Parents who have been campaigning since May 2012 for a say in the future of their community school, learnt last night that the Secretary of State signed an academy order for the school months ago, despite there having been no consultation of any kind, and despite there being no sponsor or funding agreement in place.
Parents at West Heath Primary in south-west Birmingham have been campaigning since the spring against proposals to convert to a sponsored academy after it emerged that their school had been targeted for forced conversion by the DfE. Parents soon learnt that plans were well-advanced despite not having been informed, but at no time did the Headteacher or Governors tell them that an Academy Order was already in place. The parents, who have the support of their MP Richard Burden and local Councillor Brett O’Reilly, appealed to Governors and the Headteacher to stand up to the bullies from the DfE at a public meeting last term, and have repeatedly asked for there to be an open and democratic consultation on the proposals. However, at a meeting with Councillor O’Reilly last night parents learnt that the Governing Body requested an Academy Order some time last year and that the order has been made. Parents have been led to understand that Governors took this decision in the face of threats by DfE officials that unless they did so the Headteacher and Governors would be sacked and Mr Gove’s civil servants would be sent up from Whitehall to sign the order through.
Parents now feel angry and utterly betrayed. One parent has posted the following statement on the campaign’s Facebook group today;
WE HAVE BEEN LIED TO!
WE HAVE BEEN KEPT IN THE DARK!
West Heath Primary said ‘At West Heath Primary the staff and governors believe that our school will work better if we work together’ (WHP home/school agreement)
West Heath Primary said they would ‘be open and welcoming to parental enquiry and comments, and work with parents to solve any issues’ (WHP home/school agreement)
West Heath Primary said they would ‘ensure that everyone in the school community feels valued and respected’ (WHP Code of Conduct)The same people who valued and respected the decision of pupils and parents to join West Heath, have betrayed our trust, they no longer value the decisions and comments of the pupils and parents.
With NO consultation and NO notification a decision was made months ago regarding the future of West Heath. The staff, parents and pupils have all been ignored, how does that make people feel valued?
The governors agreed to West Heath becoming an academy LAST YEAR!!
Where was the ‘working together’?
Where was the ‘respect’ for school community?
Where was the ‘working with parents’?
Where was OUR chance to say what WE felt about OUR school?
Teachers and staff at the school are overwhelmingly opposed to academy conversion.
West Heath Primary, like so many of the so-called ‘failing’ schools in Birmingham that are being bullied into ‘choosing’ academy conversion, in fact is not failing at all. It is an improving school in an area of significant social and economic deprivation. The OFSTED report in January 2012 recognised that the school had improved over the past three years and that it was meeting the Government’s floor standards. This year’s SATS results continue that trend, representing a significant rate of improvement for the school with 82% of pupils gaining Level 4 for English and 78% Level 4 for Maths, compared to 77 and 75% respectively last year.
Councillor Brigid Jones, the new Cabinet Member for Children and Family Services in Birmingham wrote to all schools in July to outline new proposals for a ‘real partnership between the council, the school community of parents, governors, leaders and our most important teachers and learners’. One of the ‘founding principles’ listed in the letter is;
Not to force schools down any route: staying with current arrangements will remain an option for all schools.