Southwark Fire Station and the Haberdashers' Aske's Federation

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Friday 18 September 2015 11.18pm
Well Haberdashers' Aske's didn't get the Dulwich Hospital site, so it might as well try elsewhere else in Southwark. I am really against these Academy Federations because they are always top-heavy on senior management, and they pretty much write their own salaries. In addition, their recruitment strategies are often suspect and there's no clear policy to ensure equal opportunities are observed. Several are being investigated because they employ contractors without doing any procurement and the contractor is often 'related' to the company that is sponsoring the Academy. This was discussed in the House of Commons this week. The management structure of this particular Federation appears to be incredibly top-heavy and a large portion of their capitation goes on senior management salaries - check their accounts. There was so much money flowing into and out of this academy that close on 4m was embezzled by an employee and no-one noticed for years. Approximately 37,000 every month for several years - according to the BBC who reported on this! I'm also against Free Schools because too much time and money is spent on trying to re-invent the wheel and I'm not happy that they employ so many unqualified teachers. I don't even know if this is a good site for a school both in size and in location, but I do hope that if it does become a school, it becomes a regular state school.
Saturday 19 September 2015 3.21am
Some links would be nice, maybe?

...if you press it, they will come.
Saturday 19 September 2015 2.47pm
You raise some really valid and real points, Karen. In Southwark at least, parents of secondary-age children no longer have the choice of a good old state school. It seems the LEA has absolved itself of any real responsibility.

My son has just started (really by default rather than necessarily by real choice) one of these secondary free schools. One thing that struck me was that all the teachers I've met/seen so far all seem to be either newly-qualified or relatively inexperienced lots of them seem to have titles like "Director of xxx". I'm trying to keep an open mind because they seem to be really passionate about doing the best that they can, but I don't think you can beat real experience. Having NQs is good, but they need to have a good mix of NQs and experienced teachers.

I also think these free schools/academies can have an inherent lack of robust governance. In my son's new secondary/free school, the principal was previously on the governors and, following the original principal's resignation, she made the transition from governor - which elsewhere is a strategic and independent role - to principal. As far as I can tell, she had no prior headship experience and her last job was in the financial sector. This would never happen in a conventional state school.

That said, on the ground all the right noises are being made and so I am keeping an open mind. If they deliver good quality education - and it's too early for me to tell - then I may be convinced.

On the plus side, I see that Carpetright Bermondsey (AKA the old Aylwin girls' school) recently secured outstanding in all categories with OFSTED, though I'm not sure of what that translates in terms of GCSE and A-level grades. They must be doing something right there though, which is positive.
Saturday 19 September 2015 6.59pm
There are many reasons, imho, to oppose free schools, but you have to start off by understanding that the LEA has nothing to do with them.
It's no good blaming Southwark.

...if you press it, they will come.
Saturday 19 September 2015 7.12pm
Perhaps I expressed myself incorrectly, but I accept that it isn't the fault of the LEA. As I recall, it was Tony Blair's Labour government that allowed these academies in the first place. From a quick Google, it seems that free schools were introduced by the Con/Lib-Dem Coalition. What that does translate into though is that the LEA has no responsibility or influence over these schools. Bring back the ILEA!
Saturday 19 September 2015 7.16pm
I think the point that Gavin was making was that Southwark (somewhat unusually for what was then a Lib Dem led authority) encouraged all its secondary schools to become academies till there were no schools left under the aegis of the council.

In other areas of course many schools have converted to academy status (and new ones opened) but there wasn't the same wholesale drive to eliminate all LA secondaries.

The other point that needs to be borne in mind is that free schools are the only form of school the Government will allow anyone to open at the moment, so if a new school is desired or required it has to be under that particular form of funding and governance. It's a free school or no school.

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Saturday 19 September 2015 7.34pm
James, thanks for reading between the lines and translating my jumble. It is an accurate translation!
Sunday 20 September 2015 11.15pm
Ivanhoe, I do have a copy of the accounts that allude briefly to 'missing' money but I don't know how to link it. All academies have to publish their accounts, and all academies have to list the number of staff earning over 60k, 80k, 90k, 130k, 140k.

Try this link: http://www.haaf.org.uk/Annual-Report-and-Accounts

Page 28 on 2012 accounts refers to losses in that particular year.

I don't want to appear to be picking on one school because I know from teacher friends that there's lots of 'unwise' spending going on in opted-out schools. I'm pleased to hear that the old Aylwin school is doing well as I worked there in the 80s and it was quite a tough school. However, I am well-aware that many schools can paper over the cracks with some well-written policies and procedures and a senior management team that knows what answers to give!! (I worked in a school where the staff were really disappointed that the school was rated Outstanding because they felt both unsupported and unappreciated by an ineffective management team and they were hoping that the Ofsted team would find them out!)
Monday 21 September 2015 1.14pm
James Hatts wrote:
I think the point that Gavin was making was that Southwark (somewhat unusually for what was then a Lib Dem led authority) encouraged all its secondary schools to become academies till there were no schools left under the aegis of the council.
In other areas of course many schools have converted to academy status (and new ones opened) but there wasn't the same wholesale drive to eliminate all LA secondaries.
Thanks, James. I didn't realise that.

James Hatts wrote:
The other point that needs to be borne in mind is that free schools are the only form of school the Government will allow anyone to open at the moment, so if a new school is desired or required it has to be under that particular form of funding and governance. It's a free school or no school.
Yes, that's the issue I was referring to. Any new school we get will be a free school.

I favour a new secondary school in this part of the borough (i.e. the old fire station). There's a shortage of provision at present.

I'm broadly against free schools and academies, but given that they're the only sort of school we're going to get, I would support this proposed one.

Re. fraud at Haberdashers' in 2014, this is clearly a cause for concern, and one would hope that governance has been strengthened. I wasn't aware of this, and thanks to Karen for highlighting it.

...if you press it, they will come.
Monday 21 September 2015 6.48pm
So it seems I attended 'Carpetright Bermondsey' back in the 1980s! Whilst I too agree with the principles of schools being managed by the Local Authority, as opposed to Free Schools I think we are living in fantasy land if we believe the schools from the days of ILEA were better.
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