Welcome to Oxford Academy Watch

February 11, 2008

Academy Watch Manifesto 
The Oxford Anti-Academy Alliance believes that it is the responsibility of government to provide a good, secular education, in buildings with facilities fit for purpose, to all children in the UK. We deplore the removal of any school from the democratic control of the relevant local authority, the handover of public funds to private control and the involvement of private and religious bodies in the provision of state education. We believe that a new building and new uniforms are not what turns a school around: small class sizes (and therefore more teachers) is what makes the difference. We deplore the fact that Peers School was subjected to the blackmail of having to choose between becoming an academy in order to have a new building or continuing to be starved of cash by the local authority. We believe that the money should have been given to the school simply because it needs it, without the strings of privatisation attached. The proposed Academy has not demonstrated public support. Despite this, the government and the County Council have decided to go ahead with their plans. As a result we have established the Academy Watch, with the purpose of making sure that the students at Peers School and neighbouring schools are not penalised by this experiment and that the sponsors keep their promises. Early signs are not promising, and we are concerned. To that aim we seek the following clarifications from the County Council: 
  • When and where were the formal consultation public meetings held, and how were they publicised? How many people attended these meetings and where are their views collated? What were the responses?
  • The County Consultation Timetable document stated that the statutory consultation would run from October 15 to December 3, 2007. Instead, it was closed on November 9 and the Cabinet decision to go ahead with academy plans announced on November 20. Why were those dates changed, and how was the public notified?
  • How much did the consultation cost, and who funded it?
  • If the Academy is not a success, what are the criteria to deem the academy to have failed and which authority would adjudicate on the issue?
  • Should the academy fail, what is the procedure to take the school back under local authority control, and what is the timescale for the process?
  • How will the academy governing body be constituted? Will the governors be elected? How many parents, teachers, members of the community and sponsors representatives will sit on it?
  • What will be the continuing responsibilities of the local authority?
  • How much money will the sponsors contribute, and when?
  • How will the sponsors’ money be spent, and who will decide?
  • What provisions have been made to ensure that the current arrangement with Mabel Pritchard is kept?
  • What provisions have been made about planned transfers?
  • Given that the academy will include Sports as one of its specialisms, what facilities will the Academy Sports Centre offer to the students and the community, and how will that compare with the current provision?
  • What will the new school uniform cost?
  • What grants will be available to help parents meet these costs?
  • What changes in the National Curriculum are being proposed which will make the programmes of study more relevant than they are now?

During the informal consultation process and in their publicity material the County Council and the sponsors have made the following promises, to which the Academy Watch will hold them: 

Consultation ‘The (school closure) notice will stand for a further four to six weeks during which time everyone has a second opportunity to be consulted on the more detailed plans and to share their views on the decision to close the school and open an Academy.’ (Proposal Brochure)  O There was one public meeting on September 20 (before the formal consultation started).
Admissions policy ‘The Academy would remain open to all local students…’ ‘The Academy would continue to adhere to the existing admission arrangements…’ (Letter from Oxford County Council 4.5.07)    
  ‘An inclusive community school for students of all faiths and none.’ (Academy website 19.11.07)    
  ‘The sponsors have agreed to retain the Local Authority admission arrangements for future admissions into Year 7, with priority being given to local students.’ (Proposal brochure)    
  ‘…to create a local Academy for local students.’ (Public Consultation Q & A)    
Refurbishment out of term time ‘…upgrade the existing building….Jul-Aug 2008’. (Staff Handbook 12.7.2007)    
New buildings ‘A £25m building programme completed by 1 September 2010 to replace the school with modern purpose-built facilities.’ (Academy website 19.11.07)    
  ‘The Local Authority…will run a competition for the design and construction of the new buildings.’ (Public Consultation Q & A)    
  ‘Reducing disruption and ensuring health and safety for everyone, on and close to the site, will be the highest priority during the construction of the Academy.’ (Public Consultation Q & A)   O November: Major drilling machinery used on site. No risk assessments, no fencing to protect students from danger
Reducing exclusions ‘…we will work closely with students, parents and the local community to reduce the number of exclusions.’ (Public Consultation Q & A)    
Special Needs ‘All students will receive, at the very least, as much support as they do now and where possible additional support.’  (Public Consultation Q & A)    
Community involvement ‘Fully extended rich programme of activities and services for families and the community.’ (Website 19.11.07)    
  ‘The Academy will be open for an extended day to allow for student and community use in the evenings and at weekends, thereby benefiting the whole community.’ (Proposal Brochure)    
  ‘The Academy will establish a community forum to ensure that it knows what extended services are needed, how best to provide them and ensure that everyone is aware that they are available for community use.’ (Proposal Brochure)    
  ‘We believe in building wider links across the community and aim to work hard to ensure these are established as soon as possible, starting right now.’ (Public Consultation Q & A)    
Leadership Centre ‘This will provide leadership and enrichment opportunities for students and staff in local and national Academies/secondary schools.’ (Public Consultation Q & A)    
IT ‘The Academy has allocated £1.9 million for the provision of IT.’ (Public Consultation Q & A)    
Trust ‘A trust will be provided by the sponsors that will enable grants to be awarded to students and staff to help equalize opportunity and broaden experience.’ (Proposal brochure)    
Teachers ‘… continuity with good teachers and strong support staff is the decisive factor in a successful school…’ (Proposal Brochure)    
  ‘Brookes will bring … expertise to the Academy to ensure that all staff have excellent professional support and development as part of their conditions of service.’  (Proposal Brochure)    

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