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TOPIC: Campaigners against academisation raising money for legal action

Campaigners against academisation raising money for legal action 27 Mar 2019 21:43 #4459

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[Original article]

 hands off walker school

A group of parents has set up a crowdfunding appeal with the aim of raising the cost of legal fees needed to challenge the decision by the governors of Walker Primary School to become an academy and join the Ivy Learning Trust academy group (ILT)

The group, calling itself Walker Primary School Parents Against Ivy Learning Trust, say that they do not consider that the decision was taken fairly, properly, impartially, or with appropriate consultation.  They have provided PGC with the text of a letter that was sent to the Office of the Regional Schools Commissioner:

Mr Martin Post
Office of Regional Schools Commissioner
North West London and South Central England
Floor 3
34 Clarendon Road
Watford
WD17 1JJ   

6 March 2019

Dear Mr Post,

Re: Academy Order for Walker Primary School - The Green, Waterfall Road, Southgate, N14 7EG

The parents and teachers would like to inform you that the Consultation Meetings were not conducted in the correct manner, with misleading information and conflict of interest.

During the Consultation Meetings there were four governors and the Ivy Learning Trust were present. There are clear legal requirements for a lawful consultation: a) First, the consultation must be at a time when proposals are still at a formative stage.

That wasn’t the case with our consultation meetings. The governors were extremely biased and pro Ivy Learning Trust hence the fact they were present at all meetings. It was very much them telling us that we were joining the Ivy Learning Trust. They had reached a conclusion before they have heard the views and opinions of parents, it was a done deal. Both sides of the argument (for and against) were not presented. Only one side was presented.

The governors mentioned that they had been speaking to the Ivy Learning Trust for 2 years but the Ivy Trust has only been in existence for 18 months.

Scaremonger tactics were used towards the parents/teachers, the reasons for becoming an academy:

  • If we didn’t become an academy we would be forced to join one, which would be chosen for us, also written in the attached letter 27.09.18). We all know that is untrue, the Local Authority would not and has no power to force good schools to join an academy trust.
  • We were in severe deficit. This is not true.
  • We would lose our head teacher.

They wouldn't or couldn't answer basic questions from parents. For example:

What is the current deficit of Walker Primary School?

The governor gave us the deficit in 3 years’ time, not the current deficit. Furthermore, the figure that was stated i.e. £175,000 in 3 years, was challenged by a parent (an accountant) and this figure was then reduced by the governor to £10,000 to £20,000. The school is not currently in deficit.

Evidence provided by an Enfield councillor “financial analysis showed that they will be in deficit in 3 years if they remain as a Local Authority school compared to being in surplus if they go with Ivy Learning Trust. However, this was presented in a rather confusing way, our own analysis does show some savings, but it is not as rosy as Ivy are making out”.

It was highlighted that on becoming an academy with the Ivy Learning Trust our head would be promoted to an Executive Head only being around 2.5 days per week at Walker School. Technically we are still losing our head on a much higher cost.

Evidence shows that the consultations were not conducted in the correct way and both the Head Teacher and Chair of Governors have undeclared conflicts of interest and as a consequence should not have participated in the decision making process.

  1. The Head’s promotion to Executive Head which will gain position and financial gain under the Ivy Trust. (Please see attached Power Point consultation on academy status presentation to families and staff - pages 8 & 10)
  2. Ivy Learning Trust is keen to interview a member of the Walker Governing board for the trust board (a voluntary position), which we must assume the Chair of Governors (please see attached final academy decision parents). The chair has been very pro academy trying to brainwash parents at drop off and pick up.
  3. If it was considered advantageous to join a MAT, why were no other MATs consulted?

This is why we parents/teachers feel that there is a conflict of interest and therefore this application for Walker Primary School becoming an academy should be void.

Why was the Ivy Learning Trust even present at the consultation meetings? Why no other MAT’s were there?

In addition, after the consultation meetings there was a Parent Poll. 77% were against, but the governors did not take this into account and they still voted to academies.

https://www.poll-maker.com/poll2146927xE50F47e8-60

Parents have set up a petition against Walker School becoming an academy. There are 571 signatures so far, many angry parents have commented.

https://www.thepetitionsite.com/en-gb/475/409/573/walker-primary-school-academy/

What’s most important is our children’s future and in view of the irregularities in both procedure and in the failure to declare any pecuniary interest, we urge you to reconsider your decision to allow the Academy order or at the very least, delay the process until these irregularities are investigated.

Yours sincerely,

Walker Primary School parents against Ivy Learning Trust

The group say that since sending this letter they have learnt of what they contend is a further conflict of interest concerning the deputy head teacher, who under the Ivy Trust's proposals would become acting head teacher for half of each week, while the head teacher would be at another Ivy Trust school.

The campaigners held a protest outside the school on 21st March.  Ahead of the protest the head teacher wrote to parents warning that it threatened children's safety and urging parents not to take part:

A political protest outside school publicised online raises serious safeguarding concerns for Walker pupils e.g possibility of traffic accidents, stranger danger. Children could be distracted, frightened and extremely upset or confused as they enter school

The campaigners consider this letter to have been "scaremongering".

Note

This article was edited on 28 March 2018.  Links to copies of Walker School Governing Body minutes were removed.

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Campaigners against academisation raising money for legal action 28 Mar 2019 01:30 #4460

I have no idea whether the campaigner's claims about the legality of the decision is right. However, I'm shocked at the condescending attitude of the governors to the campaigners.

For one thing, there's the suggestion that by demonstrating the campaigners would be risking children's safety - when the reason they are campaigning is that they think that joining an academy won't be in the interests of the children.

Secondly, in a statement released to the press on 5th March, the head teacher and her deputy say

This petition has had the unfortunate effect of distracting staff and governors from our core duty, that of teaching and learning.


I consider this to be an insult to the campaigners - to me it says, "We know best how to run the school and it's none of your business". Well, parents have a legitimate interest in the education of their children, and in fact all of us, as taxpayers and just as citizens, also have a legitimate interest in how public money is spent and in how future generations are educated.

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Campaigners against academisation raising money for legal action 02 Apr 2019 01:17 #4469

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Martin Post, Regional Schools Commissioner for North West London and South Central has replied to the letter sent by the campaign group on 3rd March, indicating that the consultation process and conversion of Walker School to academy status is in order:

I would like to reassure you that my team have conducted further enquiries and sought assurances with respect to the concerns you raise. I am satisfied that the school and governing body have followed the correct procedure in applying to convert, and have complied with the duty to consult all interested parties, as set out above.


The complete letter is available below.

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