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Curwen Primary School

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Informal Consultation

Report of informal consultation meetings

25 September 2018

Introduction

This report provides details of the informal consultation with staff and parents carried out by the governing board of North Beckton Primary School on 19 and 21 September 2018, with regard to a proposal to convert to academy status and join The Tapscott Learning Trust

The governing board agreed that two staff meetings should be held on 19 September 2018 and that three parents’ meetings should be held on 19 (2) and 21 September 2018 for the purpose of expressing their views on the proposal. The invitations to these meetings are attached as an appendix.

In addition the governing board has also invited trade unions to meet with staff on 24 September 2018 and the Newham Council Lead Member for Education has been invited to attend the governing board meeting on 25 September 2018 so that governors can hear the local authority’s views.

Summary of informal consultation meetings

All of the informal consultation meetings were attended by members of the governing board, with one governor attending all meetings and three governors attending more than one meeting.

All meetings were introduced by Alison Helm and Paul Harris and governors contributed to the introductory comments at the parents’ meetings. The purpose of the meetings was explained to attendees. They were advised that the meetings provided an opportunity to hear why the governing board was considering the proposal to join The Tapscott Learning Trust and to provide an opportunity for questions and comments to help governors decide if there was sufficient support to make a formal application to convert to academy. Attendees were also advised about the work of the Trust with the school over the last 18 months, its approach to developing staff, its commitment to inclusion and its commitment to leave individual school decisions (such as the curriculum and school uniform) to the local governing board and headteacher. Attendees were also advised that the final decision to convert would rest with the governing board.

 

Staff meetings – 19 September 2018

Attended by 58 staff over two meetings.

 

Questions

Do staff need to reapply for their jobs?

No, all staff will be TUPE’d (Transfer of Undertakings Protecting Employment) and no conditions will change.

Will our years of long service be honoured?

Yes, no changes will be made, all current terms are TUPE’d across.

Will our pensions continue?

Yes all terms will be the same, staff already in a pension scheme will continue and any member of staff not currently in a scheme is free to join at any time.

 

Comments

I have been associated with the school over the last 10 years as a member of staff and a parent and the staffing has never been as stable as it is at the moment. The Headteacher brings a real level of compassion to the role.

Collaborative working with the other schools in the Trust has brought real benefits.

 

Parents’ meetings – 19 and 21 September 2018

Attended by 45 parents over three meetings. Following the introductory comments and general questions, governors and staff sat with groups of parents to respond to questions and hear their comments.

 

Questions

As someone who has been through the conversion process before, do you think this change into becoming an academy would be beneficial for everyone such as pupils, parents and staff?

Yes. Coming from a school and seeing the conversion first hand, this change to an academy will be very positive.  I have seen three schools in Newham come together, working together and sharing their practises with each other in order to better themselves, the lives of the children and their education and the school. Curwen, Kensington & Ranelagh are working together in partnership with North Beckton and Rebecca Cheetham Nursery and the changes over the year have been tremendous and 100% positive from parents.

What could be the possible negative effects into becoming an academy?

There is always a negative and a positive. I believe there are more positives than negatives in the instant and we should look at the positive outcomes in becoming an academy. Should there be any negatives for North Beckton, there will always be the support from the other schools within the academy.

Should the conversion go ahead, would the children be affected?

No. The children are the one of the central reasons why we would like North Beckton to join the Trust. Children have and will always be the main focus and priority during the time the Trust has worked with the school and we will ensure there will not be a knock on effect to them or their education. North Beckton has come so far in the past year and we will not do anything to jeopardise their education or school life. Converting to academy could in fact contribute to their education.

If the school does not join the Trust, what would happen?

At present the TTLT supports the school both in financial terms and in support with teaching and learning and staff development. Should the school decide not to formally join the Trust then TTLT would withdraw its resources and move away from North Beckton. As a school with two “requires improvement” Ofsted gradings, the school will need to find a new partner.

Who will make the final decision on whether this conversion will take place?

The governors will come together and will make the decision on whether they think going into the Trust would be beneficial for all. Governors and  the Head Teacher will always keep staff, parents updated and there will be an opportunity to make further comments during the formal consultation stage if the governors decided to proceed. The feedback and views from staff and parents will help the governors make the right decision.

Many parents already think that we have joined TTLT, why is the process taking so long?

From the beginning of the involvement of TTLT with North Beckton, the Governors have been adamant that they should spend as much time researching and also listening to staff and parents.  Now that the school has worked with the Trust for well over a year, the positive effects are very clear and governors felt ready to move forward with the informal consultations.

Is there still a deficit budget for North Beckton?

Yes there is still a deficit budget, with the school are working hard to reduce.  The Trust has currently supported the school with approximately £180,000.

You say that the schools in your Trust have IQM’s for their Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) provision, what is that?

These are awards of Inclusion Quality Marks.  All of the three schools were holding centres of excellence awards and now Ranelagh holds Flagship Status for its provision for children with SEND.

Who were these people that were handing out leaflets last night? Were they school staff?

The Anti Academy Alliance were outside the school on Wednesday 20th September handing out leaflets, which were full of misinformation which the Trust will look into.  They were not school staff. (see page 10)

So, that letter was not from the school itself?

No, these are not the beliefs of the school, its governors or leadership team.

Who are the Trustees and other leaders in the Trust?

We have eight Trustees, all but one lives within the Borough of Newham as we believe it is very important to include the local community in decisions.  Of our five Company Members, only one lives outside Newham and one is a local councillor.

Will you send our staff to your other schools?

No, this is absolutely not the practice of the Tapscott Trust.

Will the admissions policy change with regard to deferred entry into Reception?

The school will continue to adopt the admission policy of the local authority. 

Is the school against the Local Authority?

No.  The Trust works very closely with the LA across many areas and Mr. Harris sits on many of its committees.

This is the first I have heard of this proposal, I have been at the school for over a year?

The Head Teacher discussed these potential plans at recent parents meetings to ensure that parents were kept in the loop of what was going on.  It has only been a very recent decision that the governors have taken to consider a proposal for North Beckton to join the Tapscott Trust.

Has the decision already been made?

No, this is informal consultation and the first opportunity for governors to meet with staff and parents to hear their views.  The outcomes will be discussed by governors who will then make a formal decision.  If they do decide that they wish to join the Trust then parents will be asked for their formal opinions in a questionnaire, the results of which will be published, and there will be a further meeting. We urge parents and staff to ask questions, and to share their thoughts to ensure that governors have the full picture, and we urge parents to speak to other members of staff to hear their thoughts.

Why haven’t school newsletters stated these plans?

Governors only decided to move forward with their ideas in the summer term and informal meetings were then arranged for this month to update parents.  Parents were also informed during parents’ evenings and Welcome meetings.  The information to let parents know about these meetings was contained in the newsletters.

Another local school joined a Trust and then changed the uniform policy which caused the parents to spend a lot of money, will this happen?

As part of the Tapscott Trust’s published vision and aims, we state that it will be up to individual schools and parents to decide whether the uniform needs changing.  However, the Trust states that uniform must be affordable to all parents.

Why does the Tapscott Trust want to work with this particular school and not others in the borough?

Mr. Harris, as a National Leader of Education started working in partnership with North Beckton approximately 18 months ago, after the schools second Ofsted ‘Requires Improvement’ Rating.  We believe that the partnership has worked very well and want to continue this.  Other schools in the borough have approached the Trust to join but it is up to their own governors to make that decision.

If I had known a year ago when my child came to North Beckton that it would become an academy I would not have come here as standards may change

North Beckton has come a long with in the last 18 months in partnership with the Trust and all the schools currently in the Trust are rated either Outstanding or Good.

How are children allocated to classes each year?

This is a school decision and based on the number of new starters that come into the school.  We do reassign classes to give a better balance and also believe that it gives pupils the opportunity to meet and get to know other children in the school.   However, if parents are not happy the school will discuss individual cases with them.

I believe that North Beckton is very good at supporting children and parents with EAL

As a school we currently work with two therapists and have also introduced Vulnerable Childrens Meetings with staff to ensure that children are not slipping through the net, an idea that came from our shared work with the Trust.   We support EAL children and are also looking at EAL lessons in the community for parents.

Will the school improve its ICT provision?

Over the last year, the Trust has worked with its own schools to make huge improvements in this area.  However, North Beckton is not currently part of the Trust.

Do you provide clubs and afterschool provision at your other schools?

It depends on the needs of each community.   At Kensington, they have a large proportion of mums who don’t work and were not interested in afterschool clubs.  It is always for the school to decide the needs of its individual community.

Would the school still follow the national curriculum?

The Trust schools’ all follow the national curriculum but it is the additional offer at each school that the Trust helps with.

Do we know much about this Trust?

North Beckton has worked with the Trust for approximately 18 months in a type of ‘try before you buy’ mode.  Staff are now used to working collaboratively with the other schools and parents are used to seeing Miss Helm and Mr. Harris.

If there is opposition to parents, where would we stand?

It would be up to the governors to make the decision and this will be based on the evidence that we receive.  Governors are keen to hear of any practical reasons against joining the Trust rather than political ideologies.   However, the governors will listen to all views.

Are academies for failing schools?

About 10 years ago this may have been the model but this has changed now.  As an academy we are free to adapt the curriculum to meet the needs of the community and be more flexible with our learning.

When is the proposed date to join the Trust?

Governors intend to meet shortly to listen to all of the feedback from staff and parents and then a formal decision will be made.

How will joining the Trust affect children with SEN?

TTLT is very passionate about providing for the needs of children with SEND.  The CEO is a respected expert in the field, having worked on the Rochford Review and elsewhere within the DfE as an advisor.  The Trust also provides specialist training for staff (and other schools) in Autism Education Training and in Speech and Language training with Elklan. Since working with North Beckton, the Trust has repeatedly pushed the LA for more support for children with SEND needs. In addition, all schools currently in the TTLT hold Inclusion Quality Mark’s for their SEND provision.

Do Trusts employ unqualified teachers?

At North Beckton for specialist curriculum areas like Art, Music and PE we might use well-qualified staff with specialisms in this area as their skills and experience are often higher than regular class teachers . If Cover Supervisors were ever used to ‘cover’ sessions these would be very short term and the teacher would have planned the lesson and left the resources. We would never use unqualified teachers as full time class teachers or for long term cover.

Are the staff happy with the decision?

Governors are also meeting with staff this week but feedback so far has been overwhelmingly positive.

I have been worried about the amount of teachers leaving the school, will this change?

The school did lose quite a few members of staff at the end of the 2016/17 academic year but last year in 2017/18 this dramatically changed and only a very people left, all with very valid reasons such as moving their jobs much closer to home.  Staffing at North Beckton seem very settled now.

How does the Trust currently support higher achieving children?

Since coming to North Beckton, the Trust has introduced separate study for children in maths and English based on ability, which we believe is the correct thing to do.  The last Ofsted Inspection did note that this was not happening at the school, but this has changed now.

Will the uniform change if we join the Tapscott Trust ?

No.  Any changes in uniform will be a school decision, not for the Trust.

Does that mean that the uniform could change in the future?

If parents and governors felt that a change was needed then it would be up to the school to lead this decision, not the Trust.

Will the school hours change?

This is a school decision not for the Trust to decide.  Each school will decide what is best for their community.

Who makes the decisions about school hours and uniform ?

The decision will be made by the governors of North Beckton

Will the school still have a governing body?

Yes, the governors will still be responsible for the budget and standards at the school.

I watched that programme on Panorama about Trusts and it was very negative, is that a reflection of what happens in Trusts?

The programme did concentrate on the negative aspects of work in Trusts. Whether academy or maintained there are good and bad schools. As in business, there are good and bad companies.  We believe that the Tapscott Trust is one of the best models for both pupils, parents, communities and staff. Our accounts are audited every year and our standards are regularly checked by the government. Academies have a higher level of scrutiny than maintained schools.

 

Comments:

I am all for this positive change

Parents have seen all of the changes and believe in the Tapscott Trust and Mr. Harris

I am keen to ensure that the children are offered the best education and I think that we should join the Trust

I have been coming to this school for a number of years and the changes in the last year or so have been so noticeable and what the children can access has hugely improved, including breakfast club and now free after school clubs to support parents.  We didn’t have these before and without Mr. Harris and Miss Helm stepping in I believe the school would have disappeared.

There is now far more stability in the school.

In terms of accessibility to the senior leadership team, this school has completely changed.  If I have a problem I can see most of them in the playground before and after school, it wasn’t like that before and in the past I was left with no support when I needed it.

Nice to see the staff looking so much happier

The staff at North Beckton are really great, anything that helps them to develop is good for me and my children.

I can see a big difference here at school

Staff are so approachable now, what a difference

The school has more stability – this is what we need

The kids are happy and settled

We actually have a curriculum now, and a reading scheme which we didn’t have before.

 

Newham Against Academisation

Anti-academy protesters handed out leaflets to parents on 20 September 2018 in opposition to the school converting (appendix). This made a series of arguments against MATs

 

Newham Council and questions to The Tapscott Learning Trust

On 25 September 2018 the governing board met the Lead Member for Education and Skills and the Director of Education and Skills from Newham Council. To put questions to them about the governing board’s proposals to convert to academy and to hear the Council’s views on converting to academy and the Mayor’s pledge to re-set the Council’s relationship with schools so that they would remain maintained.  On the same date the governing board met separately with the Chief Executive Officer of The Tapscott Learning Trust to put questions to him about the governing board’s proposal to convert to academy and join the Trust. The minutes of these meetings are appended.

The Governing Board also noted that trade unions had met with staff on 24 September 2018

 

Conclusion and next steps

The governing board considered the responses from parents, staff, Newham Council and The Tapscott Learning Trust received during the informal consultation process.

The governing board concluded that was sufficient support among parents and staff to take the proposal forward. The governors agreed unanimously to apply to the Secretary of State for an Academy Order for the school to convert to academy and join The Tapscott Learning Trust.

Arrangements would now be made for a formal consultation process to be held. 

Appendix 1

Appendix 2

2.1

2.2

2.3