Colmore Schools will not become academies

Parents have received a letter dated 13th June confirming that the decision of the Colmore Schools is not to proceed with conversion to academy status.

The letter from the Chair of Governor states:  ‘We are not convinced that at this juncture the potential benefits of conversion outweigh the potential disadvantages’.

Letter from COG 130614

 

We welcome this decision and the consultation which preceded it, and would like to conclude our campaign by sharing the following messages:

To Colmore Schools: Thank you for listening to parents and for consulting. The public meeting you held was an important part of this process, and it was conducted in a positive and balanced manner. We hope the schools continue to flourish as local community schools.

To Birmingham City Council: Many parents have said they valued the involvement of the local authority and didn’t want the schools to ‘break away’. We hope you will do all you can to support and promote locally accountable state education. If schools propose becoming academies, we hope you will ensure they hold a full and open consultation.

To parents at other Birmingham schools: If your school proposes converting to an academy, or is forced to by the government, remember you have a right to be consulted and that academisation is not inevitable. You have the right to be informed about why academy conversion is being proposed and what the consequences will be for you, for your children and for the staff at your school.

To Barry Henley, Mike Leddy and Eva Phillips, Brandwood Councillors: At the recent public meeting, one of the reasons giving by parents for wanting to remain within the local authority was because it gives parents an element of  local accountability. Parents in local authority schools can approach their councillors with concerns, whereas in academies those concerns would have to be raised with the Department for Education in London.

However, when we approached you as a group of concerned local parents, you chose not to meet with us and told us you either couldn’t or wouldn’t help. We believe that as our elected representatives you should have been willing to hear our concerns and that you should have played an active role in the consultation process by seeking to obtain the views of parents and the community.

To Steve McCabe, MP for Birmingham Selly Oak: We hope you have noted the deep concerns many parents now feel about the academy programme and that you will fully support the right of  parents to be properly consulted in proposed academy conversions.

As a member of Labour’s education team, we hope you will work to rebuild a system of locally accountable state education, with local authorities being given the resources to properly support schools and the power to open new schools where there is a need for places.

And finally, to Michael Gove: You talk of giving schools greater freedom, but the reality is academies come under your direct control, they stop being locally accountable and parents lose their previous legal rights. You have bullied and bribed schools to go down the academy path, often against the wishes of parents, teachers and governors. Your actions have been undemocratic and driven by ideology.

You have created a fragmented education system in which collaboration has been replaced by unaccountable chains of academies which compete with each other and show little concern for the rights of either parents or staff.  This is not a system that we can trust to protect the education of all our children – and it is a system that parents at Colmore have rejected.

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Colmore Schools listen to parents

Colmore Schools held their public meeting on the question of academy conversion on Wednesday 21st May. It was pleasing to see the Jubilee Court building full of staff and parents, showing a real interest in the future of their schools.

The governors made a statement at the start of the evening indicating their current thinking was that the academy conversion should not proceed, but that this will need to be confirmed at a meeting of the governing body on 17th June.

Kelvin Peel from the National College for Teaching and Leadership explained the potential benefits of academy conversion, centering on the greater freedoms for school leaderships.

Sarah Barton from Birmingham Campaign for State Education argued that these greater freedoms made academy schools less accountable and were detrimental to the education system.

There followed a question and answer session which saw discussion of a number of key issues, including the potential impact on staff, parental accountability, the curriculum and financial risk.

A show of hands was held at the end of the meeting. In the end, no hands were raised in support of academy conversion. The clear feeling of the parents at this meeting was that they did not believe academy conversion was the right thing for Colmore Schools. There was also a strong feeling that after a difficult process everyone involved needed to come together to take the schools forward.

We’d like to thank Colmore Schools for holding such a well organised public meeting and for listening to parents. We await a final decision when governors meet on 17th June.

Colmore Schools Public Meeting

Are you, have you ever been, or do you intend to be, a Colmore parent?

If so, you should try to attend a really important meeting about the future of the Colmore Schools, which could become academies in the very near future.

It’s taking place on Wednesday 21st May at 7.15pm in the Jubilee Court building at Colmore Junior School.

It’s a meeting that many parents have been asking for because it gives you the chance to hear both sides of the debate, to ask questions and to raise your concerns:

  • Why is the school proposing  to become an academy?
  • Why do some parents believe Colmore should stay as it is?
  • What are the advantages of becoming an academy?
  • What are the risks for the school?
  • How will it affect my child’s education?
  • How will it affect us as parents?

Please come along this Wednesday.

Colmore Schools Consultation Document

We are pleased that Colmore Schools have published a consultation document on academy conversion.

This was one of the aims of this group, as was the holding of a public meeting which will now take place on Wednesday 21st May at 7.15pm in the Jubilee Court building

We have reproduced the document summary below. It contains a useful summary of the changes that would result from academy conversion. These changes would alter the nature of the Colmore Schools making them far more business orientated. We urge all parents and interested members of the community to respond to this consultation. Responses should  be emailed before 7th June to governors@colmorej.co.uk or governors@colmore-inf.co.uk 

UPDATE: Following a week of confusion as to whether the Colmore Schools would issue the consultation summary to all parents, we are pleased to report that this step was finally taken today (Monday 19th May). Parents can now study the changes that would result from academy conversion and decide if they believe becoming an academy is the right way forward for Colmore.

UPDATE 2: Unfortunately, the summary issued to parents yesterday was not the correct version. The ‘official’ summary is the one we have reproduced here:

Colmore Exec Summ Page 1Colmore Exec Summ Page 2Colmore Exec Summ Page 3

 

 

Becoming an academy risks Colmore’s good reputation

It’s hard to find much good publicity for academies at the moment. While many schools initially chose to become academies because there were financial incentives on offer, these have now all but disappeared.

Instead a school converting today faces becoming associated with what is fast becoming an unpopular and scandal-ridden brand.  A recent poll of parents found that 71% believed ‘academies and free schools would not improve educational standards’.

Should Colmore go ahead with conversion, it faces risking its long-standing reputation as an excellent community school. It’s a risk many parents would say isn’t worth taking.

Most parents believe Michael Gove’s school reforms will risk their children’s education

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We want Colmore parents to be properly informed and listened to

The Colmore Schools working party, made up of governors and parents, met on 08/04/14 and on 01/05/14  to discuss the document the schools are planning to publish about academy conversion.

We believe this document should:

  1. Explain why such a big change in Colmore’s governance is being proposed at this time.
  2. Provide proper detail about the financial, educational and legal implications of such a move.
  3. Provide a balanced analysis of the pros and cons of conversion.

It is vital that Colmore Schools properly assess the ongoing risks and costs associated with becoming an academy. As this process has gone on, these risks and costs have become more apparent, while the suggested benefits of conversion seem to have diminished.

It is now clear, for example, that there will be no overall financial benefit from becoming an academy. The small amount of additional funding the schools would receive would need to be spent on buying in services previously provided by the council, such as insurance, and on employing additional administrative staff. On the other hand, the schools would be taking on additional financial liabilities and exposing themselves to substantial financial risk should an emergency occur – at which point rather than turning to the local authority, Colmore would in all likelihood need the support of an academy chain.

The other major suggested benefit of Colmore becoming an academy was stated to be freedom over the curriculum. This no longer appears to be the case. Although academies can in theory opt out of the national curriculum, very few choose to do so because they are still required to assess and report on pupils in a way that makes opting out very difficult – as explained in this article from the National Association of Head Teachers website. Colmore has the expertise to work within the national curriculum and still provide a broad and balanced education for children.

The schools have agreed to hold a public meeting on this very important issue on Wednesday 21/05/14, and we hope as many parents as possible will attend and ask questions.

We are also proposing  the schools hold a ballot of parents as the best way for governors to be sure there is support for this proposed change.

 

Latest meeting of Ask Colmore Parents

Colmore parents and supporters met on Tuesday 25/03/14 at  All Saints Centre.

KingsHeathVillage_275x183

We are pleased that the schools have now agreed to produce a consultation document and to hold an open meeting. These are both key aims of our group.

At this meeting, we agreed the next steps in our campaign:

  • Ensuring that the schools’ analysis document is sufficiently detailed and balanced
  • Ensuring that the open meeting due to be held on Thursday 15/05/14 is a fair and balanced presentation of the arguments for and against conversion, and that it is open to prospective parents and members of the local community
  • Campaigning for the schools to hold a properly conducted parental ballot at the end of the consultation process