Fiona Murphy

A Conservative council joins the secret war against England’s schools

A Conservative council joins the secret war against England's schools
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For the parents where I live who are campaigning for a better local school, the Spectator's expose on 'the secret war over England's schools' - with its description of how groups like the National Union of Teachers are attempting to stymie Michael Gove's plans for making education better - was familiar territory.

The only difference here in Bromley is that it isn't left wing activists who are standing in the way of Mr Gove's reforms for better schools: it is our Conservative-run Council.  

Having said earlier this year that they wanted our local school, Kelsey Park Sports College, to become an Academy - a decision that was a welcome relief for many local families - the Council is now backpedaling like crazy.  You see, the person in charge of schools in Bromley, Cllr Ernest Noad, now says that he will only accept an Academies Sponsor that will agree to manage the school in a 50/50 partnership deal with him and his colleagues at the Council.

This rules out the Harris Federation who, on the basis of their superb track record in neighbouring boroughs, are the preferred choice of many parents.  Their success has been blogged about on Coffee House before.  Harris would like to sponsor Kelsey as an Academy but, understandably, don’t think they can improve it if every decision needs to be taken by committee with a Council which for years has been content to let the school drift.  

Astonishingly, a governor of Kelsey has defended the school’s failings by arguing that 'Somebody has to teach those children that the remaining schools do not want to teach, so the borough and the other schools need Kelsey.'  Judging by their actions to date, one can only assume that Bromley Council agrees with this standpoint.

Perhaps beginning to panic after nearly 1,000 parents signed a petition calling for a Harris Academy, Kelsey’s governors and the Council have recently launched a public consultation.  But, with Cllr Noad’s continued insistence on a “sponsor partner”, it looks like they intend to kick our wishes into the long grass.

The good news is that Harris have agreed to open a Free School, working directly with parents to do so, if the Council continues to refuse their Academy proposal for Kelsey.  The plans Harris have announced so far, including a link with King’s University to deliver the science curriculum, certainly match the aspirations of parents.  But the Free School will take at least a year longer to open than a Kelsey Academy, maybe longer if the Council chooses to be difficult about potential sites, which means hundreds of children could miss out.  Politicians and bureaucrats at Bromley Council now need to decide whether they can live with this on their conscience.

CoffeeHousers may be interested in the Harris Federation's record in the schools it has taken over (below, click for a larger version). Little wonder why parents are keen to enrol their kids: