Posts Tagged ‘Chris Woodhead’

Book Review: The Great City Academy Fraud – Part 2

July 13, 2016

Academy Fraud Pic

Francis Beckett (London: Continuum 2007)

Poor Staff Conditions

Both New Labour and the Tories have regurgitated endless amounts of Thatcherite verbiage about ‘choice’, when hyping their schemes to take education out of the control of local authorities. In fact, parents and teacher frequently have little choice over how academies are run. The funding agreement gives the power to make decisions regarding school management to the sponsor. These agreements get rid of all but a token representative from the parents and school staff on the school governors’ board. The staff governor may not even be a member of the teaching staff. They are free to set their own pay, terms and conditions, and are outside the regulations governing the conduct of teachers. New Labour was early faced with public opposition when they announced that teacher employed in academies would not have to belong to the compulsory professional body that makes sure teachers are actually fit to teach children. Blair and his team boasted that this was all part of the freedom academies enjoyed from the regulations binding conventional schools. Somebody pointed out that if this regulation was unnecessary, then surely it should also be repealed for ordinary schools. And if it wasn’t, then the regulation should be enforced in academies. At that point, New Labour decided that the regulation did apply, and backed down.
Several of the academy chains, including one run by 3Es, won’t recognise trade unions. These have massive staff turnover, including headmasters. Some of these are hired for truly eye-watering sums. One head, who formerly ran the King Solomon Jewish school, was taken on by an academy for £120,000. This chap eventually left as his experience running a faith school did not prepare him for the problems of coping with a mainstream school, whose children were taken from a variety of ethnic and faith backgrounds.

Refusal to Take Difficult Pupils

Conditions for pupils may not improve either, especially for children with behaviour problems. Academies have tried to keep up their appearance of improving standards frequently by excluding some of the most difficult children, who may find their school career, and their entire lives, wrecked as a result. One school managed to excluded 246 or so of its student population of 700-odd. Beckett provides a couple of cases showing what happened to some of the unlucky children, who were expelled. Except that, technically they may not be. They can exclude someone in a particular manner, so that it’s not technically an exclusion. And if it’s not technically an exclusion, then the Local Education Authority does have the statutory responsibility to find another school for them. This happened to a lad, ‘Jack’ – not his real name – who was excluded, and effectively confined to home for five months. The lad suffered from depression anyway, which was made worse. His mother reported that he then spent all his time in his room, not coming out even for his meals. Another boy, who was excluded, also found that no-one else was prepared to take him on. He ended up not doing his GCSEs. He did manage to get a vocational qualification at a local college, but as this is not an academic qualification, he will suffer at finding a job, and be unable to get into university.

And it isn’t exactly fun and games for the teachers, either. They’re frequently only hired on six month contracts, just in case they start getting a bit too settled and too powerful. One woman was assaulted by a boy in her class. He was not expelled, and the woman understandable felt anxious about going back to work. So she took a little bit more time off. Only to find that, as she was on a six-month contract, she was not paid for the extra time.

No Choice for Parents and Local Authorities

And parents and local authorities have also been penalised if they refused to get in-line and ‘on message’ with the Blairite diktats. Local authorities are expected to consider building academies when trying to renovate and improve schools in their areas, and the onus is always on changing to an academy. If a local authority refuses the government’s command to turn their school into one, the government responded with a scorched earth policy. No further money would be forthcoming for that area’s schools.

And Blair was both doctrinaire and personally vindictive towards those schools that refused to bend, or stubbornly remained ‘good’ in Ofsted reports. Documents revealed under the Freedom of Information Act show that Islington Green School, which Blair was desperate to close, were actually rated good by the school inspectors, despite Chris Woodhead, the-then head of Ofsted, declaring that it was failing. There then followed a long campaign to have the school closed and transformed into an academy. Quite why is unknown, but Beckett speculates personal spite on the Warmonger’s part. The Blairs lived in its catchment area, but they sent their children over the other side of London to be educated at the London Oratory. The press seized on this, and the Dear Leader was embarrassed. So it looks like the school was failed for political reasons, to make it seem less like Blair wasn’t sending his children to it purely for reasons of personal snobbery.

In other areas, parents were subject to full set of New Labour spin and vilification if they put up protests against plans to close their schools and turn them into academies. One man, who was part of a campaign to save his local school, came under personal attack in the subsequent court case to save the school from closure. He was a member of the Socialist Party, what used to be the Militant Tendency, when it was part of the Labour party. And so New Labour seized on that, and claimed that he was only opposing the academy plan because of his political opinions. Not true, but that was how the local New Labour party spun it. Their Labour MP also sent out a very carefully worded letter to her constituents, that asked them to tick two boxes. One said that they were in favour of raising school standards involving a transfer to academy status. The other box said that they were not in favour of raising standards through academy status. Or something like that. It was carefully phrased to make it sound like the only way to improve standards was through changing to an academy. If you weren’t behind it, you weren’t in favour of improving school standards. It was the New Labour educational variety of the old leading question, ‘Do you still beat your wife?’

From 2013: Ofsted Inspectors with Connections to Private Schools Marking Down State Competitors

April 18, 2014

This is again from Private Eye for 1st – 14th November 2013.

Bias Beware

More questions for Ofsted over the use of additional inspectors who have conflicts of interest with the schools they inspect.

Wanstead High School in east London dropped from a “good” at its previous inspection to “requires improvement” after inspectors visited earlier this year. Pupils went on to record improved GCSE results and very impressive A-level results this summer, with nearly half getting a B or higher at A-level.

Meanwhile, sharp-eyed parents spotted that the Ofsted inspection team included Moazam Parvez, a Tribal Education-accredited additional inspector. His profile on the Tribal list notes: “He is currently head of secondary school in east London.” Mr Parvez is secondary head at Buxton School, a trust school, which is a 1.8 mile walk away, in the same E11 postcode.

This follows the case of London Nautical School getting a “requires improvement” rating in May from an inspection team including Daniel Mohnihan, the CEO of the Harris Federation, which has 15 schools in south London (Eye 1346).

In 2w011, Ofsted assured the Eye it would regard any situation where inspectors or their employers were “involved in an organisation in competition with the school under inspection as a conflict of interest to be avoided”. The Eye asked Ofsted whether both Moynihan and Parvez didn’t therefore face conflicts of interest as definied in the Ofsted protocol for inspection service providers. Despite a holding reply promising an explanation, answer came there none.

This is another example of the government using businessmen from private industry in an official position to push their privatisation agenda. Years ago Chris Woodhead, the former Ofsted schools inspector, declared he was strongly in favour of taking schools out of local authority control, in line with Tory ideology. This clearly meant that he had a bias against traditional state education, and this has merely continued with the employment of Parvez and Moynihan as school inspectors.

Private Equity Firms and the Campaign against Labour’s Connections to the Unions

July 20, 2013

I blogged yesterday about the sale of the NHS Blood Plasma Service to an American private equity firm, and yesterday and today about how such firms were involved in the abysmal management of the Winterbourne View residential home. Looking back through an old copy of Private Eye, it now seems that they may also be behind the government’s and Miliband’s campaign against the unions connection to the Labour Party. In their 10th March – 12th April 2007 issue, the Eye ran the article ‘Private Equity: Locusts Bite Back’. This ran as follows:

‘Trade Unions have been trying to get Labour to rein in private equity firms claiming they are secretive get-rich-quick merchants and asset-strippers. Now the industry may get its revenge, as one of its numbers is close to persuading Labour to ditch the unions.

Sir Hayden Phillips, a former mandarin appointed by Tony Blair to review party funding recommended a £50,000 cap on donations. This would hit union funding for Labour, as they could only make larger donations if they individually balloted the members, who provide the funds.

Sir Hayden no doubt generated this idea within his own finely tuned mind, but he certainly has some interesting employers. He sits on the advisory board of the private equity firm Englefield Capital, where, in a demonstration of Labour’s links to the industry, former defence secretary George Robertson also has a seat. Englefield’s notable investments include GSL, the private prison company that bought out Group 4’s custodial business and now runs Yarls Wood and other immigration detention centres, together with other prisons and youth jails. Englefield also funds “Cognita”, a chain of “low cost ” private schools set up by one-time chief of schools Chris Woodhead.’

The campaign against the unions’ connection to Labour thus goes back to the days of Tony Blair. It’s motivated by anger at the unions’ frustration of their attempts to take over valuable sections of the state infrastructure.