Monday, 26 November 2012

Tory Lancashire a 'failing education authority' says Michael Gove

Tony Roberts, Lancashire NAHT Admin and Membership Secretary on behalf of Lancashire Primary Schools sent this letter to Lancashire's MP's.

Dear Lancashire Member of Parliament,

I am writing to you on behalf of ALL Lancashire Primary School Headteachers and their schools.

As you will know Michael Gove, as Secretary of State for Education, has written to the Leader of Lancashire Council accusing this local authority of being a 'failing authority.' As school leaders we take great exception to this and consider it to be both unacceptable as well as untrue. You will soon be receiving further evidence from Lancashire Education Authority with evidence to refute this allegation but may I add the following to support our opposition to it.
  • Lancashire's schools regularly perform above the national average in national tests but also provide support for children beyond the narrow parameters of tests. There are almost 90 Outstanding schools with an even greater number with Good gradings. Of the 32 schools who were classed a 'Failing' earlier this year ,29 have moved well out of that category and the remaining ones are working very hard towards that end : with considerable support from Lancashire.
  • For those schools who are underperforming Lancashire provides very good support through its advisory service, its intervention teams [MIT] and other agencies. These services are also bought in by other authorities who cannot provide the same level of expertise.
  • In terms of overall support from Lancashire LA I currently have over 200 schools who have born witness to this and the number is growing.
  • For months now many Lancashire schools have been 'visited' by DfE brokers, David Roache and Michael Ion who are trying get schools to join the Academy programme . This is being done without informing or involving the LA and they initially concentrated on schools who were under the floor level targets set by the government. Some of these visits were decidedly aggressive in tone and some were using data which has subsequently been proved to be suspect or plain wrong by an independent firm of educational lawyers, Browne and Jacobson. The brokers have subsequently moved onto other schools who are not in any DfE category of 'failure' but are often improving with the help of the LA support services already mentioned and a lot of very hard work by the schools involved. Other schools visited are Good or Outstanding : the aim being to get schools into the Academy programme who will form clusters .
  • A new and worrying escalation of the brokers' work has been their attempts to bypass the local authority and put pressure on Church dioceses to pressure their schools into academy status.
  • The bottom line of these DfE visits, we consider, is this. There have been considerable numbers of High Schools who have chosen to become Academies as they have a right to do. A very small number of primary schools has chosen this route and in Lancashire this is made up of 4 schools by choice, 3 being forced to do so and 3 'in the pipeline'. Lancashire has 484 primary schools and we believe that this small uptake by primary schools is because they do not consider it suitable for their needs and this has piqued the Secretary of State. In addition, and more importantly , Lancashire believes, as we do, that for schools who need support to improve, it can be provided better by the LA than by 'going Academy' and being run by outside agencies.
  • At the end of the day DfE , Lancashire and all schools want the best for pupils . The current argument is over the means to do this. Improvements can be made in different ways and electing to coerce schools into one system is short sighted.
  • Finally there is the democratic principle that local authorities and their schools should have some freedom in choosing the best way to achieve their aims. Using the argument that an LA is 'failing' because it refuses to be bow to DfE diktat is fundamentally wrong and very unfair to the very large number of schools, their leaders and teachers and to their local authority with whom they enjoy a critical but very sound working relationship.
We would ask you as MPs representing all the constituencies in this county to urge the Dfe to change tack and not undermine either the LA or the schools within it .

Tony Roberts
Lancashire NAHT Admin and Membership Secretary
On behalf of Lancashire Primary Schools.