NUAST – finding out what’s going on

The Nottingham University Academy of Science and Technology is coming to the end of its first year of operation. Of course it’s been busy recruiting students for next year. We’ve been busy ourselves, doing a bit of research and ‘asking around’,  so we thought we’d find out a few facts ‘from the horse’s mouth’, as it were.

Who are their governors (they call them ‘directors’) and who chose or appointed them? What are they doing for local schools and the community, as required by their funding agreement? How many students and staff have left during the course of this year?

We’ve submitted a ‘Freedom of Information’ request to NUAST to find out the answers! We’ll let you know when we hear back from them.

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Edwalton Primary School: ‘open and transparent’ consultation?

We notice that at Edwalton Primary School, where a consultation over academy conversion is currently taking place, they have posted some questions from parents with the school’s answers and even a response back from a parent. We do wonder, however, if this represents ALL the questions they have received or only the easy ones, and whether they’d have posted the parent’s response if it hadn’t been as glowing about the Headteacher and governors as this one is!

If you are a patent or member of staff at Edwalton,  or a member of the local community, have you asked a question or made a comment that HASN’T been posted? If so, let us know (use the ‘Contribute’ button on the Home page of this website and we will withhold your name if you wish). We’d like to post the questions ourselves and give OUR answer!

In respect of the two questions posed in this document, the school is accurate in its answer to the question about ‘special measures’ although the question does look like a bit of an ‘Aunt Sally’ – is that REALLY an authentic concern for Edwalton parents?

Question one again looks like a ‘put up’ job since the date for proposed conversion was given in the Head’s original letter – the real concern ought to be whether the timescale allows for the conversion programme to be carried out. Given that the ‘consultation’ runs to the end of term, the school has effectively the six weeks of the school summer holiday to complete the legal processes, a time when teaching staff are not around or at least difficult to contact. Of course, behind the scenes, the school governors have already started the process and will continue during the consultation period because they know what the outcome will be. Nonetheless, a facade of openness is maintained as if the result of the consultation might somehow change their minds. It won’t!

Edwalton and Beeston Fields Primary Schools – how good is the consultation?

Edwalton Primary School is currently undergoing its ‘consultation’ and Beeston Fields’ finished on 1 May – but how fair, thorough and transparent has it been?

A search on line reveals some interesting facts and advice about this. By law (i.e. the Education Act 2010, which was rushed through with undue and pointless haste) says there must be consultation but leaves it to the judgement of governors as to who will be consulted and how this will be done, so finding flaws in this rather vague process is not easy. However, it is clear that the consultation should be around the question: “Should this school become an academy?” implying that there should be some kind of attempt to gauge how people being consulted would answer that question – it seems obvious to us that this should be done by some kind of secret ballot of each section of ‘stakeholders’ being consulted.

The National Union of Teachers in its advice to members has found a ‘common law’ expectation for all kinds of consultation,  that sufficient information should be given for ‘consultees’ to be able to make a judgement. It seems obvious to us that this ought to include giving both sides of the argument.

Neither Beeston Fields nor Edwalton have made an attempt to give parents a balanced outline of views that oppose academisation in principle: to be fair, Edwalton has given the web addresses of the Anti-Academies Alliance and the Local Schools Network, whereas Beeston Fields added this information to its website in a FAQ document posted ten days AFTER the consultation closed (following, we assume, letters received from HOOS suggesting they do just that!). This really does seem like ‘paying lip service’ as anyone unfamiliar will not find it easy to simply visit these websites and find the relevant arguments. Far better, it seems to us, to have invited an organisation such as HOOS or AAA to provide a summary to be posted out or on line, or to invite a speaker to parent meetings.

As to a ‘ballot’, there has been no suggestion in either school that such a thing will be conducted nor that even a ‘show of hands’ will be taken at the parent meetings, which in themselves may not be representative of the parent body as a whole in any case. This enables governors to attend the meetings and go away with an ‘impression’ that there is little, if any, opposition.

Any fair-minded person, irrespective of the vagaries of the consultation requirements, would think that the stakeholders who should be consulted would be parents, staff and the local community. As to staff, both heads, in their letters, use suspiciously similar language suggesting that staff have been kept informed of the plan to academise and have not raised objections! In a primary school with a relatively small staff, it is hard to imagine a member of staff, perhaps concerned about, or even opposed in principle to,  academisation, voicing this publicly at a meeting in front of the head and governors. Again, no secret ballot,  which would ensure a genuine assessment of true opinion.

What of ‘the community’? Of course, it is not easy to decide who represents such an amorphous group. We at HOOS would start with local schools who might be affected, user groups and then look for community groups in the immediate locale of the school. Anyone genuinely concerned at finding out the views of the ‘local community’, might leaflet nearby streets or call a meeting specifically. At Beeston, it has been suggested that the consultation was ‘open to the community’ but there’s no obvious way in which this was advertised – we found out almost by accident,  after the parent consultation meetings had happened and we were only able to send in letters just before the consultation period closed.

So, in brief, although the consultation requirements are not clear, it seems to us that greater effort could – and should – have been made to inform and gauge the opinions of three groups of stakeholders,  and in neither case does this appear to have happened.

Open meeting for all those opposing academies and free schools

‘Hands Off Our Schools’ is holding an Open Meeting on Thursday 14 March at the Commercial Inn, Beeston, Nottingham, starting at 4.30 pm. Refreshments provided. Note: the Commercial Inn is on Wollaton Road, opposite the Cricketers pub and Sainsburys. Free parking up to three hours is available in the supermarket car park.

All who want to get involved in the campaign against academies and free schools or who just want to be better informed, are welcome; this includes teachers, parents, school governors, students, councillors and prospective councillors standing in the forthcoming county elections.

This will be a chance to share information about what is happening in local schools regarding proposed academy conversions and about plans for free schools in our area. It will also be a chance to get involved in the next stage in the campaign to prevent academy conversions and free schools.

‘Hands Off Our Schools’ is the local Anti-Academies Alliance campaign group, fighting the conversion of our local community schools to academies and the setting up of free schools in Nottingham and Nottinghamshire.

To find out more, look around this site, visit our Facebook page (‘Notts Anti-Academies Alliance’) or contact nottshandsoffourschools@hotmail.co.uk.