Roke Primary is not “a failing” or under-performing school, yet Michael Gove, the Education minister, is about to hand over this publicly owned asset to a carpet salesman to run as an “academy”. No consultation, no mandate, and no agreement from local residents.
Parents, governors and the teaching staff at the school are in uproar about this decision.
And according to Steve Hollands, the Conservative councillor for Kenley, he and his colleagues are powerless to do anything.
Worryingly, Hollands appears to be in absolute denial about the reaction that the decision has attracted. By default, if there has been “little response” to the announcement, this will be spun to appear as acquiescence of parents and teachers in due course.
Here’s an email that Hollands has recently sent to one concerned parent (we have not edited the grammatical errors):
I confirm that as local councillors we have been in contact with LEA officers, the lead member for eduction (Cllr Tim Pollard) and Richard Ottaway MP.
There are a number of issues. Firstly I would say that I have been surprised by how little response there has been by parents to the news regarding the transfer of Roke to Harris. You are only the third parent to contact us. I have also spoken to Richard’s secretary in Westminster and the total is around 6 parents plus the chair of governors of Roke and the Head of Riddlesdown. Generally the opinion appears to be from those few people and the information we have been given is that parents wanted a change in leadership and that a handful have an issue with Harris as the appointed sponsor.
I asked for a report to go to the Council’s scrutiny 05/02/13 that advised on recent inspections of Croydon Schools. The Executive Director confirmed formally in committee our previous discussions that the LEA was not consulted by the DOE over the choice of sponsor for Roke. The LEA is disappointed by the lack of consultation as are we as local councillors. However, the Exec Director confirmed that the Secretary of State has the statutory powers to take the action he has over under performing or failing schools.
The Ofsted categories introduced last year are very tough and schools that appeared to do reasonably well under the ‘old’ system are now finding it difficult. Having said that Croydon schools have done well as a whole. The Exec Director confirmed that the DOE and Secretary of State will not accept schools below the Ofsted category of ‘good’ and basically any school that fails to achieve that level should prepare for transfer to an academy and perhaps anticipate a transfer if they believe they will not do well and then the school would have some control over the choice of sponsor.
I have no particular brief for Harris other than to say the foundation sets high standards for both students and staff and they appear to be successful looking at recent results. Harris Crystal Palace for instance is one of London’s top schools and a former Croydon secondary school. Given the wider catchment area there’s no reason to assume that Harris Purley will not achieve similar results in time. Schools such as Riddlesdown and Woodcote will have to ensure they increase pupil’s attainment if they wish to remain good schools.
I am disappointed that the work of Roke and Riddlesdown to improve Roke’s performance was given insufficient time to show the results but I can also see that the DOE is frustrated that some schools do not take their position serious enough to improve at a faster rate. Without doubt I would have preferred more consultation with the LEA and parents of Roke and have made those comments to the Council and Richard Ottaway.
Given that the DOE has sidelined the LEA; Richard Ottaway MP is best placed to take up the issue of consultation with the Secretary of State. I have had sight of his letter to Michael Gove and Richard is pursuing. However, they is no doubt that educational standards slipped at Roke and that pupils were disadvantaged. It is the manner of the transfer that raises some concern.
Cllr Steve Hollands
Any local residents who wish to disabuse Councillor Hollands of his view that there is little opposition to this proposal should contact him at Steve.Hollands@croydon.gov.uk and copy the email to the area’s absentee MP, Lord Bletchingley email@example.com and invite them along to a meeting at the school hall on February 26.
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