According to parents who attended the latest meeting at controversial Oval Primary on Wednesday, the majority of existing teaching staff plan to resign ahead of the school’s handover to an educational group headed by a leading Tory party millionaire.
Conservative-controlled Croydon Council’s efforts to demonstrate how “on message” they can be with the academies policy of Education Secretary Michael Gove looks certain to create even more uncertainty and disruption for the children at Oval, following previous mishandled interventions over the school’s management.
At Wednesday’s meeting, parents were told that the new school is to be called ARK Oval Primary Academy. “Sounds stupid in my opinion,” one mother, angry at the council’s experiment with her children’s school, told Inside Croydon.
Parents had been told that they would not have to buy uniforms for their children if they kept them at the school after ARK moves in to the Cherry Orchard Road buildings in September. ARK stands for Absolute Return for Kids, an “alternative investment” run by hedge fund managers and merchant bankers, including Lord Fink, a former Conservative party chairman.
“Uniforms will be not be given to us until September and all we know is it will be grey, maroon and gold,” the concerned parent said.
After the council’s bungled handover of the school to another education foundation in February and an appointment of a replacement head who turned down the job, Oval is now effectively on its fourth headteacher in months. The fifth, ARK’s appointment, was introduced to parents yesterday as Sonia Rutherford.
According to the parents, Rutherford has more experience of working in education than the management at ARK. But only just: she has been a teacher only since 2000.
“I feel this is unacceptable,” the dissatisfied parent told Inside Croydon.
“The majority of the teachers have quit, meaning no one will know who is teaching their children till September,” she said.
This will be particularly unsettling to the pupils with special educational needs who attend Oval. Some parents suspect that this is part of the council’s and ARK’s agenda, to “persuade” parents to take these children out of the school so that its league table performances improve – the school has been on Ofsted “special measures” for more than a year.
When our source questioned the school’s policy on SEN pupils, “Basically I was brushed off. I told the new head that I don’t accept any of the changes and that the school is about to be ruined.
“I will fight and moan about everything every day that my children continue to attend this money-sucking company. You can’t call it a school anymore.”
Yesterday, Education minister Gove announced his grandiose plan to hand over hundreds of state primary schools to private businesses and charities. It appears that by having Oval Primary among the first of the new primary academies, Croydon councillors are playing with children’s futures to help further their own political ambitions. Certainly, any argument about “raising standards” does not stand up in ARK’s case, since Oval was improving more rapidly than two of the schools already run by ARK.
Making his announcement, Gove said, “Wherever possible, we want to find solutions that everyone can agree on, as we have done with the vast majority of the secondary schools that will become academies next year.”
So what happens at schools like Oval, where the changes are unacceptable to a majority of parents?
Is it just a case that as far as our “listening” government and Croydon Council are concerned, the only thing they ever hear is when money talks?
- Oval Primary parents summoned to meeting on academy status (insidecroydon.wordpress.com)
- Oval Primary parents offered “bribe” to stay at academy school (insidecroydon.wordpress.com)
- Oval parents sent round in circles over academy status (insidecroydon.wordpress.com)
- Do you Fink Tory millionaire banker should run a state school? (insidecroydon.wordpress.com)
- Gove: poor primary schools ‘to be converted into academies’ (telegraph.co.uk)