Moor Green Primary – a plea to governors

Ask Parents First recently became aware that Moor Green Primary School in Moseley has been secretly engaged in sponsored academy conversion for some time.

Plans are so well advanced that a sponsor has already been chosen, yet parents  have been kept entirely in the dark. This has become an all too familiar story for Primary School parents across the city.

It is believed that the chosen sponsor is ‘Prospects’ – a group which, it is claimed, has a dubious track record of running schools and which was recently involved in the Jubilee stewards scandal.  Not an organisation many of us would feel comfortable entrusting with the care of our children. You can read a newspaper report here.

APF began alerting Moor Green parents via Twitter and Facebook at the weekend. Responses on twitter soon confirmed that parents and even some teaching staff were unaware of the plans.

We are pleased to report that the school has now informed parents that it is planning to convert to sponsored academy with the following message on the school website;

Academy Status
by Stuart Smith – Monday, 18 June 2012, 05:24 PM

A letter was sent to all families on Monday 18th June explaining the school’s current position in relation to sponsored academy status. Please contact the school office in person if you did not receive this and we can arrange for a copy to be provided.

APF is aware that, like other Primary Schools in Birmingham, it is likely that the Governing Body at Moor Green will have come under enormous pressure from both the DfE and Local Authority Officers.

Governors may well have been told that they have no other option but to comply with academy conversion or be removed from office.

Like other schools, Moor Green governors may well have taken the decision not to inform parents with an uneasy heart, because they were afraid, they were bullied and they were given no other option. They may have felt that by complying they were doing what is best for the children, because at least that way they will have a say in the choice of sponsor.

We do not condemn the school governors for taking such a decision under intolerable conditions imposed by the DfE, but we do believe that decision to have been wrong.

We believe parents have an incontrovertible right to consultation on a change as fundamental as sponsored academy status, a change that would see the school removed from the control of the community it serves, and handed to a private company, an irreversible change that will affect generations of children to come.

We know the tactics that are being used by the DfE, because we have heard from headteachers, governors, councillors and union officers from other schools.

At meeting after meeting parents have heard how language is used to suggest that there is no other alternative. We have heard how it is well-nigh impossible for governors to get anything in writing from the DfE.  We have heard how the threat to remove the governing body has been used to coerce schools into complying.

But we have also heard how, when school leaders have invited the support of union officers into meetings with DfE, officials have been forced to back down.

Teaching unions including the NUT and NASUWT have condemned forced academies. More recently The National Association of Head Teachers has also passed a motion opposing forced academies and has pledged to support affected schools by all means possible. In at least one Birmingham Primary, with the support of officers from the NAHT, the NUT and others, Mr Briscoe from the DfE has been forced to back down on forcing academy status.

We know that contrary to what may have been implied, the DfE does not in fact have the power to remove the governing body of a school like Moor Green, that is not in a  category of OFSTED, a school that as recently as March been judged by OFSTED to have made significant improvements;

‘In accordance with section 13 (5) of the Education Act 2005, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector is of the opinion that the school no longer requires significant improvement.’
We call on the Governing Body of Moor Green Primary School to call an immediate halt to academy conversion, to begin open and democratic consultation with stakeholders about the proposed sponsored academy, and to seek the support of teaching unions in resisting moves to force academy conversion on an unwilling school community.

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