Last week, parents of children at Clarendon Road Primary School in Eccles were handed a letter from Head, Ros Munro, stating that the school "will become a sponsored academy; this is the usual practice for a school in an Ofsted category of Special Measures under government legislation".
The school was judged `inadequate' by Ofsted inspectors last September – a move heavily criticised by School Governors and trade unions, as most Year 5 and 6 pupils and their teachers were on a school trip during the inspectors visit.
Salford Council's response to the verdict, asking the Government to impose an Interim Executive Board (IEB) made up of accountants and human resources people rather than great teachers or heads, was also slammed in an unprecedented press release by Governors…
"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" (see previous Salford Star article – click here)
The result of the mess is that Michael Gove's Department for Education is now forcing Clarendon Road Primary to become an academy – a move blamed partially on Salford Council by Judith Elderkin from the Salford branch of National Union of Teachers…
"By Salford Council applying to the Government for the IEB it has highlighted that the school has gone into special measurers, so hastening the academy process" she says "The focus must be on getting the school out of special measures and it was coming along nicely. There was no need for the Government to do anything but we've now got a ridiculous situation of it being forced into academy status. The school needs structural change like a hole in the head."
Waiting in the wings of the forced academy structural change is Salford Council's own partnership academy vehicle, the Salford Academy Trust, led by Salford City College, which stands to gain over £350,000 from its `leadership'*.
In the letter to parents, Clarendon's Head stated that "The first step in this process towards academy status is for the Interim Executive Board to decide on what it would want for the school from a sponsor"... except that two members of the Interim Executive Board are actually from Salford Council which has a Salford Academy Trust agenda, as the best possible option in the wicked world of school sponsors.
There will be a consultation with parents and staff at Clarendon on the school's future, although a date hasn't been set for its start. Many parents, teachers unions and public sector union, Salford City UNISON, are opposed to all academies in principal, as, primarily, they take the school out of local authority control, which means they are virtually unaccountable.
"There are many concerns" says UNISON's Assistant Branch Secretary, Diane Ogg "Schools that are targeted are not always `under performing'; parents and staff feel disenfranchised by the process, the consultation is often a sham and there's no evidence that forcing academy status on a school will improve it.
"We are also concerned that another agenda lies behind forced academies" she adds "We believe it is about handing schools over to 'edu-businesses' in order to privatise the school system."
On the Clarendon Primary School website there's still a letter to parents from Lynn Cullimore, Chair of the Governors, from January this year (see here)
"From this point on, I am no longer Chair of Governors but I remain a concerned parent, particularly because there is now no parental involvement in the governance of our School" she writes "If I feel that the IEB is keeping me sufficiently informed, and that their plans are the best way forward to help my child and our School, then they shall have my support. If not, however, I shall be speaking up…"
* There's going to be a public meeting for Clarendon Road Primary School parents and staff on 22nd May 6pm Eccles Liberal Club
* 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.
For more details on forced academies see www.antiacademies.org.uk