The sham “consultation” over the future of Roke Primary in Kenley, in which Michael Gove, the education secretary, wants to hand over the public property of a recently built, high-achieving school, to a Conservative party donor, ended on Friday.
The Save Roke Campaign group’s submission to the consultation is reproduced here:
This is a submission to the consultation on whether Roke Primary school should become an academy sponsored by the Harris Federation.
We are a group of concerned parents forming the committee of the Save Roke campaign group. Our committee has 8 members and we have 201 members on our Facebook group – the huge majority are Roke parents but we have some members from the local community.
We wish to raise the following concerns about the legality of the consultation process:
1. The School’s revised position in terms of SATs being above national average and the recent departure of our head teacher, Caroline Phillips- means that many of the original concerns about standards and leadership raised in the May 2012 Ofsted inspection no longer apply. These facts have not been taken into account in the decision to proceed with academisation or the consultation process.
2. Lord Nash stated in his letter, dated 19th February, to our MP Richard Ottaway that it has already been decided that the School should convert and be sponsored by Harris. It is not legal for the consultation to take place after the decision has been made. Parents have not been sufficiently informed or reassured that it is not a fait accompli– so many will not respond to the consultation because they feel their views are irrelevant. This means that the consultation process has been compromised and is invalid. It should therefore be re-run.
3. We do not consider that adequate reasons have been given to stakeholders as to why Riddlesdown is not an appropriate sponsor, we request that these reasons are set out in detail by the DfE and that parents should have received either explanation about why Riddlesdown is unsuitable or representation from Riddlesdown so that the consultation focused on two alternatives, rather than only one.
4. It is not impartial or transparent to have a consultation run by the party that stands to gain most from the outcome, in this case the Harris Federation. This does not meet the Principles set out down by the Committee of Standards in Public.
5. That the consultation is unlawful because it has not consulted all of those affected by the proposal that the School convert to an academy and be sponsored by the Harris Federation. All stakeholders have not been consulted. The local community has not been adequately consulted. No notice of a consultation meeting was placed in the local shops, local Kendra magazine or school noticeboards on the Godstone Road. Premier sports and other activities clubs that use the school facilities have not been adequately consulted. Prospective parents and those who applied for a place at Roke to start in September 2013 have not been approached or consulted. These parents could have been reached via local authority or adverts placed in local papers and community inviting them to respond. We would like reassurance that other stakeholders such as Eden catering firm and the Borne Children’s centre have been properly consulted.
6. That there has been pre-determination of the pertinent questions
7. The questions were changed half way through the consultation process leading to confusion among parents and stakeholders
8. That inadequate details of other options have been provided
9. No one has verbally explained to parents the difference between local authority and academy run schools. We were given information on academies and remaining as a local authority school on two different dates, the latter as an afterthought at a much later date after a parent complained to the DfE. There was no coherent or fully accessible presentation of the facts. We should have received proper representation in the form of a presentation and question and answer session about the proposed changes to governance structure and academisation.
10. The written consultation material provided is not accessible to all parents and stakeholders. Nearly one-quarter of our parents have English as a second language. It cannot be assumed that simply providing written English material provides accessible information. The language in the documents is complex and difficult for some parents to understand. The Harris Federation should have offered to provide translation of written consultation material and the questionnaires in languages other than English.
11. The Harris Federation have advertised on their website for a new head teacher for Roke before the consultation has closed. This has given the parents the impression that it is not worth filling in their consultation forms because the decision has already been taken. This invalidates the consultation process. Parents have not been sufficiently reassured that this is a valid exercise with any hope of influencing the decision about their school.
12. Roke is listed on the DfE website naming schools being forced to academy as Roke Park Primary. Roke Park Primary is also listed as a Harris Federation school on the NUT website and Harris mentioned that this was potentially their preferred name for the school during our school consultation meetings. Given that this information is in the public domain – parents have taken it as evidence that the decision has already been made and many have therefore not bother to fill in their forms. This invalidates the consultation process.
13. Given points 1-12 above, the consultation has been conducted without due diligence to the correct process and inadequate time has been given for responses.
(a) request that the consultation is re-run.
(b) seek assurances from Harris and the DfE that decisions have not yet been made and for the consultation to be rerun once all stakeholders and parents are properly informed.
(c) seek assurances that ALL stakeholders will be properly consulted
(d) seek full reasons and justification for the Riddlesdown decision, with proper representation made by Riddlesdown to parents and stakeholders.
(e) seek to ensure that Harris/DfE has fully and properly engaged with the School to make sure parents and stakeholders have all of the information which they need to make a fully informed and rational decision.
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