Advice from the Save Montgomery School on campaigning against forced academy status

By Mohammed Ashraf

Firstly I would like to say as I have mentioned before, how important it is for parents to understand the purpose of the campaign so I stress that you do your own research in addition to this.

Montgomery School Campaign

Why as parents we decided to start a campaign

  1. Currently with a maintained school we have a fair balance of representation of the governing body, parent, community, LEA and staff governors. This gives a fair say to all stakeholders. With academies they will have 51%+ of their own governors so in effect parents and the community have little to no say how the school is run.
  2. It is privatization of our school as not only will the sponsor ‘top slice’ the school funding but can outsource services for less cost to make more profit. This will inevitably mean lower quality. As parents should we allow businesses to milk the school for profits that should be used to teach our children?
  3. Pre 2010 there was a few hundred secondary academies and a handful of primary academies. Yet Mr Gove is forcing many many hundreds of Primary Schools to become academies when in reality it is an untested system with our children being used as guinea pigs.
  4. Exclusion rates in academies are significantly higher than state schools as highlighted on Newsnight. There is an incentive for academies to exclude those children that bring down results to prove they are successful and are ‘value for money’.  As parents would we want our child excluded because they needed extra support or needed guidance?
  5. As Academies have control on their admittance they can start being selective. So, we might find one day our children or our children’s children would not get into their local school if they are not wanted.
  6. Academies answer directly to central government so the LA (Birmingham city council Local Education Authority) would have no say over the school. Our local elected Councillors that we have elected to represent us would have no influence to support us at the school. In deprived areas where many can’t speak clear English parents rely on Councillors support.
  7. When we looked around at neighbouring schools it was clear to us that there were very successful schools that were not academies. Half a mile away Nelson Mandela primary School with the same ethnic diverse children hit 95% success. So do we really need to become an academy to improve our school?

Building your campaign

  • Start your parent group by taking names and contact details.
  • Name your group and decide a postal address for any correspondence to the campaign group
  • Have regular meetings (weekly if possible) that have actions and take notes.
  • Designate responsibility so all are actively involved
  • Keep seeking new parents to join
  • Design a leaflet that explains to parents what academy status will mean for them
  • If there are parents from different countries make leaflets multi lingual
  • ASK FOR CONSULTATION, to include argument for and against academies.
  • Write to the governing body and head teacher to ask for an open and fair consultation and a meeting with the parent campaign group.
  • Get a petition together asking for a parent consultation at the school. Make sure you get as many PARENT signatures and a tick on the petition highlighting if it is a parent.
  • Use school gates, shops, doctors, places of worship to get signatures. Our biggest success was at places of worship. Also leave petitions at shops and busy places and ask politely to their staff if they can help for signatures.
  • If there is a busy shopping center ask if you can set a table outside for petition. Maybe on a Saturday have a few parents working together
  • It is imperative you speak to parents in the playground as engaging face-to-face is more powerful than words on paper.
  • Get in touch with the media – Birmingham mail, central news, midlands today etc. Nominate a representative to represent you and a point of contact.
  • Organise your own public meeting if the school refuses to provide one. Try to ensure balance by inviting the head teacher and governors or someone who can speak that thinks it is a good idea to convert to academy.
  • Keep up the momentum

Please bear in mind if your school is being forced to become an academy, this is a different situation from schools where the school wanted to become academy voluntarily, for example Bournville School in Birmingham. Michael Gove is forcing your school. Head teachers and governors are under a lot of pressure if they don’t agree. They are at risk of losing their jobs or being removed and the government appointing an interim board in its place. Nevertheless we as parents should be asking the school to resist and challenge the process.

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