Harris primary reduces SEN support and adjusts report grades

Parents at what was once the high-attaining Roke Primary have lasted just half a term before losing all patience with the school’s new academy management, and they are now accusing the Harris Federation of trying to force out of the school those pupils with special education needs, while deliberately manipulating pupils’ attainment data to create the impression that the new school is out-performing expectations.

Roke Harris PrimaryThere is righteous indignation over the school’s withdrawal of all one-to-one help that had always been provided for pupils with special education needs – or SEN. Many parents suspect that this is a deliberate ploy by Harris to force from the school any parents with SEN children, and thereby “improve” the school’s league table ratings.

Harris Federation took over the state-funded primary in September following a forced academisation by Michael Gove‘s Department for Education. “Harris had assured us they would improve the school but what we have seen so far is just awful,” said one disappointed parent.

Among the “catalogue of misdemeanours” which the parents claim their children have endured under Kate Magliocco, the school’s new headteacher and her staff have been inappropriate uniform checks, being given literacy homework apparently cut and pasted from American sources, and with some pupils being set a “grammer” test.

Magliocco had to apologise last month after members of staff were unzipping five-year-old girls’ pinafore dresses to check what they were wearing underneath complied with the school’s new uniform. The Harris Federation described this as “an unfortunate, one-off incident in the first couple of days of term. The school has said sorry to the parents involved”.

Trouble is, there appears to be a whole series of “one-offs” with Harris’s Roke academy.

Without notice, the school’s new management has closed the Bourne Children’s Centre, which ran toddler and parents’ groups, turning the building used into a storeroom and causing a marked decrease in provision of service for families with children at the school.

Meanwhile, with another Harris-run academy, in Norwood, notoriously trying to ban its pupils’ use of slang and streetspeak, it is seriously embarrassing for the organisation to discover that elsewhere in Croydon its teachers can neither spell proper or plan homeworks, innit.

Year 5 pupils at Roke were given an exercise headlined “10 minute test: Spelling, Punctuation and Grammer” (Note to Harris staff: 10-minute, since it is being used as an adjective, ought to have been hyphenated, too). The test begins with the question: “Emma friend gave me a lift … it was raining”, with pupils asked to fill in the gap from a choice of four words.

Another question asked pupils to fill in a box, but did not offer a box for the answer. Another saw pupils asked to add a prefix at the beginning of three “words” to change their meaning. The first “word” is “spair”. Perhaps the required answer was “De”?

Maggliocco was forced to write to parents saying: “I wish to thank all of you who highlighted the appalling quality of the English homework which was sent home for your children. Please accept our sincere apology from both me and the staff in year 5.”

Clearly, just another Harris one-off.

Yet within a week of that apology, another year group was given literacy homework that included “The children jumped rope at recess” in the text they were supposed to work on. Parents suggested that the work set had been lazily lifted directly from an American education text or website. Sometimes, charting the short-comings of Harris academies is like taking candy from a baby…

The developments over SEN pupils has caused the greatest distress, however, with parents and children leaving at the end of the school day in tears. If they are being driven out of the school by Harris, it will not be the only instance of the school’s new management looking to “massage” its statistics.

Many attended a parents’ evening two weeks before half-term to be appraised of their children’s progress. Last Thursday, just ahead of the half-term break, some of these same parents were shocked to receive progress reports from the school which contradicted the opinions of teachers expressed a fortnight earlier. Parents who had been told face-to-face that their children were exceeding the expected levels for their age have now been given notices in writing that their child is “below expected” in the latest school data, with the children deemed not to have made any progress since the last report in the summer.

Harris has provided each child with targets for the next half term, yet many parents said these had already been achieved in the last academic year when the school was still Roke Primary. The headteacher sent a letter telling parents that “previous levels you have been given may vary slightly to the levels recorded on this report”. Another one-off, perhaps?

“Only two weeks ago I was told my son was at the top of his class and performing at a level a year ahead of his age across the board,” one parent said, “yet we are now being told he is below the expected level for reading and maths and a year behind for writing.

“Strangely, he is predicted to be more than a year ahead by the end of summer term.”

The same pattern has been reported by other families right across the school, making many parents suspicious that the school’s management is manipulating pupil attainment data to create the appearance of a radical turnaround in the school’s academic performance.

A spokeswoman for the Roke parents’ group told Inside Croydon: “We predict that results will now show remarkable improvement during the first year of the Harris academy and be used as a false benchmark of their success in turning our school around, as well as legitimising contentious forced academy policy.”

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News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
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