regularly participate in training and are free to concentrate on their pupils learning as in Finland.

    I could go on….

    Liked by 1 person

  2. There was a recent report in the Guardian here:

    http://www.theguardian.com/education/2016/apr/26/academy-chiefs-pay-bromley-schools-rachel-de-souza?CMP=share_btn_tw

    “Government rules state that academy trusts that buy services from companies run by someone who is a trustee of the academy chain must do so “at cost”, suggesting no profit is made. But what does this mean in practice?

    Our interest was piqued after reading the 2015 accounts of an organisation that runs seven free schools, the London-based Bellevue Place Education Trust (BPET). It lists payments of £206,258 to enable a private consultancy called Place Group to set up four of those free schools in 2014-15.
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    This is declared under “related party” payments in the accounts. However, it is not stated specifically that Claire Delaney, chair of trustees of BPET, is also managing director of Place Group, in which she holds a 22.5% shareholding stake, or that Simon Rule, Place Group’s chief executive, is another BPET trustee and also owns 22.5% of Place Group.

    The BPET accounts say another company, Schools’ Buying Club, was selected to be the “procurement provider” – selecting which firms’ services should be bought by the trust – and that although there is no charge [to BPET] for Schools’ Buying Club’s work, “the successful provide [sic] is instead charged as a percentage of the overall contract”.

    Delaney and Rule are directors of Schools’ Buying Club and both own 22.5% shares in the company. The relationship is not specified explicitly in BPET’s accounts.

    A report 18 months ago for the Commons education select committee questioned what “at cost” actually meant and called for greater transparency. In this case, although the full contract details are not specified in BPET accounts, Place Group told us that both it and Schools’ Buying Club had complied fully with guidelines and both had actually made losses on BPET work.

    Delaney said the contracts won by Place Group and Schools’ Buying Club had been subject to a formal tendering process, and that “directors who are related parties stepped away from any involvement” in that process. Both companies’ bids followed DfE guidance on what “at cost” meant, she said, and the DfE was fully aware of all relationships and related party transactions. Mark Greatrex, BPET chief executive, added that Place Group was one of five companies invited to tender for the free schools work and that having Place Group’s “outstanding” services available at cost had led to significant savings for BPET.

    That all sounds like a good thing for the taxpayer, then. But perhaps it would be better if the DfE ensured fuller details were published in accounts to promote transparency.”

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