Stop Claremont School Becoming An Academy!

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Lobby of Parliament in May against Academy schools
Lobby of Parliament in May against Academy schools

TEACHERS from the ATL, NASUWT and NUT trade unions leafleted outside Claremont High School in Brent on Tuesday to oppose academy status for the school.

They declared that Claremont parents should have the right to be fully consulted on the proposal to turn the school into a private academy.

They gave out the following leaflet which stated

‘Dear Parent/Carer,

‘You may have read the article about your child’s school in last weeks’ Willesden and Brent Times. You may have wondered at how the school was ‘definitely looking at applying for Academy status.

‘We have to question by what right the Headteacher gave this quote to a newspaper when parents, Governors and teachers are yet to be fully consulted.

‘As the Professional Associations representing the vast majority of teachers in your child’s school we have very real concerns about this proposal and would like to make the following points:

‘You as parents have not been fully and properly consulted on this significant change.

‘Your child’s teachers have also not been fully and properly consulted.

‘The Headteacher has gone to the press before discussing this matter at a full meeting of the Governing Body.

‘Of the 8 outstanding schools in Brent only 2 have indicated they have any interest at all in even considering this proposal. The clear majority of Brent’s outstanding schools value the role of the Local Authority and do not want Academy status.

‘Statutory provisions and professional services currently provided by the Local Authority, such as Special Education Needs and School Improvement Services, would need to be provided by private firms and paid for by the school. This would come out of any additional funds.

‘Any serious problems encountered by the school would leave them isolated and without council support.

‘We attach a document of questions to answers commonly asked by parents regarding Academies.

‘If you have any other questions please feel free to call one of us. We will also be looking to lobby Claremont’s Governing Body to stop this proposal.

‘Claremont is an outstanding school – there is no need for change. We urge parents to oppose this change in status and to maintain the current status provision which has enabled it to be an outstanding school.

‘Yours sincerely,

‘ATL and NUT Secretary NASUWT Secretary’

The three unions have issued a press statement saying ‘The headteacher of Claremont High School in Brent was reported in the local paper as saying, “We are definitely looking at applying for academy status” before he had even consulted the staff, parents or even the governors.

‘Teachers locally reacted by organised leafleting and a demonstration today (Tuesday 29th June) outside the school. Both entrances were covered at the end of school and pupils were given the attached leaflets for their parents.

‘If the school does not consult parents and teachers further action will be taken.

‘Hank Roberts, Brent ATL and NUT Secretary said, “Democracy is non negotiable”.

‘Shane Johnschwager, Brent NASUWT Secretary said, “The teachers and education unions are totally united on this. As soon as these headteachers attempt to undermine accepted democratic values we have to hit them hard and fast and we make no apology for it”

The unions also produced the following:

ACADEMY SCHOOLS

Questions parents frequently ask:

Q. What is an academy?

A. An academy is an independent school funded by the state.

Q. The headteacher at my child’s school has said s/he wants the school to become an academy. Can the headteacher make that decision?

A. No. A headteacher has no power to determine whether a school becomes an academy. The decision rests with the governing body and if the school is a voluntary aided or controlled school, with the relevant religious authorities.

Q. Is the school required to consult parents about becoming an academy?

A. The governing body of the school makes the decision about the school applying to become an academy.

The government is not requiring the governing body to consult parents or the community about this decision. However, there is nothing to prevent parents at the school seeking to influence the decision of the governing body and given the importance of the issue, they should do!

Q. How can parents make their views known about the school becoming an academy?

A. Parents who wish to make their views known should contact the parent governors and the chair of governors requesting that a full consultation with all parents takes place. The governing body should be asked to give details of the pros and cons of converting the school to academy status. A public meeting should be sought to enable everyone with an interest in the future of the school to discuss the proposals.

The local community may wish to call for a ballot on whether the school should apply for academy status.

If the governors refuse to engage in consultation with parents or the local community, then you should protest to your local council, your local councillor and your local MP.

Q. Will becoming an academy mean that educational standards will be raised?

A. There is no evidence that being an academy school raises standards. Academy schools have no better record of educational achievement than any other type of school. Some have a far worse record.

Q. Will there be more money for my child’s education if the school becomes an academy?

A. The school will have no additional money. It will be allocated its share of the money that is currently held by the local authority to make provision across all schools for pupils with a whole range of special needs, pupil support, education welfare and school transport.

Once the money is allocated to the school, it will have to make provision to replicate those important services previously provided by the local authority. It may find, if, for example, it has a significant number of pupils with special needs, that it has insufficient funds to match the provision previously provided by the local authority.

Q. Does becoming an academy mean that the school will get new buildings and facilities?

A. The government is making no provision for new academies to have new buildings or facilities.

Q. Will there be additional costs for parents?

A. Academies are not allowed to charge fees for pupils to attend the school. However, there may be hidden costs by academies introducing, for example, new school uniforms or charging for certain activities and use of resources.

Q. Will there be any changes to the catchment areas or admissions?

A. Academies are their own admissions authority and, therefore, set their own admission policies. They are at present required to abide by the admissions code.

Whilst academies cannot choose their intake, there is some evidence that academies’ intakes are not representative of their local community. Academies also have a higher exclusion rate than other types of schools.

Q. Will parents have more influence with academy schools?

A. All available evidence shows that in existing academies the governing body becomes smaller as a result of either reducing or removing entirely parent governors and staff representatives.

Q. Once a school becomes an academy what can parents do if they are not happy with any decisions made?

A. In the first instance, as now, parents can complain to the school. However, academies are not part of the local authority family of schools and, therefore, if you are not satisfied or are unhappy with the outcome, parents cannot complain, as they can now, to the local authority or their local councillor to ask them to intervene on your behalf. Any complaints about the academy would have to be raised with the Secretary of State for Education in London.

Q. If a school becomes an academy and wants to change back, is that possible?

A. No. A decision to become an academy is irreversible.

Q. Will the academy still work with the local council?

A. Academies are independent schools and not maintained by the local authority. The whole basis of application for academy status is to encourage schools to break the link with the local council.