In September, right at the start of the school year, Ofsted inspectors, after a day and a half visit to Clarendon Road Community Primary School in Eccles, was judged to be `inadequate' and put into special measures (see Ofsted Report here).
Now, Governors at the school have issued a long press release criticising both the Report, the media coverage surrounding the Report and Salford Council's hob-nailed boot response to the Report – claiming that the "Council is imposing its own agenda on the School to cover up its previous lack of action and involvement".
Ofsted inspectors came to the school while most Year 5 and Year 6 pupils and their teachers weren't even there, as they were at Lledr Hall on an outdoor activity week – "The Report therefore cannot have produced an accurate picture of the School."
Meanwhile, the Governors criticise Salford Advertiser coverage which claimed the Ofsted Report "stated that pupil behaviour was bad" and "highlighted our pupils' low achievement". Both allegations were "untrue"…
"The Report identified some low level disruption to classes at the beginning of the day, and that is all. All other comments about pupil behaviour were good, or neutral… Our School has consistently achieved higher than the floor targets set by the DfE, despite an influx of pupils throughout the school from outside the UK in the past few years."
The Governors add that the School's own improvement plan had noted the `perceived serious weaknesses' highlighted by Ofsted but the Council's own performance monitoring and improvement service, which Clarendon Road Primary pays for, hadn't picked them up. Nor had the Council ensured that it was represented properly on the School's governing body…
"Our governing body has had at least two and sometimes three posts vacant for Local Authority governors for many years" the release states "If Salford Council had been more attentive in ensuring that school governing bodies have a full complement of active and competent governors then the Ofsted report's verdict on school leadership may have looked very different. We fear that we are not the only school in Salford which may suffer in this way in the near future."
At Clarendon, a new interim Head had been appointed and an action plan put in place but the Council still applied for an Interim Executive Board (IEB) to be imposed by the Government, which replaces the current Governing Body and effectively dictates the direction of the School. Understandably, the School Governors are furious…
"The Governing Body had asked for a meeting with Assistant Mayor Merry to discuss our response to the Ofsted report and our plans to move forward, but no meeting was forthcoming" they state "The lack of support by Salford Council and its lack of interest in working with governors is clear from the fact that they set in motion the application for an IEB before they had even seen the governing body's action plan, and made no effort to share their own plans with the governors.
"When a school is put in special measures, it is normal to give the school a few weeks to draw up an action plan which is then scrutinised by Ofsted at a further short inspection to determine if the plans are fit for purpose and will achieve rapid results" they add "Salford Council did not wait for the results of this first inspection before applying to remove the current governing body."
Teaching union representative, Judith Elderkin of Salford NUT., underlines the sentiment, criticising the "heavy hand of Salford City Council, John Merry and Nick Page"…
"When Salford Childrens Services failed its Ofsted inspection and was found to be failing in their safeguarding provision, even the Government didn't impose a takeover, but allowed the Council to make improvements" she says "It is a pity that Salford has acted with such haste, before even the recent HMI report has been received, and does need to delay its imposition of an IEB until the publication has been considered."
Strangely, the Council's make up of that Board consists, not of great teachers and heads, but accountants and Human Resources people…
Debbie Fulton – "currently employed as senior school's accountant by the LA. Debbie has a well developed understanding of the role of governor and of budget management in schools."
Laura Coluccio – "currently employed as school's HR consultant by the LA. Laura has a thorough understanding of what constitutes effective primary school management and is an experienced HR officer."
Mel Hemming – "Experienced Ofsted inspector since 2000. Mel is Section 8 trained and has experience of working with schools in special measures. He is a practicing Ofsted inspector who also has experience of school improvement work in another local authority."
With this lot of Salford Council appointees on board, when the Government's Department for Education says that Clarendon Road must become an academy, the school will inevitably join the Council's own chain of academies, the Salford Academy Trust*
"The Governors wanted to keep options open for as long as possible so that we could gather as much information as possible and choose the outcome that was most suitable for our School" says Parent Governor, Lynn Cullimore "We'd said as much to a representative of the Council who addressed one of our meetings. We may well have decided to go with Salford Academy Trust at the end of the process, but I think our determination to weigh up all the options rather than submit straight away led to the Council putting in the request for an IEB."
Meanwhile, the Governors' press release ends with some telling comments…
"Far from not shirking its responsibilities, we feel that the Council is imposing its own agenda on the School to cover up its previous lack of action and involvement, and in doing so has alienated an entire group of community volunteers whose only focus is on trying to improve our School for local children…"
Salford Council – nought out of ten for diplomacy. And ten out of ten for passing the buck, donning the hob-nailed boots and pissing everyone off…
• The Salford Academy Trust is led by Salford City College in conjunction with the University of Salford and Salford City Council, and currently runs Marlborough Road and Dukesgate primary schools and Albion High.
• Research by the National Union of Teachers shows that "For each forcibly converted primary school that they agree to sponsor, colleges stand to receive up to £355,000".
* See also Irlam and Cadishead College Will Not Become An Academy - click here