A report on the Waseley High parents campaign
by Cormac Loane
On 29th February I attended the Parents Consultation Meeting on academy status at my son’s school, Waseley Hills High School in Worcestershire. After the Head Teacher had spoken for 15 minutes in favour of academy conversion I stood up and spoke briefly against, and was shouted down by the Chair of Governors. I then teamed up with other parents and a school governor, also opposed to academy conversion, and we set up the “Hands off Waseley” campaign. On 10th May John Hemingway, joint secretary of AABA, and I went along to a Year 7 parents evening at the School to give out campaign leaflets to parents. The Head Teacher called the police to have me removed from the school grounds!
Our campaign group called on the School to arrange an open, balanced meeting for parents on the issue. When they refused to do this, we organised our own meeting at a local church on 20th June. We were determined that the meeting would be fair and balanced. So we arranged 3 speakers against academy conversion – Richard Hatcher, Sarah Barton and myself – and invited the Head Teacher to suggest speakers in favour of Academy conversion. The School did not respond to this invitation but several governors did attend including the Chair. They remained silent in the meeting and when the Chair of Governors refused to answer questions from parents, this provoked an angry reaction from parents. The meeting was attended by over 50 people (more than had attended any of the meetings organised by the School on this issue) and concluded with a vote for stakeholders. The overwhelming majority voted in favour of the School arranging a ballot for all parents before signing up for academy conversion.
In a clear response to this meeting, the very next day, the School arranged its own meeting on academy conversion, only a short while after they had said that no further meetings were necessary! The School arranged for Tim Gulliver, Head Teacher at King Charles I School, Kidderminster, a recently converted academy, to speak in favour of academy conversion and invited me to speak against. I suggested that it would be beneficial for parents if Richard Hatcher, as a real expert on academies, were to take my place as speaker. The School said they would not allow Richard to speak, or attend the meeting, and the matter remained unresolved.
This meeting took place at the School on 3rd July and was attended by approximately 100 parents, probably the biggest attendance of parents at any meeting ever organised by the School. When I got up to speak I presented the Chair of Governors with our petition, signed by 200 parents, and then introduced Richard Hatcher, inviting him to speak. The Chair of Governors, who was chairing the meeting, then tried to intervene and prevent him speaking. I appealed to the audience who indicated they would like to hear Richard speak. Richard then spoke and a lively debate developed, but when I tried to arrange for a vote for parents at the meeting, the Head Teacher prevented this from taking place
The School’s application for academy status was accepted by the DfE in April but we intend to continue our campaign up to the last moment, in order to try and persuade Governors to withdraw. Campaigners lobbied governors as they attended their 11th July, but they went ahead and voted – with 5 against – to go ahead with conversion.