Do not mention autonomy......I think we said it once, but it looks like we got away with it....

Sarah Dobbs's picture
I just wanted to give a quick update on where we are in the mad, mad academy world of Lincolnshire.

First of all....this story has broken in the press this week.

The Greenwood Dale Trust are becoming a major sponsor of schools down the east coast of Lincolnshire, despite people always expressing concern to me about their policies on unofficial exclusions at the Skegness Academy.

However, the latest twist has a different emphasis. It was announced last week that they have appointed a new executive headteacher for their cluster of primary schools in Lincolnshire. You will see from the article that one of the schools mentioned is Mablethorpe Primary. However, I have been told emphatically that the Mablethorpe governing body were not consulted on this at all. (In fact, they had a full governors meeting the night before I found out about it through a leaked e-mail and the appointment was not mentioned!) It is unthinkable to me that an appointment of a new executive head can be made with no input at all from the governing bodies of the schools concerned. This is just one of many examples of schools sacrificing autonomy to their sponsors, and I find it shameful.

Additionally, schools in Lincolnshire who are converting half way through a school year are facing enormous challenges in getting a business plan in place. I know of one governor of a primary school whose school is converting in the autumn, where the LA and the EFA between them have been totally muddled about how to even insure a school during the transition process! Additionally, they still have no business plan in place for when they do convert, because key information is not available to them yet. Governors still do not know how much of their LA surplus they get to keep, and if they do keep a portion of it do they pay any of it to the sponsor? This was key information that was needed prior to making the decision to convert, but seeing as they took the vote with the "Ofsted says fail" gun to their heads I understand why governors have not felt like being thorough! As I have said many, many times fear based decisions can never be good ones. Too much of our education system is working under threat . I am sure we will come to repent this day sooner or later.

On a nerdier a District Council meeting last week we were taking part on the consultation that Lincolnshire County Council has put in place as it prepares to take over responsibility for public health. Real concern is being expressed at how county council's are going to struggle with children's health now schools have moved away from the LAst. One senior councillor was already stating that there were problems ensuring access for school nurses in some academies. It says a great deal for the lack of strategic government thinking that they are taking schools away from councils, while wanting councils to become responsible for children's health. It goes much deeper than simply being about academy food, which is where the focus has been so far. It will be very interesting to see how local authorities cope with working with a multitude of sponsors and individual non-sponsored academies. It could be a good one to watch, because where council's get it right, there will be a real need to share that emerging best practise in a very rapid way.
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Rebecca Hanson's picture
Sat, 02/06/2012 - 18:23

Oh dear,

Unexpectedly here in West Cumbria where long consultation had led to the plan to go from 9 secondaries to 8 to cope with the falling roles (having gone from 10 to 9 in 2008), central government has now dictated that we go from 9 back up to 10 instead.....

I wonder if the arm of central government which decided to block the closure of one school is connected to the one which has decided to open a new one just a couple of miles away?


Rebecca Hanson's picture
Sat, 02/06/2012 - 21:44

The secondary school which shut was in a community with many problems, where the staff knew the most challenging families and all the issues they faced through having educated them through three generations. Closing the school stripped that community of its venue for large gigs and community events, its adult ed. centre and all sorts of other social activities.

The new school will be on a greenfield site totally disconnected from any community.

It's tempting to believe that this government are absolutely determined to destroy local communities and local governance. But I just think they are pig ignorant.

But my question is - where on earth is the money coming from for all this? How can we now afford to build new schools and run two more than we need?

Janet Downs's picture
Sun, 03/06/2012 - 07:47

I notice that Skegness Academy is advertising for a new principal (six figure salary). The present principal started in September 2010 and was praised by Ofsted. And yet he's decided to move on after only 18 months.

Skegness Academy's website contains two misleading statements. Firstly, it says the Academy opened in 2009 - it actually opened in September 2010. A monitoring inspection (not a full inspection) of Skegness Academy took place in September 2011 which said the school had made outstanding progress towards raising standards. This is something of which to be proud although evidence shows* that this progress had begun at the predecessor school, St Clements. However, the academy's publicity implied that the school had been judged outstanding.

*GCSE results at the predecessor school had been rising, from only 5% reaching the benchmark 5+ GCSEs A*-C including English and Maths in 2007 to 36% in 2010. 45% reached this standard in 2011 - these pupils would have spent most of their school life at St Clements.

Janet Downs's picture
Sun, 03/06/2012 - 08:04

As pointed out on Sarah's post below, Ofsted had already recognised that the predecessor school for Skegness Academy, St Clement's, was rapidly improving. Sarah also pointed out that the number of SEN pupils had fallen in only 18 months between inspections. This raises the question about where the SEN pupils are now.

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Tue, 05/06/2012 - 09:10

This raises the question about where the SEN pupils are now.

Or perhaps the school has simply dispensed with a policy of classifying pupils with behavioural issues as SEN?

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Tue, 05/06/2012 - 10:37

"Or perhaps the school has simply dispensed with a policy of classifying pupils with behavioural issues as SEN?"

Do you think that's a good idea Ricky?

In my experience there students with substantial behavioural issues often need some kind of financial resource to turn that around. So for example some benefit from 'anger management counselling' where they are taught strategies to cope with situations they are failing to handle appropriately and teachers may also be advised regarding specific anger triggers they can avoid with that child. Such specialist intervention costs money in the short term which should lead to substantial benefits for the child and the school in the long term.

Unfortunately when we listen children exhibiting severely inappropriate behaviour we often (and probably not often enough) become aware of truly horrific circumstances at home which are at the root of the problem. Many of our children are facing horrific issues we can barely begin to imagine. Obviously there are resource implications involved in attempting to properly address these issues.

Would you prefer that all the bad kids were just banged up Ricky?

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Tue, 05/06/2012 - 11:13

No, of course not Rebecca.

But there is considerable evidence of widespread 'misdiagnosis' relating to SEN. Some of this is almost certainly down to schools gaming the system.

In 2010 Ofsted reported that:

Inspectors saw schools that identified pupils as having special educational needs when, in fact, their needs were no different from those of most other pupils. They were underachieving but this was
sometimes simply because the school’s mainstream teaching provision was not good enough, and expectations of the pupils were too low. A conclusion that may be drawn from this is that some pupils are being wrongly identified as having special educational needs and that relatively expensive additional provision is being used to
make up for poor day-to-day teaching and pastoral support.

The consequence, of course, is that what butter there is gets spread too thinly.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Tue, 05/06/2012 - 13:32

I presume Ofsted went on to link this propensity to schools moving away from using the teaching methodologies which ameliorate behavioural issues to them teaching in Ofstedproof ways......?

Do you understand the implications of every teacher being forced to have three whole class plenaries per lesson, every single lesson, every day on the students with a propensity to volatile behaviour Ricky?

Trust me, Ricky, the behaviour issues student exhibit in such circumstances are very real and need to be addressed. But you are right - they are completely avoidable. But its essential you don't lay the responsibility with the teachers who are themselves suffering from stress and breakdowns through being forced to abandon teaching methodologies which will substantially improved things and being forced out of their jobs in favour of young teachers who will focus entirely no narrow, political objectives.

Of course one solution would be to fund all schools to Mossbourne levels so that there are 50% more staff than you need. Then the students who fail under the relentless barrage of inappropriate teaching can be picked up and dealt with one-to-one by other teachers instead of being dumped in the internal exclusion room.

Janet Downs's picture
Tue, 05/06/2012 - 13:53

Ricky - over-identification of pupils with SEN doesn't seem to have been the case at Skegness Academy's predecessor school, St Clement's. The March 2010 Ofsted recognised that "the proportion with special educational needs and/or disabilities is almost twice the national figure" but didn't criticise the school's judgement. Instead, Ofsted found the quality of learning for SEN pupils in the college was good. This good quality wasn't gained because the "butter... gets spread too thinly" but because the predecessor school did well by its SEN pupils.

However, 18 months later the number of SEN pupils at the Skegness Academy had fallen to "slightly higher than average proportion of students". The question remains, "Where have these pupils gone?" Maybe it's because many of them have left. If so, where? Or perhaps it's because the predecessor school did such a good job that many SEN pupils were removed from the register. In which case the academy should acknowledge the good work done by its predecessor and not imply that results at the academy are solely due to academy conversion and sponsorship.

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Wed, 06/06/2012 - 09:00

over-identification of pupils with SEN doesn’t seem to have been the case at Skegness Academy’s predecessor school, St Clement’s.

Really? With more than 40% of the 2010 KS4 cohort classified as having SEN, I'd begun to wonder whether that sea air was all it's cracked up to be.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Wed, 06/06/2012 - 09:28

Nobody should be making judgements about these kinds of statistics at a school without investigating the circumstances. There will always be outliers.

If inspectors tell a school to reduce a statistic that statistic will be reduced whatever the consequences and those consequences will not be discussed. This is not a good things and contravenes good practice in inspection and regulation for very important reasons.

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