Gladstone Park Primary School in Brent (North-west London) is being strong-armed into becoming an academy within weeks of receiving an ‘Inadequate’ Ofsted grade. This is despite inspectors recognising many areas of strength and a solid performance in the league tables. Staff and parents were told in January that the school, which had had its previously ‘good with outstanding elements’ performance sustained by Ofsted in 2011, will be fast-tracked for academy conversion.
A letter from the DfE’s ‘Brokerage and School Underperformance Division’, dated 24 January, informed School Governors that an academy sponsor would be put forward by 11 February. Consultation will only take place after the deal with the Department’s nominated sponsor is secured.
Tactics employed by the consultant contractor working for the DfE include a forced withholding of the sponsor decision for five weeks, during which pressure was brought to bear on the school governors to convert; extremely short deadlines being imposed and a refusal to consider any involvement by the Governors or the school on potential sponsors. Parents, of course, have not been consulted.
Parents, carers and staff at the school in Dollis Hill have launched a campaign against what they perceive to be a politically-driven, disproportionate and undemocratic rush to academy conversion. They argue that the school had already identified the areas of weakness referred to in the Ofsted report and was already addressing them (a point Ofsted also mentioned in their report), and that it is important for the school community to have final say on its future governance.
The ‘Save Gladstone Park School’ campaign is making links with other well-performing schools that are being forced down the same route, like Roke Primary in Croydon.
Parents believe popular schools like these are being deliberately targeted for academy conversion, as they are likely to improve in the medium-term, whatever their governance structures, and thus prove the government’s ‘Academies are better’ ideology correct.
Gladstone Park is a large, thriving school in one of the country’s most multi-ethnic boroughs. The main body of pupils at Gladstone Park enters the school well below the national average for numeracy and literacy, with many pupils having English as an additional language. The school has shown that pupils make good progress across the early years (Nursery and Reception). It has SAT results above the national average, and twice the national average at level 6, so pupils leave well prepared for secondary school.
The NAO has already stated that disadvantaged children do less well at Academies which is an issue for most inner-city schools.
Parents and staff at Gladstone Park Primary all want school improvement. But ownership of this process must rest with the school and its local community. We will not let it be dictated to us, top-down by faceless bureaucrats.
Save Gladstone Park School !