Hands Off Hove Park: Schools should be run as schools – not as businesses

Robb Johnson performed at an anti-academy march and rally last weekend
Robb Johnson performed at an anti-academy march and rally last weekend

Parents, teachers and pupils at Hove Park School are now considered “outside agitators”.

Parents, teachers and pupils at Hove Park School are now considered “outside agitators” by the school’s headteacher, because they oppose academisation.

Derek Trimmer, ever since he arrived as headteacher in 2011, repeatedly assured us the school would not seek academy status.

There were, however, months of meetings planning for this before the chair of governors announced in March the school wanted to “express an interest” in academisation.

This was a fact-finding exercise, he said - as if no governor ever read any articles about education or knew how to use Google.

We immediately received shiny pro-academy leaflets. The teachers’ one declared there would be no ballot; the parents’ one proclaimed it was a “moral imperative”.

We would lead a “family of schools” - although later the head admitted no such family existed. The leaflet disparaged the local authority, without whose funding the prestigious iPad project - whereby parents buy students' iPads from the school - would not have happened. The impression was the school would be an academy next September.

We organised a public meeting, started a petition, and engaged people in discussion, saying how academies impact disastrously on all the other local authority schools and children. They are back-door privatisations. And many run into difficulties because schools should be run as schools - not businesses.

The school ignored staff concerns, parent concerns, and student protests. Instead, they held “consultation evenings”: PowerPoint images of glamorous new building work we might get if we successfully applied for academy-only government funding, and an alleged Department for Education civil servant who turned out to be a private consultant. When a parent complained about the lack of balance, the chair of governors declared: “This is not a debate.”

Eventually, the head pulbished a lengthy statement, inflating the official statistic of 57% academised secondary schools to “two thirds” and enthusing about the school’s achievements (the school is yet to be graded “outstanding” by Ofsted) - but offering only “greater freedom” and “increased control” as reasons for academisation.

School leadership recently visited Saudi Arabia and China, countries not renowned for their education or, indeed, their democracy.

Surely, governors should question how this obsession with prestige projects benefits our children. We believe schools should belong to and serve their communities. Our campaigning has shown the people of Brighton and Hove agree with us.

Perhaps it is not the parents, teachers and children who are the ideologically-driven outside agitators.

Robb Johnson, a primary school teacher, has two sons at Hove Park School and is a supporter of the Hands Off Hove Park School campaign.[/boox]