Thank you to everyone who shared my last blog post and sorry for having rather neglected the blog since then. There’ve been all kinds of interesting things that I’d normally rather like to write about, but strangely enough, the whole school situation has rather taken over.
So what’s been happening? Well, the head of the IEB wrote parents a letter intended to reassure us, the latest Ofsted report came out and is very positive, and a group of concerned parents had a meeting with Sheila Lock, Interim Director of Children’s Services at Norfolk County Council.
The letter from David Lennard Jones, IEB chair, tells us that they need to find out about and evaluate all the options available before making a decision. Meanwhile, the County Council tell us – dangling it in front of us like a carrot – that they have found a good local sponsor who will work with the school and enable us to collaborate with the cooperative trust that we wanted in the first place. They are presenting this as a win-win scenario, as the best of both worlds. Unfortunately, they have no way of guaranteeing that this is the sponsor we would ultimately end up with. Neither will they tell us who it is, as that would be pre-empting the decision of the IEB.
So which is it? Are the IEB truly considering all the options and will they carry out a genuine consultation with parents before making an irreversible decision? If parents, staff and the local community continue to prefer the cooperative model, will they be bound by that, even if it goes against the County Council and Westminster? Or is this, as the County Council appear to think, a done deal? Is the academisation of Cavell inevitable because of the inflexibility of Govian dogma, with which all those concerned clearly personally disagree?
Meanwhile, the County Council are also seeking to take the credit for the improvements in performance shown in last week’s Ofsted report. Apparently, it is all down to their coming down hard on the school, to the “flurry of activity” from the Council prompted by the school going into special measures. This breathtaking arrogance is an insult to the hard work put in by the teaching staff and leadership team and shows complete disregard for the pupils’ pride in their school, praised in the report. It also flies in the face of the evidence, as the Ofsted report itself makes clear that the County Council has failed to provide the school with all the support “detailed in the local authority statement of action”. For more on this, see here.
At our meeting with Sheila Lock, she admitted that Norfolk cannot help the school on its own – indeed pressure on the Council from Westminster because the schools improvement department is itself in special measures seems to be one of the major motivating factors behind this whole farce, as they are desperate to appease the DfE and be seen to be doing something. We were told that a co-operative won’t work on its own but collaboration with the right sponsor could “add value”. This simply doesn’t make sense. Why are they so sure that one outside sponsor is going to be better than working together to strengthen existing partnerships with five local schools? Why do we have to go blindly down the academy track? Why can’t a collaborative approach be adopted without all the reckless and unnecessary risks that arise from the ideological imperative to give away the school and its land for 125 years, affecting the education of children in this area for generations? Why must the school be removed from local authority control so that it is no longer required to teach the national curriculum, maintain nutritional standards or employ qualified and well-paid staff?
We have repeatedly put these questions to the County Council and the IEB but answer came there none. The Council keeps repeating the same tired rhetoric while apart from the one smooth and polished, reassuring-sounding letter, we are met with a wall of silence from the imposed IEB. Emails go unanswered, even after the intervention of our local county councillor, and the board remains as faceless as ever. Someone who is very far from silent, however, is Cllr Mick Castle, the cabinet member for schools. At every opportunity, he takes to the press to run down our school and talk of its “failure” in a way that is highly damaging to its reputation and our children’s education and jeopardises further progress.
So there we are. Either the IEB is considering all options, or there are no options. Either there will be consultation and discussion, or this is a done deal, and has been from the outset. If the former, we would really appreciate some signs that they are even aware of our existence. If the latter, it would be nice if they’d come right out and admit that all the fine talk in David Lennard Jones’ letter is a sham, as is the government rhetoric about democracy, empowering head teachers and giving parents choice.
Since posting this last night, I have at last heard from David Lennard Jones, although saying nothing of substance and not answering any of my direct questions.
- Cavell Primary School in Norwich faces Ofsted inspectors just days after governors were removed in row over academy conversion (edp24.co.uk)
- (Another) Open Letter to Michael Gove (adiscounttickettoeverywhere.wordpress.com)
- Primary school governors in academy row with Norfolk County Council threaten legal battle (edp24.co.uk)