Update

Dear supporters.We wanted to update you on what’s been happening at Love Brum Schools and how we are thinking about moving forward.

Recent developments:

Solicitor’s letter. 

A solicitor’s letter was sent in time for the first day of the summer term, and asked the schools to commit to a fair and lawful consultation with a specific request to agree to formally consult before applying to form a multi-academy trust. The schools were asked to respond by a certain date, Shirley Hanson, head teacher of Kings Heath Primary, sent a collective response on the day. Her letter stated that no school is, as yet, making an application to the Secretary of State and that there is no timescale for the schools to begin formal consultation. However, she failed to address the principal question in the solicitor’s letter by giving confirmation that the schools would consult prior to application. The solicitor has sent a follow up email asking the schools to confirm this, and we are awaiting their response.

Park Hill Primary

As some of you will be aware, Park Hill had an Ofsted inspection before Easter, the rating of which was made public after the holidays as ‘Requires Improvement’. For this reason they have announced that they are not currently going to pursue their involvement with the MAT and instead focus on the issues that were raised by the inspection. They will continue to work collaboratively with the STEP group.

Kings Heath Primary

At the beginning of term, Kings Heath Primary announced that formal consultation procedure would not take place before the Autumn Term, if at all. They also stated that they are going to look into other models of collaboration in more detail.

We have had no update from the other STEP schools in light of the responses to their draft MAT proposal. All the secondary schools are still involved, and, as far as we know, looking to move ahead with formal consultation at some unknown point – possibly shortly after the outcome of the general election. The governing body of Wheelers Lane Primary is yet to vote to proceed with formal consultation, although we can’t be sure that they won’t change their mind in future.  

Next steps:

We need to think carefully now about how we move forward with the campaign in the secondary schools, given that the proposed MAT is starting to show cracks. STEP carried out a peer review at Park Hill not long before the Ofsted inspection and found no significant issues, despite the STEP heads including former senior Ofsted inspectors. What does the current position of the three primary schools mean for the future of the STEP group? What does this mean for the future of the MAT? STEP hasn’t worked for Park Hill, how will it work for the other schools? It is no longer the group it started out as and surely this means we have to question its ability to function at all. Will the secondary schools begin to look for other primary schools to join the MAT? They talked about growth in the draft proposal. Which schools would they like to add? Over the coming weeks we hope to create a new leaflet with some of these issues and concerns raised. We will then begin a new round of street stalls and hope to do some more door to door leaflet drops.

What can you do?

We are still struggling to reach secondary school parents, many of whom are unaware of the proposed MAT or its implications. Please keep talking about this with your network of friends and acquaintances, and encourage people to:

– join the Love Brum Schools Facebook group or to follow the blog on LoveBrumSchools.com.

– sign one of both of the petitions https://lovebrumschools.com/get-involved/ 

Attend the Labour Party Education Conference on Thursday 11th May at 6.45pm at Moseley School, College Road. The speakers include Cllr Brigid Jones, Rachel Gillies of Love Brum Schools and Sarah Barton of Ask Parents First.

On Sunday 21st May there is a family event and picnic in Cannon Hill Park to raise awareness of the crippling funding cuts all schools are facing over the coming months. Love Brum Schools fully supports this event and hope as many of you as possible will be able to attend. This is a key issue for all schools and is surely where the schools’ attentions and efforts should currently be.

Do get in touch if you can offer any help or have any ideas for moving the campaign forward. We are just a group of concerned parents and need to support each other in this campaign to get the answers we need and to get the best outcome for all our children, both now and in the future.

Suggested response to the draft proposal

We know that people are wondering how to respond to the schools’ proposal, particularly given the nature of the questionnaire they sent out. After taking legal advice, we recommend refusing to answer the given questions as we object to the premise on which the questionnaire is based.

We have drafted a letter to send to the schools (attached), and are inviting parents and community members to add their names to this. In addition, to maximise impact, we are encouraging individuals to send hard copy letters to as many of the seven STEP schools as you can. This is a community issue, so you don’t have to have children at the schools. The deadline for responses varies by school, but it would be best to hand these in or post them so they arrive by this Friday (7th), the day the schools break up for the Easter holidays.

If you would like to add your name to the group letter and you are coming to the meeting tonight, there will be a sheet for you to add your name. If you’re unable to come, please add your name here, with your role (parent/prospective parent/staff/community etc) and your child(ren)’s school, or email lovebrumschools@gmail.com.

We will also have paper copies for you to take away at the meeting tonight.

Response to draft proposal for STEP MAT (Word)

Response to draft proposal for STEP MAT (PDF)

It’s vital that we do respond to the schools, as we know that they will interpret any lack of response as a sign of support for their plans. Regardless of your views on academisation, we hope you agree that asking formeaningful consultation before the schools apply to form a multi-academy trust is a reasonable request!

 

Information Meeting – today!

 

The repeat of our very successful Information Meeting is tomorrow (5/4/17) at 7pm at Moseley Muslim Community Association (Opposite Public Baths), 496 Moseley Road, Balsall Heath B12 9AH. There is a small car park and rear access via Lime Grove.   There is also on street parking but we would encourage you to share lifts if possible. The 50 bus stops opposite the venue (outside the swimming baths) and I’m sure we can coordinate lifts back if people would rather not get the bus home.

The meeting is open to all: governors, staff, parents (and prospective parents), teaching union representatives, MPs, councillors and other community members.

Our speakers include:

  • Sarah Barton of Ask Parents First
  • Lisa Trickett, local Councillor
  • David Room, General Secretary Birmingham NUT
  • Anne Brimacombe, General Secretary Birmingham NASUWT

We are also hoping that paid officials of the National Association of Headteachers (NAHT) with responsibility for the Birmingham region will attend, subject to other commitments.

If you’d like to find out more about multi-academy trusts and the implications of the schools proposal, please come along.  We will also be discussing how to respond to the questionnaire and there will also be plenty of time for you to ask questions.

Hope to see you tomorrow!

Meeting 5 Apr Poster v3

Draft proposal released

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.

Meeting 5 Apr Poster v3

Highly critical report into MATs published

The Education Select Committee recently published its report into MATs and it doesn’t make easy reading for the government!  The report is based on a huge body of evidence drawn from many sources within education and is highly critical of the performance and accountability of MATs.

Having looked at much of the evidence given to the inquiry, it is clear that in addition to the robust arguments contained in the report, there are many other issues that did not make it into the final report. Examples include:

  • Exclusion of pupils with additional needs (mentioned in the NAHT’s written submission to the inquiry, among others);
  • Reduced (rather than increased) autonomy in the classroom within MATs;
  • Narrowing of the curriculum. These latter topics were covered in the oral evidence given by educational academics and is now the subject of an investigation by Ofsted.

The report also fails to point out that most of the characteristics of the best performing MATs could be achieved under other models. It is disappointing that it works on the assumption that the educational model has to be based on academies, despite the lack of empirical evidence to support this model. We believe this to be on account of the terms of reference of the inquiry, which were drawn up at the time that government policy was for 100% academisation. The points raised in the report, as well as government U-turns on policy, only serve to underline that the schools should not rush to convert to academies, rather they may be able to ‘weather the storm’.

Given the many risks involved in joining a multi-academy trust, we would like the schools to explain why they believe this to be the best way of formalising their existing collaboration and to hold an open and democratic consultation.

This should:

  • Begin with publication of a consultation document. This should be easily accessible, full and balanced and include impact assessments of academy conversion for all stakeholder groups and evidence-based consideration of the effectiveness of the other school collaboration models.
  • Provide opportunities for consultees to hear the pros and the cons of academy conversion in an open forum (i.e. public meetings in each of the schools as well as joint meetings across the schools) with speakers for and against.
  • Include a ballot of parents and staff, and take account only of those that respond (i.e. non responses should not be assumed to be for or against).
  • Consult the whole school and broader community including staff, parents, pupils, prospective parents and other community members.
  • Ensure maximum engagement in the process by publishing full details of the consultation process at the outset, using a variety of methods to contact consultees and of ways for consultees to participate.
  • Allow reasonable time for responses: a consultation period of no less than six weeks, excluding school holidays.

You can read the report here, as well as the evidence given to the inquiry.

 

 

Public Information Meeting – 5th April

Meeting 5 Apr Poster v3

We are delighted to announce that we will be running a repeat of our very successful public information evening with the same speakers as last time, on the 5th April.  This time the venue is in Balsall Heath, in order to share information with the wider community.  We are very concerned that a huge number of parents, particularly of secondary school pupils, are either unaware of the schools’ plans or do not understand the implications.

If you were unable to attend the meeting in January, this is a second chance to find out more about what the issues are with the schools’ proposals and to ask any questions you may have.  If you were unaware of the issues at the time, please come along to find out more.

Please spread the word to anyone you know who will be effected by these proposals.

MPs question plans to merge seven Birmingham schools.

It was great to see the Love Brum Schools campaign mentioned in last Friday’s Birmingham Post. There is genuine concern from local stakeholders regarding the proposed academisation of local schools. The desire to keep our schools part of the LA will continue to build over the weeks and months ahead as more parents, teachers, pupils and governors get involved.

Read the article in full below:

Parents welcome intervention by politicians as House of Commons committee finds ‘limited’ evidence that multi-academy trusts improve pupils’ results

Parents battling plans to merge seven successful city schools into a multi-academy trust have welcomed a report from MPs questioning the performance of these groups.

The parents from Moseley and Kings Heath are worried the proposed merger could backfire and set back the education of 5,500 pupils.

The seven schools looking to join forces to create the multi-academy trust are Kings Heath Primary, Park Hill Primary, Wheelers Lane Primary, Kings Heath Boys, Queensbridge School, Swanshurst School and Wheelers Lane Technology College.

Among the protesting parents rallying under the #lovebrumschools banner are Adam Zindani, guitarist with rock group Stereophonics, who has two children at schools affected.  He also used to attend Baverstock Academy, in Druids Heath, which controversially seems set to close this summer.

Birmingham has ‘not learned lessons of Trojan Horse’ warns Government tsar

Now, the House of Commons Education Select Committee has found evidence that multi-academy trusts (known as MATs) improve pupils’ results is “limited”.

The trusts are run free from local council oversight or control.

The cross-party group of MPs carried out an inquiry following an explosion of MATs with 1,121 now set up, compared to just 391 in 2011.

Its report concluded these trusts had expanded too quickly and the performance of their schools had suffered.

It also called for more to be done to ensure they could be properly held to account by Ofsted and local communities.

Committee chairman Neil Carmichael said: “We have significant concerns about the performance, accountability and expansion of multi-academy trusts.

“While some MATs are producing excellent results and making a valuable contribution to our education system, a considerable number are failing to improve and are consistently at the bottom of league tables.”

The Love Brum Schools group is calling for the schools, which are already rated good or outstanding by Ofsted, to work together under a looser coalition and avoid the risk of decline.

Birmingham Children’s Hospital secures major boost with ‘outstanding’ rating

They highlighted recent controversies at Birmingham’s Perry Beeches and Baverstock academies to show the pitfalls.

A group spokeswoman said: “The group is campaigning for schools to engage with stakeholders in a transparent, meaningful and balanced manner.

“This should include consideration of the pros and cons of multi-academy trusts and clear presentation of what the schools hope to achieve under an MAT that could not be achieved in other ways, such as co-operative trusts and federations.”

More than 100 parents and pupils staged a protest in Kings Heath. The schools are due to publish a consultation document by Easter.

You can read this article in its original format here.

Share the love!

Thank you to everyone who came out this morning to celebrate the reasons why we love our community schools.  We gathered in Kings Heath Village Square to show off our fabulous posters, write on hearts, have our faces painted and to have a group photo.  Midlands Today came so watch out for us on the TV later!

Our schools are all unique and we want them to stay that way.

Here are a few photos from the event.  Can you spot yourselves?

(We have also been interviewed by Radio WM so please listen out for us and let us know if you hear us!)

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Show you care – event this Saturday!

Our local schools are all unique and that’s one of the reasons why they’re so fantastic.

Love photos header_0001.jpg

This Saturday we’re holding an event to celebrate why we love them just as they are.

All Saints Square,

Kings Heath B14 7RA

11-11.30am

We’ll be gathering from 11 ready for a big group photo at 11.15.

BBC Midlands Today will be coming so wear if you can wear something red and bring any heart shaped accessories that you have it would really help.

Please spread the word!

Join the Facebook event page

#LoveBrumSchools

Public Information Meeting

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On the 31st January, over 150 governors, staff, parents, prospective parents, teaching union representatives, councillors and other community members braved the wet weather to gather at The West Midlands Transport Club and find out more about the proposed Multi-Academy Trust.  The panel of speakers included Sarah Barton of Ask Parents First, local councillor Lisa Trickett and Anne Brimacombe, General Secretary of NASUWT in Birmingham.  The schools were invited to send a representative but sadly they declined.

It was a fantastic evening, with lots of information shared and many questions asked (and answered).

It ended with a show of hands and there were also beads in a jar to show how people felt about the proposal.  If you’d like to find out more, please read the notes.

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