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Do you think Roke Primary should become an academy?

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Today the DfE confirmed that Sutton-based Camden Junior school will be taken over by Harris, despite a staggering 99% of parents voting voting against the move and in favour of being sponsored by their local secondary school. The turnout was impressive with 545 parents responding to the consultation giving a clear and resounding message against Harris.

This news gives us a sense of deja vu. Like at Roke, the consultation was run by Harris (!!) and once again the DfE ignored the findings anyway. There is no local say at all. Democracy, at least in relation to community schools, is a joke. Roke was among the first victims but the tidal wave is now gaining momentum and we expect Harris to be taking over many more schools in the next academic year. 

Another familiar story is that Harris held interviews for the new headteacher at Camden Juniors last May, before the consultation had even happened. They know as well as we do that it is a done decision and the school will be theirs whatever the consultation outcome.

Following the surprising lexical error in the first Harris letter home, in which 'roll' was misspelled as 'role', we were alarmed to see further errors in the new Harris uniform policy. Pinafore was rendered as 'pinnafore' and there was an errant apostrophe in the word 'mohican's' (sic). This really is shocking from an organisation that is claiming to be the saviour of literacy and educational standards. 

The DfE played their cards close to their chest throughout the Roke campaign and mostly refused to give information in response to our Freedom of Information requests. It makes us wonder why there is a need for such a veil of secrecy? Interestingly, the DfE denied holding any information about their contact with Ofsted, however we knew for certain that they had been communicating directly with Ofsted because Maria Whiting of the DfE had revealed it in a letter. We FOIed it again for the exact period during which we knew contact had taken place but again they refused to admit any contact. Distinctly fishy.  

We have not yet seen the SAT figures yet but we hear that Roke achieved above the national average at Key Stage 1 and just below the national average at Key Stage 2. We await further details. We were pleased the Key Stage 1 results clearly show that our teachers have done a great job with our younger children as we have been saying all along. The slight dropping off of Key Stage 2 results is disappointing but hardly surprising given the fact that our year 6 classes experienced disruption through their critical final year- with teacher and leadership changes. By all accounts even this slight fall in results do not paint a picture of a school in dire need of intervention. We expect that with strong leadership the school will return to its previously high levels by next year. It will not take much for Harris to turn our school around. 

The fabric of our school was torn apart by the forced academy process, and we were not even a failing school in the first place. As we predicted early in the campaign many of our lovely teachers and support staff left, some mid-way through the term. How can standards not now slip? These were good, inspiring, motivated teachers who have been put through the forced academy wringer. For parents, children and staff, this year has been incredibly demoralising and disruptive. 

During this acacdemic year our children waved goodbye to 36 members of staff: There are 66 people in the staff team at Roke, so this is 55% of the whole staff team! By comparison, 14 staff left in 2011-2012, which is 21%.

A massive 82% of our teachers left their posts (There are 17 teaching posts at Roke and of these 14 teachers have left).
 
How can this upheaval not have an adverse affect on our children's education? Our only consolation is the knowledge that a new headteacher and a whole new staff team is now in place for September. 

Here is a list of the staff departures:

14 Teachers - including our SENCO, our Head of Early Years, our Literacy coordinator and our Key stage two leader 

3 Teaching assistants 

3 Admin assistants 

5 Midday supervisors 

3 Children's centre staff 
1 Librarian 
1 Clerk 
1 Receptionist 
1 Head teacher 
1 Business manager 
1 Deputy head 
1 Assistant caretaker/ IT support 

Harris's school uniform supplier- Brigade Uniform- handed out new uniforms to Roke children towards the end of term. Brigade is the only supplier and it is online - so Harris are assuming that all parents have internet access. Basically Brigade have a monopoly on uniform supply. We can no longer shop at Tesco or Sainsbury's or source the cheapest price on the high street.

Harris has not organised collection of the old uniform for donation to charity or recycling. This means that literally thousands of Roke jumpers, cardigans, fleeces and polo tops are being binned. It is an incredible waste and will be replayed up and down the country. This Government and forced academy policy obviously have no truck with a green agenda. We think that the DfE and Harris have a moral responsibility to our school and to the planet to organise donation to charity or mass recycling. This has not happened. So parents have taken it on themselves to organise donation to a school in Kenya. 

The consensus among parents is that the new uniform looks smart at a glance but is cheaply made. We suspect it was made in an overseas sweatshop. Each child only got one free item of each branded garment- so one free logoed jumper or cardigan and a PE shirt. Harris seem to have overlooked the fact that children need several of each item if they are going to be clean, tidy and presentable each day, so all parents will still have to do a big shop online - an expense that we would not have had if we could rely on our stockpiled Roke uniform and hand me downs. Parents are out of pocket in a big way thanks to the Harris takeover. It is untruth that parents would receive all the uniform needed free of charge. 

From September, even our 3 year old nursery children will have to wear full Harris uniform for playing in sand pit and messy play. To ask the parents of pre-schoolers, who are growing so fast, to spend extra money on clothes they will only wear for a 3 hours each day, will put some parents off sending their kids to HPAK Nursery due to the additional cost. It may be that Harris are well aware that they can use this as a covert way of selecting more affluent families from the start. 

The forced academy catch 22 is that teachers leave in droves due to low morale, disruption and uncertainty about the future brought about by the very process that is supposed to raise standards. Ofsted then cite staff turnover as evidence of 'underperformance' and stuck the school in Special Measures. The DfE can then say that the school has 'deteriorated' and further justify their rationale for intervention. Would this kind of reasoning be a logical or humane way to discipline a child? We thought not... then why does the DfE do it to schools? 

Today Harris sent their first letter with a heading showing the new school name and logo. It depicts three children entwined in the shape of a tree. It is very corporate and fits in with the style of the logos for their other schools. This is all very well but Harris did promise that the children would be involved in designing the logo along with the new uniform. They are on record stating this in the consultation meeting and on their own powerpoint presentation which stated: 

"If it is decided that Roke should become a Harris Academy, we would: - Hold a design session for children to help create the new uniform, which will be provided free of charge to existing pupils."

There seems to be a pattern to this behaviour. We were warned by Downhills parents that Harris would make this promise and then break it, as this happened at their school too (now called Harris Phillips Lane). We do not understand why Harris felt the need to mislead Roke families in the first place. 

It is the end of an era, Roke as we know it will no longer exist. Lord John Nash has announced the Secretary of State's decision for Harris to take over our school on September 1st. His letter acknowledges that the consultation showed that the majority of parents who expressed an opinion were against the plans (despite Harris's best efforts to present the statistics in a light most favourable to them). He then dismisses parent opinion outright, leading us to ask what was the point of having a consultation in the first place? He also makes long winded argument about the validity of the consultation process, which hardly matters if they are disregarding the results anyway. 

This decision comes as no surprise to parents, who have long since called it a fait accompli, or to the Harris Federation, who unveiled the new school name and logo on a headed letter to parents inviting them to collect the new uniform from the school hall later this month. Parents will receive one of each Harris logoed garment. 

Meanwhile, new starters who applied for reception places for their children last January, before the whole forced academy thing kicked off, are hoping that now Harris are officially in charge from September, they might get a letter confirming their child's place and explaining that the school they applied for will no longer exist and detailing the plans for the Harris takeover. 

As expected Harris are going ahead with plans to rename Roke as Harris Primary Academy Kenley despite opposition, outlined in the Croydon Advertiser, from neighbouring Kenley Primary school. 

Harris also announced the new school uniform which will now be grey with red piping, rather than the previous plan for a navy blue and grey colour scheme which was very similar to Kenley Primary. This change is the first time Harris have listened to parent views, but they still did not consult on the new colours or allow parents to make suggestions. 

The new uniform will be very smart, with children from year 2 onwards expected to wear ties. Full uniform will also be compulsory for 3-4 year olds attending nursery. This will not doubt put some families off sending their children to Roke nursery due to the expense, which they will not face if they chose a different nursery. By making the school appear more exclusive they are in fact weeding out less well off families. 

After a long delay by Ofsted, parents have finally been informed that Roke has been given the worse possible rating by Ofsted. Just as we predicted, our school has been put in Special Measures. You can read the Ofsted report here.

This rating does not actually surprise us. NOT because our experience of our lovely school is so dire that we agree with the judgement. In fact we do NOT recognise our school in the report, the picture the inspectors paint is very different from the reality parents experience on the ground. It does not surprise us because we feel that Roke is a tiny cog in a much bigger political drive to academise schools. The government has every motivation to come down hard on us. 'Special Measures' seals the deal for academisation and there is little any one can say or do. A Harris academy at Roke is now inevitable.

It was very much in the DfE's interest to see Roke go into Special Measures. Our media campaign has been extremely successful and we have heard that Michael Gove is unhappy about the amount of publicity Roke has generated. We were a thorn in his side. We threatened legal action and became the face of parent outcry against the lack of democratic process in forced academies. Many of us have no political axe to grind - we simply felt we were being ignored. 

We find it hard to believe that Ofsted and DfE are not working together on this, giving each other the nod. Even if the passing of instructions between the two organisations cannot be proved, we suspect that they are using unofficial channels to communicate which will not be revealed by Freedom of Information requests. We have a letter from Maria Whiting that states that she 'heard' about the Roke verdict between the dates covered by our FOI request- yet the DfE response was that there was no communication at all between the two organisations during this time.

Our school was not in Special Measure last January when satisfactory progress was deemed to be being made. However, since then many of our excellent teachers have left and more will leave at the end of the summer term. A shocking report in the Croydon Guardian put the teacher turnover at 70% and quotes a parent saying that our school has been 'ripped apart' by the toxic forced academy process. Ofsted mentioned high staff turnover in their report, but did not mention the cause of this instability. By applying a whole set of new set of hoops to jump through and inspecting the school only days after our head has resigned, Ofsted has simply rammed it home for the DfE. Despite all the changes and uncertainty, the teachers at Roke continue to do a really good job teaching our children. It makes us wonder how accurate the Ofsted inspection framework is, if it is failing to pick up the really good things about our school. Interestingly, this article in The Guardian refers to Roke and suggests that Ofsted may be a little too eager to fail schools that are preparing to become academies.   

Warwick Mansell of The Guardian dug up some interesting information about Harris's primary performance published in The Guardian. Here is what he wrote: 

"Parents at Roke primary in Kenley, Surrey, have been told that Harris is ministers' "preferred sponsor" for the school because of its "experience of turning around previously underperforming schools".

Harris secondary schools have impressive Ofsted reports. But what is its record in primary education? Not great as yet, it seems.

The only two Harris primaries to have had inspection verdicts published as of last week were Harris primary academy Peckham Park, in south London, and Harris primary academy Chafford Hundred, in Essex. Both have received "requires improvement" judgments from inspectors.

The Peckham Park school is the only one of Harris's five primaries to have been open last academic year and therefore to have Sats data to report. Yet its results fell sharply compared with the year before Harris took over, from 90% of pupils achieving level four in both English and maths to 65% after a year under Harris.

Just before Education Guardian went to press, we got sight of the as-yet-unpublished Ofsted report on the former Downhills school in Haringey, north London, now a Harris academy. Ofsted concluded it was making "reasonable progress", noted some improvements but said there was "more to do to win the hearts and minds of parents".

A Harris spokesperson said nine out of 11 Harris secondaries inspected by Ofsted were "outstanding" and that, "given time … our primary academies will achieve the same".

But parents at Roke, given only three months after a bad inspection verdict before being set on the path to academisation, are questioning how the Department for Education can maintain its line that Harris's track record makes it uniquely well-placed to take over the school.

Since this article was published Harris Coleraine Park got a "making reasonable progress" verdict from Ofsted, with the detailed findings showing that improvements were less than impressive. 

During the consultation meetings, Harris showed a powerpoint slide which stated: 

"If it is decided that Roke should become a Harris Academy, we would:

- Hold a design session for children to help create the new uniform, which will be provided free of charge to existing pupils."

This has not happened, Harris has told us what the uniform will be. Only one of each Harris logoed item is free of charge. The rest must be paid for. Of course, we feel rail-roaded and let down by their promises. How can this be good for trust between families and the school? Has anyone asked the children, let alone the parents? 

The results of the Harris consultation have finally been published. It is a government commissioned document that will enable the Secretary of State to make his final decision on Roke. The consultation cost £5k of taxpayers money. Yet it contains biased reporting of statistics and omission of data which is unfavourable to Harris. It is alarming but not surprising because the consultation was not run by a neutral or independent arbitrator but by Harris themselves. 

Harris have twisted their stats making it look like 62.5% parents support a Harris academy, when in fact only 19% of respondents said this, meaning that 81% did not voice support for them! 

So how strong is the support for Harris at Roke? Support is miniscule. Only 15 parents from a school with 442 pupils voted for a Harris academy. If we go by one vote per child, this is a measly 3% of parents. This means 97% of parents were either against, undecided or did not bother to express an opinion by abstaining from the vote. Many parents felt it was a fait accompli and a fake consultation. They did not believe that we would be listened to, so they did not bother to fill in their consultation forms. 

Harris will argue that there only 80 people returned their forms. They will state that only around 17% bothered to vote and will deduce that most parents are indifferent. We beg to differ. Of course there is always some indifference or apathy, but we think this figure actually captures two things: 1) the powerlessness parents feel at controlling the outcome and 2) the fact that no one has actually explained in an accessible way what academisation actually means. There were no verbal presentations or explanation. Some parents just don't feel informed enough to have an opinion. What is clear is that there was absolutely no ringing endorsement of Harris. 

Given that there has been such a spirited campaign against the forced academy at Roke, this was the opportunity for pro Harris parents to really make their voice count in an anonymous ballot, the fact that only 3 % came out to support Harris- speaks volumes about how welcome they are at Roke. 

Incredibly, Harris manage to present the results in such a way that makes it appear that 62.5% of parents support them sponsoring Roke. They achieved this by only including the responses of the 24 parents who voted 'yes' to a question asking if they supported academisation at Roke, of these just 15 went on to say they supported Harris as sponsor. These are tiny numbers. Harris completely ignored the opinions of parents who voted 'no' to an academy. Their opinions on whether Harris should sponsor the school were not included in the analysis. It means everyone who voted that they did not want to be an academy - had absolutely no voice about whether or not they wanted Harris to be the sponsor.  

The school ran their own poll to gauge parent opinion which had a much larger response than the Harris poll (129 families- only one vote was allowed per family), probably due to greater faith in the way the poll was being run. As a final blow to transparency, only half of these results were included in the consultation report, despite these being submitted by both the school and the Save Roke committee. Results pertaining to whether parents wished to become an academy were included, but a question about whether parents supported Harris as sponsor should we become an academy, was completely omitted. We can only think that they were omitted because the results were clearly unfavourable to Harris. It showed that 83% of respondents were against a Harris academy and preferred Riddlesdown Collegiate as sponsor. We know which survey we trust. We are dismayed that Harris have completely written out Riddlesdown as a legitimate alternative, from the consultation. 

Here is the missing information. 

Q2 If the school does become an academy, who do you want as the sponsor?

Riddlesdown Collegiate 83%

Harris Federation 17%

We are not stupid, we know that Harris already decided Roke's new name, 'Harris Primary Academy Kenley' when they first started sniffing the school out.

It was always inevitable that Roke will be called Harris Kenley because it fits in with Harris Crystal Palace, Harris South Norwood and Harris Purley – that’s their branding. Essentially this is what it all boils down to, a corporate brand. Never mind local history or whether you step on the toes of the local community. What really sticks in the craw is that the Harris leaders promised parents that we would have a say in the name. This has not happened at Roke and it did not happen at Downhills or any of the other Harris school takeovers, so why do they insist on repeatedly lying to parents and why do they continue to get away with it? 

 

Our neighbouring school, Kenley Primary is up in arms about the proposed changes to Roke's name and uniform because they are too similar to their own. Their feelings echoed the thoughts of Roke parents who had already noted that Roke was about to clone Kenley's identity. The head teacher wrote a spirited letter to Kenley school parents asking them to raise their objections. She stated, 'It is important that the Harris Federation appreciate that there cannot be two schools named Kenley in the area'. We wonder how they will respond? It won't be an auspicious start to local community relations if they ignore Kenley parents too.

Kenley councillor, Steve Hollands also weighed in with his objections and will be contacting Harris to urge them to consider an alternative name. 

 

Our governors were badly bullied and they have made an official complaint to the DfE about the treatment of Roke. However, when the push came to the shove and they had a chance to fight the DfE off through legal channels, they didn't rise to the challenge. Instead they decided that the school had had enough disruption and the path of least resistance, namely smoothing the transition to a Harris academy, was the quickest means of achieving both leadership change and stability for Roke. Why did this happen? 

1) Some of the governing body had always supported academisation but resented the imposition of the Harris Federation and the manner in which it was done. To fight the decision would mean seeking to revert to local authority control and this, unfortunately, was not strongly supported for reasons reported below. 

2) There was concern about the difficulty with recruiting a strong head teacher if it stayed as a community school. It is hard to recruit to any local authority school these days, particularly one that has a notice to improve and is under such DfE scrutiny. 

3) There were concerns about the difficulty for schools with remaining within local authority control (ie resources are being cut and channelled into academies programme). It is clear that the Government are trying to reduce the role of the LA and to save money, which is making life harder and harder for community schools. 

4) The pressure from Ofsted has been relentless. It is hoped that Ofsted will leave Roke alone once it becomes an academy. 

5) Fighting would have involved a confrontation with the DfE which probably would have resulted in an IEB being imposed and the current GB would have been dismissed. We are not sure what they had to lose as they will be disbanded anyway once Harris are in.

6) The governors decided that it was their role to shorten the period of uncertainty about the future of the school. 

We are definitely not the kind of folk to get too uppity about typos. We know how easily they can slip through. There are probably quite a few on this site (don't forget that we are burning the midnight oil after busy days filled with work and children). However, we think Harris 'need to improve' their literacy given that they claim to be a saviour of standards in education. Letters home to parents at Roke traditionally have impeccable grammar and spelling but our first letter from Harris revealed a weakness in spelling homophones. The letter referred to, 'an initial role out' when the context dictated that it should read, 'an initial roll-out'. This typo may just be a typo and not a mark of poor standards at Harris, we will give them the benefit of the doubt but it does not exactly fill us with confidence about them championing literacy or taking over as custodians of our children's education. 

The Harris Federation sent a letter home to Roke parents today informing them that the new name for Roke will be 'Harris Primary Academy Kenley'. They state that they 'are not prepared to include Roke in the name' (probably because googling 'Roke' throws up dozens of negative media articles about Harris and bullying by the DfE). Parents can suggest alternatives but we doubt that we will be listened to.

Roke and the surrounding roads are named after Roke farm, which used to surround the area. This map from 1874 shows that there was also a Hays farm and a Kenley farm and these are the names of our neighbouring schools. By changing the name of the school, Harris are disregarding at least 140 years of local history. 

The letter also stated that the new uniform colours will be navy blue, white and grey. They have decided the colours (even though they said the children would get a say in this) and are now just consulting parents on whether we want polo shirts or plain shirts/blouses and ties (yes, they really do suggest ties for 6 year olds).

They have completely overlooked the fact that our school will have a very similar name to our neighbouring school, Kenley Primary. Not only this but they have an identical navy blue, white and grey uniform. If they had consulted us properly they would know this. So much for local knowledge or a distinct identity.

All the uniform will be logoed and parents will have to buy it from a single source. Harris are procuring a deal with their preferred supplier. Parents will receive just one of each Harris branded item. We will have to fork out for all the rest. Without hand-me-downs or the cheaper option of buying unbranded uniforms many parents, particularly those with several children at the school will feel their pocket hit hard. 

While we are playing the waiting game, there is increasing parent speculation that Roke will get a terrible Ofsted report. This in no way reflects our experience of the school, which is on the whole still good, despite all the disruption caused by forced academisation (ie. our lovely teachers leaving). Rather, we have completely lost faith in the notion that the DfE and Ofsted are independent bodies or that they do not have a master plan when it comes to forced academies. Here is why..... 

1. Our campaign has generated a huge amount of negative publicity for the DfE and Harris. Mr Gove will not be happy about this at all. It's bad for his academy policy and the government's image. After Downhills legal battle, Gove was overheard saying 'I do not want another Downhills', this is what we threatened to give him, another legal battle.  It was in their interests to come down extremely hard on Roke to seal the deal. 

2. The DfE and Ofsted will never in a million years admit to working together. We have tried to use the Freedom of Information Act to find out if they are in communication about Roke but we suspect they simply use the phone or channels that we cannot detect. Alternatively, Ofsted may monitor local media reports to see when a school is vulnerable and swoop in. However they do it, the timing shows that they have an agenda. No impartial and fair inspectorate would visit just days after a head teacher has resigned.  

3. The inspectors will have gone through everything with a very fine toothed comb. If you dig deep enough you can always find a fault in an institution such as a school. If you really want to fail it you can always find an excuse. 

4. Ofsted is getting tougher. The hoops schools must jump through have changed since the last inspection.

During the Roke consultation parents challenged Harris leaders about the dire results at a Harris Primary school called Peckham Park. Their SAT results dropped nearly 30% in the year since Harris took over and Ofsted found that the quality of teaching was not consistently good. Sir Bosher replied that they are working on it and "it takes a year". Another parent replied, "Do you not think we should be given a year then?". Roke was given only 6 weeks of term time to improve before the DfE decision to force an academy on us. Harris have actually had longer than a year at Peckham Park with less than impressive results.

A transcript can be read here

An academy broker admitted during the Roke consultation meeting that she made her decision about Roke after just 20 minutes touring our school. In that time she claims that she saw our children were bright but bored. A parent asked her " If our children are so important, why is it only 20 minute tour around the school? ... I respect your professionalism (but) you can surely not make judgements about whether the children are bored when you see them for 20 minutes?"

The broker also implied that parents do not know what is going on with their own children's learning. She recounts her own experience...

"I know some of you feel that you only had from May for a short while to make change and make a difference, I personally believe that actually that is a long time in a child's life.  They are only in year 4, 5, 6, 2, 3, for one year, and you can not go back over that, and I know for my own kids they had a couple of wasted years you would think that I would know better but I did not. I did not.  I went in to my daughter's school when she was in year 5 and I was told she had stopped writing in year 3.  I am an English specialist, I should have known I did not, and nobody told me. I thought the school was doing a good job, I they thought that I knew, I did not.  So, that is part of the reason why I do that piece of work, and I actually want the schools to come back with sponsors to come back with: This is what we are going to do that is going to make a difference and that is going to change things and that is going to help things."

This woman is not only a parent who did not realise that her child had stopped 'writing' for two years but she is also a qualified teacher. Incredibly, she then implies that this ineptitude in monitoring her own child's progress actually qualifies her to make judgements about schools up and down the country. 

You can read the full transcript here.

This timely article from the BBC about schools across UK struggling to recruit headteachers backs up our suspicions about what is happening in our local area. Our nearest neighbouring community primary school, The Hayes, enjoys an affluent intake and high SAT results yet they had trouble recruiting a headteacher. This school is often seen as the holy grail of schools in the local area, if life is so difficult for local authority heads that a school like The Hayes cannot attract a leader, what hope does a victimised and destabilised school, such as Roke, have? 

Parents learned that the Ofsted report is to be delayed until June from the local press. It had been expected ten days after the inspection as per Ofsted's own rules. No information about this delay has been given. 

Remember the shocking example of a letter sent to parents of 4 year olds at another Harris Primary school? Roke parents asked Harris to justify this approach.

Why was a letter sent to 4 year olds at Harris Phillips Lane saying they had not made rapid progress and asking them to work hard in holidays, with a resource the numbers 1-10 attached? Do you consider this to be an example of good or poor teaching practice? 

This is the response from Harris.

"We completely support teachers involving parents in an honest appraisal of their child’s strengths and weaknesses. We also support the notion that parents should be involved with their children’s education, and that the school should in turn support them to be able to develop their children’s learning at home. While it is the school’s responsibility to educate their pupils, children will always learn best when their parents take an active interest. 

As you would expect, feedback about how a child is performing would almost always be given at a parents’ evening or, if a parent cannot make it, at another time individually organised for them. 

That said, individual Principals and teachers often have their own ways of communicating with parents and we will always support our staff in their endeavours to raise standards in their schools."

We give Harris a 'Need to Improve' judgement for completely sidestepping the question about whether or not this specific example is acceptable teaching practice. The many teachers we have asked have been shocked by the tone of the Harris letter. 

Harris have advertised for a new Principal. The interview panel will include a representative of the governing body and the local authority as well as the Harris Federation. It is therefore important that if parents feel strongly about the sort of headteacher they think can build bridges and repair trust at Roke, they should contact Parent Governor, Nigel Rata as soon as possible. 

A letter from Harris and our governing body stated that the earliest date for a final decision by the Secretary of State is mid-June. 

Next steps include: legal discussions with Croydon Council, new headteacher to be appointed by Harris, new staff will be recruited for September by Harris, TUPE consultations between Harris and staff in order to transfer staff contracts, financial audits, audits of condition of site, premises and staff records. 

It does seem a bit pointless that all this is being done in advance of the final decision, unless of course the decision has already been made, which we ALL know it has. 

It is a done deal. Everyone knows this, despite our sham consultation not even being published yet. The school uniform suppliers are no longer selling Roke's dark red, white and grey uniforms. The school is organising a knock down price sale to clear stock. Harris were planning to decide on the new uniform before the final announcement has been made, but are now respecting the governors' request to await the official decision before 'consulting' parents. 

Across the country schools have managed to fight off forced academies but it requires a real partnership between governors, headteacher, staff and parents. Where all these groups have pulled in the right direction, taken legal advice and shown improvement under their own steam, a letter has been all it took to make the DfE leave them alone. It can definitely be done but it needs committed people who are prepared to fight. 

At Roke despite a high profile campaign by parents which has been widely reported in the media, the other parties have sadly, not produced the fighting spirit required to see Harris off. 

Roke parents raised an impressive amount of money in an extremely short amount of time to obtain legal advice and instruct further action. We worked with the Head Governor and he instructed a top lawyer with experience of winning a reprieve for schools in similar situations. The advice that the governing body received was that they had a solid case for fighting the DfE but as a first step they should vote to rescind the original motion to become an academy which they passed in the autumn after being bullied by the DfE. Instead to our dismay, the governing body ignored the legal advice completely and voted to carry on with the academy plans under Harris. This was a real blow after parents and supporters made such generous personal donations. Money and energy completely wasted. 

If the governors felt strongly about Roke becoming an academy, they could have fought off forced academy, and remained a community school until they achieved an Ofsted rating that allowed them to become an academy in their own right, this time without Harris. If they had shown the DfE that they were prepared to fight it might have led to Gove compromising and allowing Riddlesdown to sponsor us. An outcome that most parents would have been much happier with. At no time have the governors consulted parent opinions (except for a show of hands at the original meeting which was unanimously against the takeover). We have been let down, as we believed that the governors were as against Harris as we were. Clearly this was not the case. Only a third of the governors voted to follow the legal advice and this was not enough to sway the two thirds majority who supported pressing ahead with Harris.  

In a move which took many parents by surprise, the Roke governing body announced that it had taken another vote and decided to support Roke becoming an academy and to work with Harris, 'albeit making clear that they did not agree with the Secretary of State's decision to force the school to become an academy when the Governing Body felt that good improvements were being made'. No reasons for this decision were given in the letter but we have been told that the whole forced academy process was seen as destabilising for Roke and the governing body felt that a smooth transition to Harris would be the least disruptive path to take. 

The fact that the governing body is now supporting the takeover and ignoring the strength of parent feeling (83% objected to Harris as sponsor), has left many feeling like absolutely no one is listening to us. The effect of being forced to play along with a fake consultation and to be sidelined by the government, Harris, Ofsted and our own governing body is deeply damaging to parental trust. Whatever happens, substantial bridge-building with the deeply committed parent campaigners at Roke will be necessary. We have been shunned for too long. We hope that the new headteacher will reach out to us and realise that we are a valuable resource that should be tapped and our concerns are worth listening to. Scars will heal but only if an 'us' and 'them' mentality is not allowed to flourish. It will take a special kind of head to reach out and repair the damage that the DfE has wrought. 

The Save Roke campaign received a reply from the DfE in response to their submission to the consultation on the future of the school. The letter states that the DfE already have heard our Ofsted result and are just waiting for the formal report. They say that they 'await confirmation of the moderated judgement but we understand that the school remains eligible for intervention under Part 4 of the Education and Inspections Act 2006.'

This means Roke definitely got either 'Requires improvement' or 'Special Measures' and there is therefore no way out of forced academy. 

The letter attributes the Ofsted verdict with the fact that key staff including our headteacher have left. They stated'...there are now a number of staff vacancies at the school which may further affect the leadership issues previously noted to be of concern by Ofsted. We understand that Ofsted carried out a full re-inspection of the school on 23-24 April 2013 and we expect part of that inspection will include consideration of any changes to the leadership and governance of the school and other staff changes.' 

The whole process appears orchestrated. Our school has made huge improvements since the damming Ofsted inspection last May. The government knows this. They waited until our headteacher left before sending Ofsted in a few days later- the mere fact that we do not have a headteacher means the school will fail on leadership criteria. We await the final report with interest but we have lost all faith in Ofsted's ability to accurately capture the schools many, many strengths. Ofsted has lost its credibility as a truly independent inspectorate. Turning up at a school when it is at its most vulnerable a few days after the head teacher has resigned shows that it is not fair minded or impartial. 

 

Save Roke Campaign have not been graced with a reply from the Labour party or shadow Education Minister, Stephen Twigg. Labour started the academies project and it was the brainchild of Labour's Andrew Andonis. The Tories took this existing policy and put 'rockets' on it. Some labourites have said that the Tories have distorted their original policy but no one in the labour party is speaking out about this. There is no official line at all. Only silence. Save Roke has been completely stonewalled by Labour. Their silence means they are complicit in the dismantling of the state education system as we know it. 

The Advertiser piece quotes a Harris spokesperson as follows " the reason for advertising the post (of Head teacher) now rather than after the consultation is that head teachers need to give notice by May 31". Save Roke campaign has been advised that the legal position is that Heads need to give notice by April 30.

This could mean one of two things - either Harris are attempting to mislead or they don't know what they're talking about.

Last week, Harris advertised for a new headteacher at Roke despite not even having their feet under the table yet and the consultation having not yet closed! An angry parent contacted Croydon Council to ask why the position of Headteacher at Roke Primary has not been listed under the local authority school vacancies and this is the response she received

'I am responding to your query regarding the Head teacher vacancy at Roke Primary School. Roke Primary School are part of our Service Level agreement and do normally advertise through us. I have spoken to my contact at Roke School and they have confirmed that from 1st September they become part of Harris Federation Academy. Therefore, it is Harris Federation that are advertising on TES website and please also see their advert on www.harrisfederation.org.uk'. 

It seems it is definitely a fait accompli and this is being questioned neither by the local authority, nor it seems now, by the school. It is a done deal. Harris appear to definitely be taking over in September. Parents have been left completely in the dark and without any form of explanation.

Roke parents have been left confused by the fact that Riddlesdown appears to be allowed to partner Attwood Primary but not to sponsor an academy at Roke. Mr Smith, Principal at Riddlesdown confirmed that he was disappointed that they will not be sponsoring Roke. They are able to partner Attwood, as they are an outstanding school who are choosing to become an academy rather than being forced. 

We can see it is a pragmatic strategy because life is becoming more and more difficult for local authority schools as the cuts begin to bite. This was part of the governments plan- soon they will be putting all the local authorities in special measures and accelerating academisation until the whole school system is in private hands. Schools are living in fear of Ofsted and are therefore jumping while they can. We predict more and more local schools will be teaming up to become academies under local umbrellas. The DfE only needs to pick on a few good schools and the rest will jump to avoid the same bullying and ending up with an unwanted academy chain foisted upon them. 

A few days after parents were informed our head teacher had left and only one working day after the consultation on the future of our school ended, Ofsted have announced they will be inspecting Roke on 23rd and 24th April. They picked a time when Roke could not have been more vulnerable. It is completely orchestrated and does not seem coincidental that Ofsted arrived the week our head teacher left. We expect that Ofsted was instructed by the DfE, although no doubt they will deny it. 

It seems to us that this is the best possible timing for the government. There will be inevitable disruption to management structure caused by our head leaving which can only work against us in an Ofsted inspection. Also, the Ofsted report will be published in plenty of time for the final handover to Harris to happen in good time for the planned September takeover.

To escape from Gove's plans for forced academy, Roke will have to achieve a rating of 'good' or above. The old 'satisfactory' rating has been scrapped and replaced with 'Requires Improvement'- which would not be good enough to lift us out of forced academisation. Ofsted have lifted the benchmark higher. We parents think the school is well run, the teaching is excellent and our children are really happy. We think Roke definitely deserves a 'good' or 'outstanding' rating but we have a sneaky feeling that Ofsted will brand us with 'Requires Improvement' or even 'special measures'- because we lack a permanent headteacher at this point in time and other key staff have left due to the disruption caused by forced academisation. We have been set up to fail. It is amazing that the school is still in such good shape considering the stress and disruption caused by this whole debacle!

 

Angry parents had not yet finished filling in their consultation forms when they learned that Harris have advertised for a new head teacher on their website and in the Time Educational Supplement (TES) magazine. Parents have absolutely no confidence that this is not already a done deal. It seems like a complete fait accompli. It invalidates the consultation for Harris to advertise jobs at Roke before the consultation closes because many parents are not bothering to fill in their consultation forms because they see it as a done deal.

Today parents were informed that we were misinformed about our headteacher being off sick and in fact she has resigned. Losing a headteacher at this stage in the proceedings is a pattern that is all too familiar from other forced academy stories around the country. This government seems hell bent on destabilising schools and making headship one of the hardest jobs in the country right now. We wish Mrs Phillips well with her future. 

This is the statement from the head Governor, Malcolm Farquharson

“We are entering a new phase in the life of Roke Primary School as we move into the formal stage of the process to become an academy.

It will be a period of rapid change, and our Headteacher, Caroline has decided that now is the right time for her to move on to face a new challenge.

Caroline has worked in Croydon schools for nearly 20 years, and joined Roke as Deputy Head in September 2001. She was appointed Headteacher at the beginning of 2009. During her time at Roke, the school was graded “outstanding” by Ofsted in November 2003 and again in March 2009. This was followed up by a further “outstanding” for IT tuition in October 2010.

After last year’s disappointing Ofsted, Caroline worked extremely hard to make the required improvements. It is a testament to her hard work and courage that she leaves Roke in a much stronger position than it was in May 2012.

The Governors are united in wishing Caroline well for the future, and thank her for all that she has contributed during her time at Roke.”

 

Parents were informed that Caroline Phillips will not be returning for the rest of the summer term. A headteacher from Croydon LA is being brought in two days per week to oversee the deputy head and assistant head who will be acting up. 

 

The results below show that neither an academy or Harris have strong support among Roke parents. Most parents would prefer to remain under Local Authority control and if the school does have to become an academy, Riddlesdown Collegiate is the most popular sponsor. 

Q1 Do you think Roke Primary should become an academy?

No  70%

Yes 18%

DK 12%

 

Q2 If the school does become an academy, who do you want as the sponsor?

Riddlesdown Collegiate 83%

Harris Federation 17% 

 

Roke parents and children dropped in on the Harris Federation headquarters in Croydon, today. We wanted to bring our message loud and clear. Please leave our school alone. We are not a failing school and we do not need a Harris academy. We hope that Harris were listening and will consider this as additional evidence of the strength of parent feeling, since they are in the middle of running a consultation about the future of our school, even though the decision seems to have already been made. Harris will no doubt pass the buck to the DfE and say it is not them that will make the final decision. However, we think that if Harris really care about children, their parents and their education, they will go elsewhere and help a school that really needs it and leave us alone. This is not about standards but about Harris carpetbagging a popular and successful school to make them look good. If their charity is really about raising standards then surely they should be taking schools that are really failing. 

Come rain or snow, Gove must go! Well, it certainly rained and then it certainly snowed. Roke parents and children braved the cold and wet and joined forces with parents from Gladstone Park School on the Gove Must Go march to the Department of Education. We were surrounded by cameras and media. Roke parents were interviewed by the BBC Politics Show which will be screened this Sunday morning. Gavin Barwell, Croydon Central MP and self declared 'Gove bag carrier' will be interviewed in the studio as the DfE representative. A Roke father was also interviewed by a north London TV station.

Roke parents and kids delivered the petition to representatives from Gove's office. The petition had over 2300 signatures and 35 pages of comments. We hope that Michael Gove was suitably impressed and worried!  

Check out the photos and videos in our gallery

Here are links to more 

http://wembleymatters.blogspot.co.uk/2013/03/parents-and-children-take-on-dfe-bullies.html

http://wembleymatters.blogspot.co.uk/2013/03/kids-defy-michael-gove.html

http://www.educationreform.co.uk/Live/index.php?Id=324

 

We were excited to watch the live debate in Westminster Hall, Houses of Parliament on forced academies. Schools like ours are finally reaching wider political awareness. The momentum in the media recently, much of it focused on Roke, surely helped get forced academies on the agenda. The debate was led by John Pugh (Lib Dem Southport). He said:

"Throughout the land, brokers are appearing in schools when the opportunity arises to hasten things on and ensure that the targets are met. They show up when a school suffers even a temporary decline in standards."

We were disappointed that Richard Ottaway, our Croydon South MP did not attend. 

Here is a summary of key speeches made by MPs

A transcript of the full debate is available on the Hansard website.

You can watch television coverage of the full debate here.  

LOBBY HARRIS! Save Roke from becoming a Harris Academy

Tuesday 19 March at 16:30

Harris Head Quarters, Norfolk House, Wellesley Road, Croydon CR0 1LH

(Very close to East Croydon rail station & Wellesley Road tram stop. Also near West Croydon rail station) Here's a map

We need as many people as possible to join us. Strength in numbers!

Bring a homemade banner or sign. Or wrap yourself in a carpet or rug! Everyone welcome!

Fundraising for the Roke Appeal via the Anti-Academies Alliance website to raise funds to pay lawyers’ charges went amazingly well. Within a day, we had already received enough donations to instruct a legal expert in academy law. Malcolm Farquharson, Chair of Governors has now issued instructions. 

The Save Roke parent group, along with school governor, Malcolm Farquharson have instructed a lawyer specialising in academy law to prepare a legal challenge to the plans of Michael Gove, the education minister, to hand their primary school over to a private academy.

The group started fundraising on Tuesday, and is working with the Anti-Academies Alliance to raise funds to pay lawyers’ charges. Within a day, they had already received over half the amount needed.

Roke campaigners believe that they may have a case in law to challenge the Secretary of State’s actions, which they believe have gone beyond his powers by referring the state primary school in Kenley to the Harris Federation when the school is not a “failing” school and also on issues surrounding the legality of the consultation process.

Roke parents joined forced with parents from other protesting schools yesterday and issued a statement yesterday in which they announced a new campaign organisation 'Parents Against Forced Academisation'. They called for an immediate public enquiry into bullying behaviour and fake consultations endemic in forced academisation of schools.

Yesterday evening, Roke parents received the first of several sham consultation meetings run by the preferred academy sponsor the Harris Federation at the school. Parents received no representation from any other party and Lord Nash has already declared the decision irreversible.

After we announced our plans for legal action on our facebook group and the Save Roke website, and after the DfE received had complaints from Roke parents about the legality of the consultation process and the fact that parents had not even been asked if they wanted to become an academy on the official consultation questionnaire, the DfE and Harris last night moved preemptively, and issued a new consultation questionnaire with the question added. This suggests that the initial consultation document was not indeed not legal, and that we had got them flustered enough to move very quickly to close this legal loophole. This demonstrates that legal process has not been followed with due diligence by the DfE or Harris.

The petition to save Roke from forced academy and the Harris Federation has been signed by over two thousand supported. This was beyond our wildest imagination when we started this campaign. It is clear we have overwhelming support from parents, educationalists, and the local and national communities. 

 

BREAKING NEWS The Save Roke campaign has just launched an appeal via the Anti Academies Alliance website to raise funds to mount a legal challenge against the Department of Education. All donations no matter how large or small gratefully received. We have an initial target of £600. To donate please go to Anti Academies website and use their PayPal button - this will take you to the Save Roke Appeal. Thank you for your support! 

This money will allow us to instruct leading lawyer, Laura Hughes to mount a case to fight off the DfE and forced academy at Roke. Laura has a reputation in the field of academy law.

Roke is at the tip of a huge iceberg yet to be revealed. Today, on the BBC news website Ofsted have just announced that they are moving their performance goalposts yet again. The floor targets are shifting upwards. Hundreds more schools are going to be caught out and forced to academy status in the next year. Thousands more good and outstanding schools will jump before they are pushed. No wonder Gove is advertising on the DfE website for academy brokers.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-21658412 and http://wembleymatters.blogspot.co.uk/2013/03/government-moves-goal-posts-to-force.html

Today Roke is featured in a hard hitting article by famous political commentator George Monbiot. He places Roke in the wider political context of rich oligarchs and businessmen who are sniffing round good schools like Roke, ready to take them over, and widely thought to be assisted by Ofsted in doing so.

Even last night before it was printed in the paper, the article attracted hundreds of comments online, including this one thanking Roke parents.

"Unbelievable. Just when you think this Government couldn't possibly get more corporate, nepotistic (sic) and just plain downright evil, up pops a story like this.Thanks for bringing this to my (and the wider readership's) attention, George. This county needs more people like you and the Roke school parents."

Roke parents are joining forces with parents at other schools and forming a movement to protest against DfE bullying tactics. Parents Against Forced Academies (PAFA) are calling for a public enquiry into the decisions made about our schools behind closed doors. 

Please help PAFA get forced academies onto the national agenda by voting for a bid to get 38 Degrees to run a campaign on this issue close to our hearts. 38 Degrees has over 100 Millions members and have managed to get the government to do several U-turns. Maybe it is our turn! They will only run a campaign when they have enough support on their website. It is easy to vote. You can vote 3 times! 

This alarming letter by Harris to parents of some 4 year old children in their reception class, just before the recent half term at Harris Phillips Lane. It was entitled 'Work harder over half term'

The 'resources' mentioned was a piece of paper with numbers 1-10 written on it.

This is shoddy teaching methods, plain and simple. Our sympathies to the parents that were told their 4 year olds were failing to make 'rapid progress, which is hindering overall progress and attainment'. Surely, such language belongs to the corporate world not a reception class! 

The stuff Roke staff send home has a much warmer tone. Kids are never singled out.

Roke or Harris? We know who we trust with the education of our children! 
This is why we have to carry on this fight. For our kids.

It is not that surprising that the Lib Dems are selling out on Forced Academies but we still expect that they might have the good grace to reply themselves to a letter about Lib Dem position on academies. Instead the response came, surprise, surprise from Maria Whiting of the DfE. She seems to have taken it upon herself to reply on behalf of everybody, including Ofsted!? Now we know that the Tories and Lib Dems are not independent, but Ofsted and the DfE? Clearly they are not either! All four seem to be in cahoots and intent on wrecking our educational system. 

It seems that having Maria Whiting fielding everybody's correspondence means that they can all stay 'on message' and fail to actually answer any of the questions put to them. 

Tonight Roke parents came together to discuss the fight against Harris takeover of our school. We received excellent presentations from Roke parent Nigel-Geary Andrews and Sara Tomlinson of Anti Academies Alliance. We also watched the highly informative Academies and Lies film by Rhonda Evans. A vote showed that well over 90% were against an academy at Roke and were against Harris as sponsor. There was clearly strong feeling among parents and people were asking what could be done by way of a legal challenge. Rhonda described how schools in a similar situation to Roke had managed to get the decision made by the DfE reversed and Sara spoke about how the NUT could help us with raising funds. 

For those of you that could not make the meeting here is a PDF of the slides, including some useful information about the lack of evidence that results would be better under Harris.

The Green Party has passed the following motion in support of schools like ours. 

Conference recognises that Michael Gove has recently escalated his policy of forcing primary schools to become academies so that now only one poor Ofsted report is required to trigger such a move. This has currently resulted in several strong parent-led campaigns in defence of community schools.

The Green Party believes forced academisation:

Undermines the role of local authorities and school governing bodies in school improvement

Undermines local democratic accountability of schools

Ignores the wishes of major stakeholders including governors and parents

Hands over local assets to an external provider without recompense

Opens the school to eventually being run on a profit-making basis

Conference therefore instructs the GPEX campaigns coordinator to facilitate a campaign against this policy at national level over the next 6 months and calls on local parties to take up the issue where appropriate.

It is strange how all the important letters are being sent the day before or during half term. The Harris Federation, Gove's henchman: Lord John Nash, the Department of Education, Boris Johnson. They are all at it!

The DfE waited till the last day of the Christmas term to send their decision letter about Riddlesdown to our school Governors, despite the letter being dated earlier in December! 

These are sneaky tactics designed to catch us out. It gives us no faith that they are really on the side of parents and schools.

Today we received a disheartening letter from Lord John Nash, via our MP, Richard Ottaway. Who is he? He is the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Schools and very close to Michael Gove. 

  • He is a businessman, venture capitalist and yet another Conservative party donor to the tune of over £300,000
  • He is the founder of the education charity Future, which sponsors academy schools.
  • His position as a minister is controversial. He appears to be unelected. After his appointment, a row erupted in the press about a former Tory donor and education charity founder being the new education minister. It was widely seen as a 'job for the boys'. 
  • He was quickly made a Lord so he could take up his post and influence education policy in the House of Lords. 

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2013/01/10/john-nash-education-minister_n_2450363.html

http://blogs.spectator.co.uk/coffeehouse/2013/01/exclusive-john-nash-is-the-new-schools-minister/

Given his background the content of his letter was entirely predictable. As a former barrister, Lord Nash is able to smoothly gloss over the facts in a plausible way. However, it still surprised us that he seems not to know the definition of 'consultation', even though this is a legal requirement before any school can open as an academy. Or perhaps the law is so deceptively written and shoddy, that their definition of consultation is different to everyone else? What he describes in his letter, is a consultation after a decision has been made. Surely this should be termed a 'deliverance' or 'presentation'.

Lord Nash's "consultation" will simply involve Harris telling parents how good they are. Our views will carry no weight, because the decision has already been made. It is an indefensible waste of taxpayers money at a time when the academies budget is overspent by £1 billion. 

Information relating to this campaign is coming so thick and fast, we can hardly keep up. Let's pause for a minute and try to simplify the whole picture into a couple of sentences.

When you consider the situation as a whole it is clear that: the academy issue was kept secret with threats for months, the consultation is being organised by the party which stands to gain, and the government are refusing to explain their decision making. It is very poor public policy, quite possibly corrupt and the opposite of how a democracy should operate.

A Roke parent made a Freedom of Information request to the DfE and today received a reply. Interestingly, Micheal Gove and his department refused to answer the following questions about how the Harris Federation was selected as preferred sponsor instead of any other sponsor. 

Please could you provide the names of those persons? (considered to be academy sponsor at Roke) 

What factors led the Secretary of State to decide that Harris Federation, rather than any other person, was the best person to operate the academy at Roke Primary School?

Please could you provide copies and records of all written and verbal correspondence concerning all aspects of the proposed academy status of Roke Primary School between the Department for Education, and all persons considered as potential operators of the academy at the current Roke Primary School.

The DfE used their powers to withhold information from us. They stated that disclosing the information we requested: 

  • 'would inhibit the free and frank provision of advice' and 'exchange of views'
  • 'would otherwise prejudice ...effective conduct of public affairs'
  • 'inhibit 'Ministers and officials from discussing issues and options due to fear that information about them might be disclosed at a later stage. '

Therefore...'The balance of the public interest test comes down in favour of retention of the information...'

We beg to differ. In fact, we think that being open and honest about the information would actually be in the public interest. It would help a free and frank exchange of views, allow democratic decisions about public affairs to be made and hold politicians accountable for their actions. By withholding this information the DfE is showing itself to lack transparency and accountability. This goes against the government's own Standards for Public LifeIt's truly shocking. 

The Department of Education under Michael Gove has been warned by the Information Commissioner for dragging its heels in responding to Freedom of Information requests. It is one of the worse offenders among public organisations. Yet more evidence of 'dark arts' at the DfE. 

We only need 30 more signatures on our petition to reach 500. It is a really important way to show the level of opposition. Please help us to spread the word. Share it far and wide. Tweet it, email it, share it on facebook. Don't forget to read the interesting comments! 

 

Many of us were very wary about coming out and supporting the campaign at the beginning. We were worried about the consequences for our children if Harris does take over the school in September. It took a lot of courage to come out and be supported as being against academy and the Harris Federation takeover. However, perhaps our early fears were overblown. We have been in touch with parents at other schools who campaigned very hard against Harris takeovers and lost. None of them were treated badly by Harris afterwards. In fact, at one Harris Primary school, the opposite was true, parents felt that the Harris management were more attentive because they knew those parents were onto them and clued up.

We hope that more parents will feel able to come forward and support the Save Roke campaign and that they will feel able to contribute to the forum on this website and our facebook group. If you support us please do let us know. 

 

If you would like to help the campaign by writing to politicians or newspapers but are stuck on what to write. There are some pointers here. We do need as many people to write as possible. Please don't just assume everyone else is doing it. If you get an interesting reply, please don't forget to send it to us to put on the website. We can make these totally anonymous, by removing your name etc. 

Mr Smith confirmed today that Riddlesdown has not even been informed about the consultation at Roke, let alone invited to be involved or to present to parents. This confirms our fears that the Harris consultation is a sham and is not actually a consultation at all but will simply be a presentation exercise. 

Mr Smith is sadly unable to attend our meeting on 26th, as he has a prior engagement but he will be sending a statement from Riddlesdown to be read out. 

We have the full support of Steven Hollands, Conservative councillor for Kenley and also Richard Ottaway MP. Even local Conservatives are critical of the bullying way the Department of Education has handled forced academy at Roke. 

Steven Hollands wrote: "I do think the school, parents and for that matter the LEA have been treated unfairly by the DfE.I can't argue against the case that standards needed to rise at Roke as our own LEA was advising the same thing, although as you state, they had improved. However, the issues that needed to be resolved didn't require a transfer to an academy whether that was Harris or Riddlesdown."

In another email he wrote:

“The DfE haven’t taken any notice of the views of the LEA, Riddlesdown or Roke when the Secretary of State made the decision with regard to Harris. The work undertaken to improve the school by the LEA, Roke leadership team and Riddlesdown appears to have been ignored.

“From a local democracy perspective the [Secretary of State] has not acted in an open and transparent way and has not given the reasons for his view.”

 "...the way in which the DfE has undertaken the transfer and the lack of consultation with everyone from parents to the LEA is woeful."

“Roke has a long and largely successful history that has ‘turned out’ a lot of really good students. This isn’t the way in which the school should have ended it’s current existence.”

Here is a related article http://insidecroydon.com/2013/02/21/tory-councillor-says-goves-academy-conduct-is-woeful/

The DfE are allowing the Harris Federation to run the consultation at Roke despite being the party with the most to gain! They have appointed Callidas Consulting to coordinate the process. We do not have confidence in Callidas to deliver a neutral, transparent and fair consultation. There is information on the letters page giving the employment record of Mr Leggett who runs Callidas. His background shows very close involvement with academisation and a pro academy bias. We would have greater confidence in a more established consultancy with a proven track record of neutrality and independence, with no vested interests in the acacdemy conversion process. We will leave you to draw your own conclusions about their impartiality.

Andrew Pelling, Radio Croydon presenter tweeted:

Spokesperson frm@SaveRoke compares Roke to Hayes intake & performance. Says Value added at Roke is actually higher than Hayes #Croydon@CroydonRadio

Gavin Barwell MP describes his role as 'bag carrying role' to @SaveRoke campaigners! Says he lacks influence #Croydon

Today, the last day of term, Roke parents received the Harris consultation information in their children's bookbags. By contrast, the parents campaigns was unable to use the book bag system to distribute their information and had to stand outside the school gates in the freezing cold giving our handouts by hand. Unfortunately, this meant we missed many parents. It does not seem very fair. This is because our staff have been so badly bullied that their fear for their jobs if they are seen to act against the Harris Federation in any way. This is actually how regimes work. They bully, coerce and instil fear. It is very worrying that this is being played out in our lovely school because of how the Government has treated us. 

You can find a copy of the Harris letter and download the consultation documents here. It is interesting that DfE and Harris seem to make a habit of sending the most important information on the last day of term! This is presumably a tactic to stop effective opposition. 

We are extremely concerned about the way in which the consultation about our school's future is being run. It is being conducted solely by the Harris Federation. None of the other stakeholders are getting any say in how the consultation is run. This includes: Our preferred sponsor, Riddlesdown Collegiate, Roke governors, staff, parents and the wider community in Kenley. Surely a proper and fair consultation should be run by a completely neutral party. This should not be the Government's preferred sponsor or a business of their chosing. The current government policy is simply to ask the preferred sponsor to run the consultation in any way that they see fit. This is a way of making sure that it is a done deal and they can simply drive through the academy. We have absolutely no voice! This is not democracy.

The consultation, with Harris at its helm, is hardly transparent or neutral, since they stand to gain millions of pounds worth of public property and assets by taking on Roke Primary. There is no glossy brochure from alternative sponsors, including Riddlesdown. There are no resources given to allow them to do this. There are no timetabled meetings with Riddlesdown. Only with Harris. There are no questions on the questionnaire allowing us to evaluate Riddlesdown, like we are being asked to comment on Harris. This is completely one-sided. It is NOT a fair, balanced and impartial consultation.

The consultation is effectively, a sham consultation and a huge waste of taxpayers money. We will seek to find out the cost. Similar consultations are other schools have cost around £40,000. This is a huge amount to spend if a decision has already in the Government's mind, been taken.  

We need to shout about this as loud as we can. We can't stand by and let them walk all over us and our children's school. Please write to the DfE, our MP Richard Ottaway, our local counsellor, Steve Hollands and all the opposition parties to complain about the ludicrously unfair consultation process. Please write letters to the press and comment on online articles. Please get tweeting and spread our petition far and wide. We need action to win this! 

We have been informed that Harris engineers were surveying Roke school site today. They were undertaking a technical audit of computers, white boards and electrical capacity.

It seems that the Government and Harris are treating the result of the consultation as a foregone conclusion. If so, then this simply adds weight to the view that the consultation is a sham exercise and a waste of taxpayers money. We must fight to gain public awareness of this. It is essentially corruption.  

In The Independent today, there is a report about a leaked memo showing that the Conservative party plan to make all academies run for profit. This confirms our fear that forced academies are all about money.

The article says that the government will not be able to afford to run academies within 2 years (They have overspent on the academy budget by £1 Billion), so they plan to allow the sponsoring organisations to simply run them for profit. It also says that individual academies or sponsors, which are not part of academy chains are more expensive to run. Academy chains provide the infrastructure needed for future privatisation. This is the real reasons the Roke governors' request for Riddlesdown as our sponsor was ignored. It is not able parental choice or educational standards. It is about money and private business. 

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/education/education-news/secret-memo-shows-michael-goves-plan-for-privatisation-of-academies-8488552.html

 

Parents received news of the outcome of last week's Ofsted visit. The Ofsted monitoring letter can be read here.  Inspectors found the school to have made satisfactory progress in addressing the issues for improvement and raising pupils' achievement. This rating was one of 4 possible 'inadequate', 'satisfactory', 'good' or 'outstanding'.

We are very pleased that Ofsted agrees with parent feeling that the school has turned around rapidly and made substantial improvements. We are disappointed that there is no justification in the letter for not giving the school a higher rating, since this would be a more accurate reflection of parents' perception that the school has made, thanks to the staff, governors and Riddlesdown Collegiate, excellent progress in a short space of time.

On further scrutiny it becomes clear that Roke actually achieved the highest possible rating given the time frame between inspections. The report states that, 'It is too early to measure the impact of some new initiatives'. To achieve a rating of 'good' or above the school would to show that the improvements made had been embedded and sustained over a longer period of time, than this inspection allows. We should therefore be very proud of our satisfactory rating. 

This rating means that another full Ofsted inspection will not be immediately triggered. Instead, it can be expected that Ofsted will return for a full inspection within 12-16 months after our Notice to Improve was given in May 2012.

Our satisfactory rating further undermines the case for an academy, especially a forced conversion to Harris. The Riddlesdown partnership is clearly working. 

Our local Conservative MP, Richard Ottaway spoke to the Croydon Advertiser about the Department of Education’s decision that we should become a Harris academy. He revealed that in October the DfE told Riddlesdown Collegiate that it was almost certain to be approved to take Roke on, instead of Harris, but this has since “mysteriously” changed.

Richard Ottaway called for Riddlesdown to be the organisation to continue working with Roke and said he would be writing to Mr Gove, at the DfE to seek “further clarification” on this issue.

Roke parents took to twitter today and sent Boris Johnson a stream of questions about Roke Primary. It was a completely new experience for many of us but he certainly will be aware of our Save Roke campaign now! Boris holds regular Q&A sessions on twitter. He should already be familiar with Roke school since he posed for photos with some of us during his mayoral election campaign. Also, it is rumoured he has ambitions to replace Croydon South MP, Richard Ottaway when he retires, giving him a route to becoming MP and then possibly Prime Minister.

Boris completely ignored our questions today and most of them did not even appear on his twitterfeed.

Parents have no right to reply from Department of Education, Ofsted and now ...Mayor of London, Boris Johnson.

Let's try emailing him instead mayor@london.gov.uk

We do not yet know the outcome of yesterday's Ofsted monitoring visitParents received a letter from our headteacher today but there is some confusion and concern about what it means.

Here is a summary of information about monitoring visits taken from the Ofsted website.  

n  The visit was purely to check how much Roke has improved and how well the school has addressed the concerns raised by the last full Ofsted inspection in May 2012. 

The letter does not tell us anything more than we know now. We do not yet know what Ofsted think about the school’s improvement.

It just informs us that the monitoring visit cannot change our 'Notice to Improve' status. This is because that requires another full Ofsted inspection, which is much more detailed. 

A monitoring visit is different from an inspection. It lasts only one day and at the end, the school received brief oral feedback. This is followed by a formal letter, which is shared with parents. 

The Ofsted letter (note that it is much less detailed than a full report) will cover the progress made in tackling the areas for improvement identified at the May 2012 inspection, and include an overall judgement on the progress made.

They will rate overall progress in two main areas

1)   Dealing with the areas for improvement      2) Improving outcomes for pupils.

The ratings will be on a 4-point scale 1 outstanding; 2 good; 3 satisfactory; 4 inadequate. 

Ofsted will also make a judgement on the support provided by Croydon local authority.

They must tell the school if progress is judged to be inadequate and at risk of being put in ‘Special Measures’ at the next inspection. They must tell us if they have serious concerns which may affect the timing of the next inspection (ie. sooner than later). This would be a surprise visit. They won’t tell the school when to expect the them back again. The school would have to undergo a further full inspection before it can be formally put in ‘special measures’.

Once the letter from Ofsted is received, the school has 24 hours to check it and report any factual inaccuracies.

The letter will be sent to:

- Headteacher

- Secretary of State for Education

- Chair of Governors

- Local authority

 

Ofsted HMI inspectors arrive at Roke early this morning after negative publicity about lack of opportunity to show impressive improvements since last dismal Ofsted report in May 2012.

Save Roke Campaign released press release welcoming the visit. Parents are feeling confident that Ofsted will recognise the changes that we have all detected on the ground, and in turn the Department of Education will recognise that we are NOT a failing school.

http://saveroke.co.uk/index.php/press-releases/10-ofsted-shotgun-visit-following-academy-takeover-scandal-at-roke-primary