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Question 1

Do you think Roke Primary should become an academy?

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Lord Harris

Forced academy at Roke Primary 

Our school is not failing but the DfE has decided to hand Roke to David Cameron’s personal friend just 6 months after one poor Ofsted report. It appears the government wants to accelerate it's academy programme and is now forcing well performing schools to become academies, not just long term failing ones. A leaked Conservative party memo showed that they plan to allow academies to be run for profit.

Roke is being forced to become an academy under the Harris chain of school. This means it will be removed from local authority control and handed to the Harris Federation, run by Lord Harris, Carpetright businessman, personal friend of David Cameron and donor of over £2 million to the Conservative Party. He will get all the public property at Roke, everything even the desks and pencils. He will pay a peppercorn rent for the land. 

Although, the DfE decision has been made, this is not a done deal and we still have time to raise our objections. 

The Guardian published an article suggesting Michael Gove is flouting his own rules that state forced schools should be under performing over a long time.

Roke is not a failing school. It is a previously ‘Outstanding’ school which had one poor Ofsted report. 2012 SAT results are above the national average (80%). We had a blip and turned around in months. Despite this forced academy is still going ahead

The speed at which this has happened is alarming. Roke was caught out by shifting Ofsted goalposts and computer failure that meant crucial data was not available. Only 4 months after they received ‘Notice to Improve’ our head and governors were told by DfE that Roke was being forced to become an academy. They were told not to tell parents and staff until a DfE decision about our academy sponsor had been decided. The governors had to vote through academy status or be dismissed. 

Roke teamed up with Riddlesdown Colleagiate, our local secondary school and achieved the highest possible ratings for improvement from Croydon Local Authority. Despite this Ofsted did not return before the DfE decision was taken.

Parents were informed in January about the Harris takeover with zero consultation and no appeal process. Parents launched the campaign on the night of the meeting followed by an article in the Croydon advertiser the very next day and The Guardian printed claims that Gove was flouting his own rules on the monday, 24 hours later Ofsted announced a monitoring visit!

Ofsted rated Roke as making ‘satisfactory progress’ in dealing with the concerns raised in previous Ofsted report. This is highest rating we could achieve without more time to embed improvements. It is clear our partnership with Riddlesdown Collegiate is working, and together we have made substantial improvements. If we must become an academy, Riddlesdown is parent and govenors' choice of sponsor. 

We are unhappy at being forced to become a Harris Federation school. We are uneasy about vested interests and Harris’s close relationship with the decision makers. We are concerned about their attitudes to kids with special needs, massaging of results, overzealous exclusion rate and possible covert selection of privileged pupils.

Previous academy decisions have caused teachers to resign. We love our teachers and we want stability for our children. We do not want our children's education being determined by coerced, undemocratic political decisions. We do not want a forced academy - but if we lose our fight against it - we want Riddlesdown as our sponsor. 

Roke Parents STRONGLY OBJECT to:

1 Lack of consultation about our children’s education
2 Our zero right to appeal
3 The speed and manner in which our school has been railroaded into becoming an academy
4 The Government’s choice of sponsor

Why Harris Academies?
Harris was the last choice for parents, teachers and governors at Roke. But the obvious choice for the government. Lord Harris of Peckham, major sponsor and chairman of his eponymous Harris Federation - which hopes to rapidly expand its chain of primary and secondary Academies from its current 13 schools - is a long-time Conservative donor and former party treasurer. He is a personal friend of the Prime Minister. With such strong links to the current government surely his Federation is the natural choice? But... for whom? 

What Can We Do?
We are working out an action plan on how we can overturn the decision to have academy status enforced on the school. Or at least overturn the decision of being forced into having the Harris Federation sponsor the school and take away its identity, instead allowing Riddlesdown to continue with their support and leaving Roke Primary intact.

Why Not Harris Academies?
Harris Academies has a proven track record of turning around failing schools. Or at least that's what they will tell you. The real life story is something different. In existing Harris Academies, there are reports in the media that they improve results by: excluding children; selecting kids based on ability or using GCSE equivalents to massage results. Anti Academies have produced a report on this issue here.

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