Hello again! Love Darell has spent the past week talking to parents, staff and the wider Darell family about the proposal by the governing body to give control of Darell to the Every Child Every Day Academy Trust (ECEDAT).
There are two big questions. But first, a little update:
- We are posting feedback at this website – do get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org. (We are especially happy to publish any submissions to the governing body – anonymously or otherwise.)
- A parent who prefers to remain anonymous has been trying to find out more details about ECEDAT, and we will post their findings here.
- We are putting together an annotated response to the plans by the governors and ECEDAT: check back here or sign up for the newsletter.
- And to all those who have thanked us for trying to open up the conversation: thank you for saying so! 😃
Now, here’s the big question #1: Are there any alternatives? In other words: is the governing body actually considering any future for Darell other than its being run by ECEDAT?
The governors’ document says…
…but does not say anything about what could make the governing body think twice about “Dexit”. Many people have told us that they are concerned that this is one of those “listening exercises” where, whatever anyone says, the outcome will be the same.
If they’re right: what is the right way to respond, for the future of Darell? To express concerns anyway, in the hope that perhaps our voices really might count? To boycott the consultation? To legally challenge the application? To publicly beg for clearer terms?
Before big question #2, three things of interest about big question #1:
- The Department for Education’s “Converter Academies Pipeline” shows only one of our local schools in this “pipeline”:
- Teaching staff at Grey Court school in Ham (one of the secondary schools owned by ECEDAT) have told Love Darell that they have been told that the acquisition of Darell is a done deal.
- The formal application to the government that Darell should leave local control was actually submitted before the consultation.
(Also, Love Darell would certainly not be confident about a big change happening where the thoughts of our trusted staff are just part of an informal process where only the bravest Darell staff submitted private thoughts.)
And here’s the big question #2: What ARE the alternatives?
Teachers, parents and other members of the Darell family have asked Love Darell: is it best for Darell to be run by an Academy which only runs secondary schools? There is definitely wide enthusiasm for sharing resources and expertise with other schools, but are ECEDAT’s secondaries the best partners for Darell?
One parent asked: “Do we want Darell to become a ‘cross-phase’ cog within an Academy machine, or should it be less like a secondary, and more like other primary schools and nurseries – a place where children learn to love school rather than a part of a secondary culture of endless testing and training?”
In other words, has the governing body looked into teaming up with other local schools for the under-11s?
Again, here are some things of interest:
- Do read the National Governors Association advice. They strongly recommend that schools form federations before rushing to join a Multi-Academy Trust:
[Academies are] can be an enormous change for maintained schools, so why the one-way narrative? Instead of missing out on all the benefits of being part of a group of schools, why not consider federating first?
[F]or many it is likely that the advantages to federation make it a good option.
Federation can be a very effective group structure, providing maintained schools with the opportunity to form a group – without incurring legal costs – in order to improve the education of pupils… This can be done while still remaining a maintained school, so the process is much more focused on relationship building and producing tangible outcomes for pupils, instead of being dominated by legal changes in charity/company status and land ownership.
Especially interesting is the list of advantages of federation, and the National Governors Association’s findings that, even when schools do decide to hand control to Academies, this process is much less painful and has more support if the school has first become part of a federation and kept control. But has our governing body followed this?
- The nearest thing to considering an alternative that Love Darell has been able to find in the governors’ proposal is this meeting from April 2016…
…but this seems to be an event which only looked at Multi-Academy Trusts, and did not start to think about alternatives which might be better for Darell.
- At the meeting with Maggie Bailey, the director and secretary of ECEDAT, we were told of some local primaries that Darell could not co-operate with because they were church/”PFI” schools.
Okay! But has the governing body talked to the primary and nursery schools that we could co-operate with, none of which are rushing to hand control to an Academy?
One last thing…
Love Darell has heard from many parents and staff who are open to whatever is best for Darell, who trust that the governing body will do the right thing if the consultation is genuine, but who are worried that one option is being rushed through. So, how about this?
- We pause the process
- We withdraw from the “pipeline” for now
- We get some alternatives into the conversation
- We get through this year’s Ofsted and results without either forcing Darell’s hand
- And we make sure we’re doing the best for Darell before making a huge and effectively irreversible change?
What do you think? And if you think it’s a reasonable idea, how do we make that pause-for-thought happen before it’s too late?