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.

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 or 

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.

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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.


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

Colmore Schools agree to produce consultation document and to hold an open meeting

On 07/03/14, parents at Colmore Schools received  ‘An update from Governors on the Colmore Schools Academy Consultation.’

Update from Colmore Governors 07/03/14 Page 1

Update from Colmore Governors 07/03/14 Page 2

When the schools first announced their interest in converting in December, the initial consultation period was due to end on 31st January and governors were discussing completing the conversion as early as 1st April.

It seemed at that stage that the schools were planning to convert very quickly with little detail being given to parents about either the reasons for conversion, or the implications of it.

Many parents have since joined our campaign for more information to be provided, for a proper discussion to take place and for an extended consultation period to be established before any final decision is made. Academy conversion is a big step for a school to take and it should not be rushed through.

Thanks to the many parents who have contacted the schools, the governors have now agreed with us that a proper consultation document should be shared with parents and that an open meeting should be held. These were two of our key aims when we formed the group in December.

We are pleased to have secured these important commitments. We look forward to more detail being provided on a whole range of questions, including:

  • What educational improvements will becoming an academy bring?
  • How will academy conversion impact on the education provided to children with special needs?
  • Why does Colmore need to become an academy when other successful local schools are choosing to remain in the local authority?
  • Will Colmore change its admissions policy or holiday dates if it becomes an academy?
  • Have governors in fact already made a decision by passing a ‘resolution to convert’ and applying for a conversion grant?
  • Do governors accept that it was misleading to refer to a ‘financial apocalypse’ in council budgets when the schools budget is actually protected?
  • Will the general meeting the schools are going to hold be open to prospective parents, other family members and interested members of the community?
  • Will the schools hold a ballot of parents at the end of the process, as some parents have been told this would be the case?

Ask Colmore Parents meeting

Our latest meeting was held at All Saints Centre on Thursday 13/03/14.


Parents were 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.

We agreed it was important that the analysis document the schools are planning to produce contains the detail that has so far been missing from the schools’ communications, and that it acknowledges that some of the claims made at the outset were inaccurate, for example the statement that the council faces a ‘financial apocalypse’ when in fact the schools budget is protected. Also, the document must set out the pros and cons of academy conversion in a fair way.

We agreed that the open meeting the schools are planning to hold on Thursday 15/05/14 (see letter to parents below) must be balanced, allowing parents to hear the arguments both for and against conversion. The meeting should also be open to prospective parents and other interested members of the community as any conversion will also affect these groups of people.

Letter to Parents 140314

Finally we believe that the schools should now commit themselves to holding a secret ballot of parents at the end of the process.

UPDATE: Following this meeting a letter was sent to the Chair of Governors on 20/03/14 requesting a response to the following points:

1. Will Colmore governors formally retract certain statements made to parents in earlier communications?

  • The reference to a ‘financial apocalypse’ in council funding leading to ‘cuts in provision and staffing’ (15/01/14)
  • The suggestion that music and PE would be ‘squeezed out’ by the new national curriculum (15/01/14)
  • The statement that if the schools do not convert voluntarily they may be ‘forcibly taken over by a chain’ (18/12/13)

2. How do governors propose to ensure that the analysis document presented to parents will be fair and balanced?

3. How do governors propose to ensure that the parents’ meeting on 15/05/14 will be fair and balanced, and will speakers be invited that represent a range of views? Additionally will governors make the meeting open to prospective parents and other interested members of the community as they too are stakeholders?

4. Finally, will governors clarify the extent of the schools’ involvement with J & G Marshall Ltd and provide details of any money that has been paid to that company up to 20/03/14 or that has been spent by the Colmore Schools on academy conversion or investigation up to the same date?

Update on our campaign for full consultation

Following our group’s meeting on 27/02/14, here is an update on how our campaign for full consultation is progressing. Below are our five aims and an assessment of the progress we have made in achieving them.

1. Holding an urgent public meeting for parents and members of the local community to hear arguments for and against conversion and to ask questions about the proposals.

The schools stated on 23/01/14 that they were willing to consider holding a meeting for parents where speakers could present both sides of the argument. Since then however no progress has been made on this and we will now be making it clear that we are prepared to organise a public meeting ourselves should this become necessary. This meeting would be open to interested members of the community and especially to prospective parents who are also stakeholders and who have not so far been consulted.

2. Providing parents and other stakeholders with full details of what steps governors have already taken in the conversion process, including when the DFE conversion grant was applied for and whether a resolution to convert has already been passed.

We understand that governors voted at their December meeting to ‘register an interest’ with the DfE to convert the schools to academies. At the same meeting governors voted to ‘engage the services of’ Jeff Marshall, a company specialising in academy conversions.

Colmore governors have also confirmed in an email dated 17/02/14 that they now plan to ‘make use of the academy conversion grant’.

To receive this money, the governing body must pass a ‘resolution to convert’, and we will be seeking clarification on whether this has already happened.

3. Providing parents and other stakeholders with a full consultation document at the outset of the consultation period including details of the educational and financial reasons for seeking conversion and a full impact assessment of how academy status will affect different groups of pupils.

Parents have been given a number of reasons for pursuing academy status, in a series of letters that were sent home with children in December and January.

The reasons given were: the financial crisis in the city council’s budgets, the restrictiveness of the new primary national curriculum and the need to retain and reward staff. However, no detailed evidence has since been given to support these reasons nor has an impact assessment been provided.

Indeed the reasons given are based on assertions and exaggerations rather than facts . Parents have been told, for example, that the council faces a ‘financial apocalypse’ in its budgets but in reality the city council’s overall education budget is expected to be higher in 2014/15 than it was in 2013/14. The local authority, it is also worth remembering, continues to maintain a majority of the schools in Birmingham, including many successful schools in the Kings Heath area.

No urgent or overwhelming reason has therefore been provided for why Colmore schools need to convert now. Instead parents have been offered vague assertions such as the idea that academy conversion would ‘futureproof’ the school. It is unclear exactly what the schools are trying to futureproof themselves from and equally unclear how academy status would do this, bringing as it does its own risks. These additional financial responsibilities and risks should also be set out in the consultation document, which we also believe needs to be sent by mail in order to ensure that it reaches all parents.

4. Giving an undertaking that a decision on conversion will only be made after this period of consultation ends and that no irreversible steps will be taken until this consultation is complete.

We believe the schools have already applied for the DfE conversion grant, or are about to do so. The email dated 17/02/14 states that they plan to ‘make use of the academy conversion grant’. This grant is considered by the DfE to be a firm commitment on the part of a school because the money must be spent on costs associated with conversion, not consultation. We believe this indicates that a decision has already been made before any meaningful consultation has been put into place. This, sadly, is the pattern of many academy conversions.

5. Holding a full and meaningful formal consultation process of at least three months’ duration, at the end of which a ballot of parents is held to approve or reject the conversion proposal.

Many parents who spoke at the school meetings held in January urged caution and asked for more time to consider all the details of conversion. However, we still do not know what the duration of the consultation process will be or how the schools intend to fully involve parents and the community. We believe consultation can only be meaningful if parents have access to all the relevant information, and have heard the arguments against conversion as well as those in favour. We continue to believe that a ballot of parents should be held at the end of the process.