I recently wrote about a worrying situation for my children, their school and our local community. My daughter is 6 and going into year 2 of a fabulous school, my son is due to join the nursery in September. Yep, I said a “fabulous school”, even though it was just rated “Inadequate” by Ofsted, put into special measures & forced with an academy order. So what’s going on?
My partner and I chose Waltham Holy Cross School (WHX) out of several schools in Waltham Abbey (Essex) because the ethos, principles and values resonated so much with ours. In fact we weren’t planning on sending them to WHX, but we were so impressed when we visited that it became the obvious first choice.
The school has gone through vast changes in recent years — the transformation was started by the former Head Teacher and is now being driven by a wonderful Head and Senior Team. Having been a teacher I know the importance of a great Head and Senior Team within any school.
Even on our first visit to the school, it was clear that the focus for the school was (and still is) nurturing curiosity, creativity & confidence; ensuring wellbeing, enjoyment & happiness; bringing the best out of all children by offering a rounded, holistic learning experience for every child.
Exactly the education that we wanted for our children.
The stark contrast to this is something we all too often see — an over obsession with league tables and results.
One of the best things that the school has done is make the children proud of each other and their school — #BestSchoolInTheUniverse
I remember being excited about the future of the school and feeling safe in the knowledge that my children’s education would be focused on curiosity, confidence building, nurturing individual talents and embracing creativity.
We (along with hundreds of other parents) have seen the evidence of these values & principles every day. We see the happiness, joy and progress in our children every day. And we see the excitement, enthusiasm & eagerness to learn every morning.
Yet against this backdrop, we found out in March that the school had been rated as Inadequate at an Ofsted Inspection in December.
But surely the experts know best..?
Ok, so what, you might think?
Ofsted are the experts, surely they know what they’re doing?
If it means it gets better, surely that’s a good thing?
Well, there’s far more to it than first meets the eye. There’s a good chance that everything we love and cherish about the school today will be forced to change. This is not intended to be scaremongery or a rant — I’ve written this because I honestly think that very few people realise what the real implications are and what could happen to WHX.
The school is being forced into becoming an academy, which means:
- The Local Authority will no longer be in charge of the budget
- The Trust will take a top-slice off the budget to pay themselves (often huge amounts of £££)
- The budget will be cut. People are the highest cost. Support staff, SEND specialist and teachers will go
- Many systems, process, operational elements will be centralised, given the school less autonomy
- The Governors will change
- The Senior Team (including the Head) are likely to be replaced
- The Ethos, Values & Principles are likely to change
- The length of the school day is likely to be extended
- Aftercare, breakfast clubs & extra-curricula clubs could all be taken away
- Non-qualified teachers could be teaching our children
- Teacher pay & conditions could change, resulting in our children’s teachers leaving
- Our children’s happiness, love of learning & pride in their school is likely to diminish
- The school will be run by a business with a CEO, not a Local Authority
- The budget will be shared across all Trust school, so there’s no way of guaranteeing that it’s used for our children
- Results will become priority #1
Some of these will happen; some might happen. But, unfortunately we, as parents, staff or children don’t know which will and which won’t?
It’s really important to know that once the school is an academy, it can never return to the way it was
We may be told that this or that won’t happen, but we have no way of knowing what will actually change. The chosen trust will have complete control and there’s no way that any of us can stop them doing anything above. Even if they promise not to now; there’s every chance of them changing their mind (for example when the budget needs to be fixed to ensure their salaries can be maintained).
But all that only happens if we let them take over.
We all care about our children’s future. The only way we can guarantee that some of the items above do not happen is if we take action.
As I wrote about previously, we have a number of fights on our hands — against Ofsted, the chosen Trust &The Government. But the one we need to focus on right now is our fight with Ofsted.
If we can convince Ofsted to carry out a second inspection (and the result is positive), it will mean the school is not put into Special Measures and will not be forced into becoming an academy. Everything above (and lots more besides) will be swept aside & the school can be left to continue to improve (with the necessary support).