Yet another forced academisation

Unsurprising really, but it has just been announced that Sinfin Community School in Derby WILL be converted into an academy. Those who thought Gove’s recent setbacks would divert him from his purpose were wrong. The new academy — converted as early as 1 May this year, according to some reports — will be run under the auspices of Greenwood Dale in Nottingham.

Interesting to compare Sinfin with the Djanogly Academy in Nottingham: both serve difficult areas and have had questionable results for some time. Of course, Djanogly IS an academy so can’t be turned into one, but it HAS been told by the DfE to ‘pull its socks up’, no time limit, and if it doesn’t improve it will have its sponsor forcibly changed. Not sure how that’s a threat. By the way, last year’s GCSE 5+EM results were several points below the government ‘floor target’ whereas Sinfin’s were just above.

Another curiosity: in justifying the Sinfin decision the DfE statement says that more than half the respondents to the consultation were in favour. Now, in the first place, we only have their word for it and, in any case, who knew they were counting? Pretty sure there have been other instances where the consultation, if put to a vote, would have gone the other way but so often ‘consultation’ is rather vague and consists of meetings at which people have a chance to voice concerns but where a head count isn’t taken. At least under the old Baker/Thatcher ‘opting out’ grant maintained madness there was a properly conducted ballot of parents which had to be published. Now, the process is hidden and, indeed, since respondents might well express an opinion without actually saying ‘I’m for’ or ‘I’m against’, it is open to interpretation whether they support or not. Maybe someone needs to do a ‘freedom of information’ request to find out how many responded and how many expressed a clear preference for the school becoming an academy.

What happens when an academy fails?

We know that Michael Gove’s solution to community schools which are seen to be failing is to turn them into academies. Many of us have been curious about what happens in the event that an academy fails. The answer is to be found with Nottingham’s very own Djanogly Academy, which has been told by the DfE that its results are not good enough and it has to improve. Last year it was 6 points below the government ‘floor target’ of 40% of students achieving five or more higher grade GCSEs, including English and maths. There is an interesting parallel to be drawn with Derby’s Sinfin which, despite reaching the floor target last year, is being forced into becoming an academy. Djanogly has been given no time scale in which to improve but the big threat if it doesn’t improve is that it will be forced to change its sponsor! Quite why this is a threat is not clear.

Gove on Sinfin

Education Secretary, Michael Gove, has intervened in the governance of Sinfin Community School in Derby. In November he replaced the governors with an ‘Interim Board’ who are charged with ‘consulting’ over Sinfin becoming an academy, most probably part of the Greenwood Dale Foundation Trust. The consultation continues until 28 January. The NUT and NASUWT staff at the school staged a two-day strike just before Christmas and are threatening more action in the future. If it goes ahead, this will be only the fifth enforced academisation in the country. Read Gove’s exclusive interview with ITV Central NewsRead ‘Union News’ report of 18 December.

Send a message of support for Sinfin staff to Sue Arguille, Assistant Secretary of City of Derby NUT: suearg1@yahoo.com