Deptford says no to Tidemill becoming an academy

Public Meeting:The Future of Tidemill, The Albany, 24th Feb 2011:Statement

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The aim of this meeting is to have an open dialogue between parents and members of the community where we can look at some of the decisions taken by the school and to discuss the ways in which information has been presented to parents with regard to the academy application and its subsequent withdrawal. The school has not yet indicated whether it will be re-applying for academy status, it has simply said that it has convened a small group of governors to look into the implications of any further application. We feel that given the importance of the issue and the long lasting and irreversible change academy status entails, open and transparent dialogue is essential to fully consider all of the implications.

The school appears to have been lacking in taking an even handed approach to the issue.

The communication released has been wholly supportive of the application with little consideration given to some of the pitfalls and problems.

On the 21st of January 2011 a letter from Mark Elms and Keith Geary indicated to parents that the school would be withdrawing from it’s application to become an academy.

A further letter was sent to parents on the 18th of February 2011 saying that the issue would be considered afresh in a governors meeting scheduled for the 10th of March.

The school has said that there is a ‘legal challenge’ to its application and that they will be considering the implications of that challenge.

The school has so far released no information as to the content of the legal challenge.

The legal challenge in fact consists of a letter sent by solicitors acting on behalf of Leila Galloway. The letter was sent to the school on the 17th of December 2010.

The letter listed various points concerning the schools presentation of its argument for academy status.  These points included the financial figures presented by the school, the schools failure to comply with its public sector equality duties (the school failed to complete an Equality Impact Assessment, which is a legal binding requirement of every public body proposing significant change to its structure) , the school put undue pressure on parents during feedback meetings to sign in favour of the proposal.

The school’s presentation of the supposed financial benefits of becoming an academy have been directly contradicted by Lewisham Council. Although an academy is not bound to buy in its services from the LEA and may propose shopping elsewhere, Frankie Sulke- the executive director for children and young people has given a breakdown of costs of services currently supplied to the school by the council as follows;

Behavior support                         20,000

Education Welfare Services      15,000

Licenses                                          2,000

Maternity cover                          15,000

Music services                              4,000

Outdoor Education                     4,000

School improvement

(Professional development)     45,000

Special Education                      40,000

Total                                      £145,000

The above figures represent the cost of those services or equivalent services that correspond to the services outlined in the chair of governors letter below.

“provision for pupils with SEN, behaviour support services, free school meals eligibility, school admissions, licences, subscriptions, miscellaneous, staff costs-supply cover, termination of employment, school development grant-non devolved, other standards fund grants, pupil support, education welfare school improvement, asset management, music services, monitoring national curriculum assessment, outdoor education, statutory/regulatory duties, premature retirement/redundancy’’  (Letter from Keith Geary, chair of governors to Leila Galloway, 30th Nov 2010)

Clearly £145,000 is more than double the £60,000 suggested by Keith Geary.

The following figures represent those services that the school has omitted from its calculation-

Education Psychologists                                     5,000

Pension obligations                                              4,000

Preparation of company accounts audit        12,000

Occupational health                                             3,000

Total                                                                   179,000

Final element of calculation was an assessment of various Administrative charges would be estimated at £50k

Total sum is £229k but this may change.

This mismatching of figures and the seeming unwillingness or inability to consult the council as to the true cost of those services the council supplies to the school and which the school would need to provide itself should it become an academy surely calls into question the competence of the schools senior management team.

It is also a serious concern that the senior management team would seem to have been ignorant of its legal, public sector equality duties in failing to submit an Equality Impact Assessment with its’ academy application.

There also seems to be a great deal of confusion over the implications for the additionalcosts passed onto the school, should it become an academy, with respect to the Deptford Lounge development. Currently the council is advertising the new school as

an integrated project -“integration with the Deptford Lounge, a community school: shared facilities and an extensive programmed of evening, weekend and holiday events’’

To use a quote from the World Arcitecture News this month:-

Tidemill Primary School in the London Borough of Lewisham is the result of a visionary concept to increase the space and resources available to new schools by sharing their facilities with the wider community, and demonstrates how innovative thinking can make public spending go further in difficult times. Tidemill School will benefit from combining resources with the Deptford Lounge – a new state-of-the-art district library which will provide a whole range of community facilities.

Should the school become an academy there would be significant changes to the legal ownership of the school, its maintenance, insurance and participation within the Deptford Lounge development. This would surely come at a significant financial and social cost.

The campaign against the schools application to become an academy would like to point out that it is fully supportive of all the fantastic achievements made by the school, it recognises that the school is outstanding and has provided a caring, nurturing and wholly progressive environment for pupils over the last few years and only seeks to further enhance and protect the progress of a happy and successful local authority maintained school.

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