This week the STEP schools have shared a draft proposal for the STEP Multi Academy Trust (MAT) with staff and parents.
We are very concerned that the draft proposal does not address why they believe a MAT to be the best way for the schools to work together, especially given the well documented risks involved in leaving the local authority to join a MAT.
Despite this having been requested in open letters and petitions with hundreds of signatories from parents and community members, the latest document still does not explain the rationale for the proposed MAT, or lay out the pros and cons of a MAT or alternative options of schools working together (which are encouraged by bodies such as the National Association of Head Teachers, the National Governors’ Association and Birmingham City Council). Many staff across the schools and unions have also raised serious concerns about the proposal to form a MAT: it seems our concerns continue to be disregarded.
The question of any consultation at this stage must surely be whether to convert to a MAT or not. It is helpful to see what kind of structure is being proposed, however we feel that by asking leading questions about what sort of MAT arrangement people would prefer, it appears that the schools are seeking to skew the consultation results in favour of the MAT rather than genuinely exploring the options: whichever way respondents answer, the schools may be able to present the responses as approval for conversion. We believe that these shortcomings, and the very short deadline for responses, go against the common law duty in respect of consultations. This should not be allowed, and we will be making a formal complaint to Birmingham City Council, local councillors and MPs.
The schools’ letter says we will at a future time have the opportunity to address whether we prefer our schools to remain maintained schools (under the oversight of the Local Authority) as part of formal consultation. But it is our understanding that formal ‘consultation’ takes place after the schools have submitted their applications to convert to academies to the Department for Education, by which point there is no going back.
Over the next few days we will be considering how best to respond to the proposals and the questionnaire, in view of the issues we have highlighted above, and we will be in touch about this. In the meantime we suggest that you don’t respond to the questions in their current form. It is our feeling that the more members of the parent communities and wider community there are who express their concerns, the more seriously the schools will have to take us and the more our elected representatives (councillors and MPs) will have to support us.
If you’d like to find out more about the issues involved, we are running a repeat of our very successful Multi-Academy Trust information meeting. This time it will be on Wednesday 5th April at 7:00pm at the Moseley Muslim Community Association (opposite the public baths), 496 Moseley Road, Balsall Heath B12 9AH. This will be a great opportunity to discuss the proposal and how to respond.
If you can’t make the meeting, have a look at the notes from the January meeting. Our frequently asked questions page is a particularly useful place to start if you’re still feeling in the dark about what’s going on:
Any help in spreading the word would be much appreciated, as there are many parents who are still unaware of the implications of the schools’ proposals. Please invite your friends either online via Facebook/Twitter etc and in person – particularly at the school gates!
If the schools move forward with their plans, there will be no going back. It is vital for current and future generations to ensure the right decision is made. For that to happen we need everyone to get involved in the decision making process.