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Education in brief: teachers are leaving some academies in droves

Education in brief: teachers are leaving some academies in droves

guardian.co.uk |by Warwick Mansell on July 2, 2012

Prime Minister David Cameron Visits Kingsdale Foundation School

David Cameron talks with students at Kingsdale foundation school last year. The school will have seen the departure of at least 40 teachers over this academic year. Photograph: Getty Images

Waving goodbye

Some well-known academies are facing an exodus of teachers this summer, Speed Read has learned. Sheffield Springs academy, run by the United Learning Trust charity, is poised to lose at least 25 teaching staff, insiders tell us, while the troubled school is on its third principal of the academic year. This comes after a new permanent head was recently appointed, only to then turn the post down, the ULT citing “family circumstances”. In February, Ofsted inspectors criticised the “significant instability in leadership and management” since the academy was established in 2006, as it was then on its fifth principal in that time. Now it’s on its sixth.

Meanwhile, Kingsdale foundation school, an academy in south London, praised as “brilliant” by David Cameron last year but which has been in the news over an investigation into alleged cheating in GCSEs, will have seen the departure of at least 40 teachers over this academic year, including 15 from science alone. The school started the year with 125 teaching staff. Finally, we have been told of another high-profile academy where 25 staff are reportedly leaving this term. We hope to keep you posted on that one.

Fewer free lunches

Amid news reports of only 37 pupil places having been filled so far at Beccles free school in Suffolk, which is due to open in September, statistics on the socio-economic backgrounds of families using free schools as a whole may have been missed.

Data released last month by the Department for Education shows that while 19% of pupils educated in state primary schools and 16% of those in state secondaries are eligible for free school meals, the figures for free schools – institutions set up by parents, teachers or private groups – are much lower. FSM rates in the 24 free schools that opened last year were half those for the state-funded sector, at 9% for primaries and 8% for secondaries.

No need to ask

Parents at Downhills school, the primary in north London that has become a cause celebre among opponents of government moves to force academy status on institutions even where the local community is against this, are fighting on.

Last month, the school was told Michael Gove is to issue an academy order, handing its governance to the Harris academy chain. Parent campaigners have written to Gove renewing a threat of legal action. One of their arguments is that the law says parents must be consulted on any move to academy status. Official consultation on the academy move, which preceded Gove’s decision, found 3% of the 234 responding parents in favour, and 94% against.

The campaigners say the consultation was not meaningful and are alleging a waste of public money: they were told in writing that the consultation cost at least £45,000 – enough to employ a teacher.

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Downhills Primary School teachers strike over academy plans

Downhills Primary School teachers strike over academy plans

BBC |May 22, 2012

Teachers at a north London school resisting academy status have gone on strike, closing it for the day.

The National Union of Teachers said 20 members were taking action over the proposal by the government to make Downhills Primary a sponsored academy.

The school in Haringey was placed in special measures in February after an Ofsted report ordered by Education Secretary Michael Gove.

The Department for Education (DfE) said Downhills has been under-performing.

The Oftsed report, ordered by Mr Gove, declared the school inadequate.

Governors sackedThe DfE said the school, which was last placed in special measures in 2002, had struggled to reach the required standards and has told Downhills it must become an academy.

Since the latest Ofsted inspection, the head teacher, Leslie Church, has resigned, and the board of governors has been dismissed by Mr Gove and replaced.

A parent of a pupil at the school has begun legal action, challenging Mr Gove’s decision to sack the original board.

The school has claimed Mr Gove is illegally attempting to force academy status on it and that attainment records from an interim Ofsted report last September suggested standards were improving.

A spokesman for the union said: “The strike action being taken by NUT members is largely supported by the community and its purpose is to bring to the attention of the wider population in Haringey, the local authority and the government that this type of intervention has no place in the running of education.”

A spokeswoman for the DfE said it was disappointed by the“damaging” strike, adding: “Downhills has been under-performing for several years.

“Most recently Ofsted found that it is failing to give its pupils an acceptable standard of education and that those responsible for leading, managing and governing the school are not demonstrating the capacity to secure the necessary improvement.”

Academies to become a majority among state secondary schools

Academies to become a majority among state secondary schools

The Guardian World News |by Jessica Shepherd

Michael Gove

Critics say Michael Gove wants to force schools to become academies against their will. Photograph: Lewis Whyld/PA

The majority of England’s state secondary schools are, or are about to become, academies, government data shows – a major milestone for one of the coalition’s most controversial reforms..

Figures published by the Department for Education (DfE) reveal 50.3% of the country’s 3,261 state secondaries are now academies – or have applied to be.

This means the majority of secondary schools will soon no longer be accountable to their local authority. Instead, they will report to central government. Academies are often funded by businesses or philanthropists as well as the state. They have greater freedom to change the timings of the school day, teachers’ pay and conditions, and the subjects they teach, although they must teach core elements of the national curriculum.

The DfE figures show primary schools are far more reluctant to adopt academy status. Just 5% of primaries are, or are about to become, academies.

Academies began as a Labour government initiative under Tony Blair. Under Labour, only under-performing schools could become academies. The government insisted that these schools had high-profile business backers and gave them multimillion-pound buildings. As most of these schools were in deprived parts of the country, the initiative was seen as a way of giving poorly performing schools in difficult circumstances a new start.

In contrast, the coalition has allowed the highest-performing schools, including those that select pupils academically, to become academies. Schools no longer need a sponsor to become an academy.

As a result, the number of academies that have opened since the coalition came to power has risen eightfold. In May 2010, there were 203 academies. Now, there are 1,776. Of these, 464 are primary schools.

In some parts of the country, such as Darlington in north-east England and Rutland in the east Midlands, all state secondary schools are already academies. In other areas, all state secondary schools are, or are in the process of becoming, academies. These include Bromley and Bexley, in south-east London, Kingston upon Thames, in south-west London, and Swindon in Wiltshire.

Ministers argue that the “freedoms” academies are given mean they are more innovative and can respond better to the needs of their pupils. One of the first academies to open under Labour, Djanogly City Academy in Nottingham, has made radical changes. It has introduced a five-term year and its 10 and 11-year-old pupils study themes, such as “international trade”, rather than subjects.

Matt Buxton, curriculum leader for 12 and 13-year-olds at the academy, said that as an academy, the school had been able to“choose what is best for our pupils”. “This is obviously the route schools are taking,” he said.

However, the academies project has attracted considerable criticism from teaching unions, parents and some local authorities who see it as a smokescreen for the privatisation of state education. They object to academies not having to abide by nationally set pay and conditions rules for teachers and are concerned by the schools’ lack of accountability to locally elected town halls.

Last month, government officials registered a spike in applications for academy status from schools, with more than 140 bids – the largest number since May last year. Critics say this coincides with a drive by Michael Gove, the education secretary, to force schools to become academies against their will.

One example of this is Downhills primary in Tottenham, north London, which was judged inadequate in its latest inspection by the watchdog Ofsted in February and will now become an academy.

The school has claimed Gove is illegally attempting to force academy status on it and that attainment records and an interim Ofsted report last September suggest standards were improving.

The DfE said the school, last placed in special measures in 2002, has struggled to obtain the required standards for years and that the independent inspection, ordered by Gove, was necessary. One parent of a pupil at the school has started a judicial review against the DfE in retaliation.

Fiona Millar, an education campaigner said the “vast majority”of England’s primary and secondary schools had chosen not to become academies and this was why the government was “having to force them” to take on academy status.

When a school becomes an academy, it receives money that equates to what its local authority would have spent on it for services such as transport and special needs. Most of those that had decided to become academies recently did so to receive extra funds, Millar said.

“Schools are no longer certain that this money will be available in the next few years,” she said. “In uncertain times, a lot of schools feel cautious about taking the leap to becoming an academy. They rely on their local authority for support. They turn to the authority for emergencies, such as if the roof falls in. If a school goes it alone, then it doesn’t have this support.”

The coalition’s academy programme ran into trouble last year when it emerged that some academies were mistakenly being given an extra £300 per pupil.

Legal Bid Over Academy Row Downhills Primary School

Legal Bid Over Academy Row Downhills Primary School

BBC |March 27, 2012

The parent of a pupil at a north London school has begun legal action over Education Secretary Michael Gove’s decision to sack the governors.

Downhills Primary School governors were dismissed on 15 March. The Department for Education said the Haringey school had been“failing” its pupils.

It had been at the centre of a row over attempts to make it an academy.

Susan Moyse has sent a letter about her intent to seek judicial review to Mr Gove.

After the removal of the governors an interim executive board – chaired by Les Walton, the chairman of the Young People’s Learning Agency which is the academies’ funding body – was appointed.

In February the school’s then head teacher Leslie Church resigned after Ofsted placed the school, which is more than 100 years old, in special measures.

The pre-action letter sent by Ms Moyse’s solicitors to Mr Gove on 23 March claims that he acted unlawfully by sacking the governors and appointing an interim board.

The letter calls for the governors to be reinstated and asks the government to hold a “fair and lawful consultation” with parents, staff and the local community on whether the school should become an academy.

‘Ridden roughshod’Ms Moyse said: “This school was already rapidly improving as a community school.

“The parents recognise this and have voted overwhelmingly against academy status.

“We’re not the ideologues and we don’t want our children used as guinea pigs in the forced academy experiment.”

Ms Moyse’s solicitor, Beth Handley, of Hickman and Rose, said:“The Secretary of State has considerable powers under the laws surrounding Academy conversion, however there remain checks and balances in the system which the Secretary of State has ridden roughshod over.”

A Department for Education statement said: “Downhills school has been underperforming for several years.

“Most recently Ofsted found that the school is failing to give its pupils an acceptable standard of education and that those responsible for leading, managing and governing the school are not demonstrating the capacity to secure the necessary improvement.

“That is why we have appointed an interim executive board to give the school the leadership and expertise it needs to improve. This board will consult on whether conversion should take place.”

Mr Gove’s office has until 6 April to respond to the letter.

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