Some Conservatives Learn From Experience

It may help you to be a trade unionist and/or a Labour supporter in order to oppose removing schools from Local Education Authority oversight but it would appear that it is not a requirement. A conservative council is opposing what appears to be a hostile takeover of one of its schools by the Harris Federation of Academies.

Blogs such as this one accuse Bromley Council of “blocking school choice” by opposing the transfer of Kelsey Park Sports College to the Harris Federation. Judging by this article in a local newspaper, the school chooses not to become part of the Harris Federation so Bromley is in fact backing ‘school choice’.

Perhaps mean “parental choice of how their schools are run”? Maybe. Although I would have thought parents can influence how their childrens’ schools are run by standing for election as parent governors, discussing concerns with governors even if they are not on the governing body and by discussing their concerns with their local councillor. Why can’t the campaigners do that?

This might be a clue:-

However as Mr Lloyd has previously pointed out, none of the campaigners have children who actually attend Kelsey nor have they even visited the school.

It is claimed that the school will get much better results if it is an academy. Personally I do not see how replacing a London Borough of Bromley signboard with a Harris Federation one will bring about improvement. It might be pointed out that there is more to it than that – it is the way schools teach that is important. Fair point, but again I do not see why a transfer is neccessary for this. Indeed, the school is already improving – going from just 28% of students getting 5 A* – C grades at GCSE to 46%.

Interestingly, despite the rantings of right-wing bloggers, Bromley Council has not set its face totally against Academy status. According to the Spectator’s coffeehouse blog, the council wants a partnership in running the school:-

Having said earlier this year that they wanted our local school, Kelsey Park Sports College, to become an Academy – a decision that was a welcome relief for many local families – the Council is now backpedaling like crazy. You see, the person in charge of schools in Bromley, Cllr Ernest Noad, now says that he will only accept an Academies Sponsor that will agree to manage the school in a 50/50 partnership deal with him and his colleagues at the Council.

This rules out the Harris Federation who, on the basis of their superb track record in neighbouring boroughs, are the preferred choice of many parents. Their success has been blogged about on Coffee House before. Harris would like to sponsor Kelsey as an Academy but, understandably, don’t think they can improve it if every decision needs to be taken by committee with a Council which for years has been content to let the school drift.

Partnership does not suit conservativehome.blogs who have this to say:

Academies have too little freedom as it is without handing back half of it.


…I want the Harris Federation to get stuck into starting up Free Schools. In Nick’s borough. In my borough. In Lewisham, Croydon, Lambeth, Southwark and Wandsworth. However reasonable or unreasonable Cllr Noad is being, they are no longer beholden to him. Or his opposite numbers. They have been set free.

Being set free sounds so much better than being allowed to drift doesn’t it? Trouble is, I am not sure that the school has been “allowed to drift” because according to headteacher Brian Lloyd:-

“The authority has really supported us to the hilt.”

Trouble is with making schools free of LEA oversight, it allows public money to be mis-spent, sometimes criminally so, as in the case of Colleen McCabe, who as headmistress stole £500,000 from St John Rigby Catholic College. The embezzlement was only uncovered when Grant Maintained status was abolished by the last Government and Bromley Council auditors got a good look at the books.

Yes. Bromley Council. They have been burnt once by ‘setting schools free’. It would seem that some Tories can learn from experience. Just not the ones who write blogs or sit in Parliament.


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