Opinion: Gove the Bully

We are seeing a transformation of schools, for the worse in my personal opinion, from local community schools to academies controlled by central government. Tragically both the previous Labour government and the current Conservative government are imposing this on us, there has been little choice for the electorate as the two major parties both promote it. Democracy is eroded in academies because in many cases parent and staff representation on governing bodies is minimal.

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New Sponsor For The James Brindley Academy

NHS Stoke-on-Trent has stepped down as lead sponsor for the proposed James Brindley Academy and is to be replaced by the Ormiston Trust.

Following the publication of the Department of Health White Paper which proposes to abolish Primary Care Trusts by April 2013 Stoke-on-Trent Primary Care Trust (NHS Stoke-on-Trent) has decided to step down as lead sponsor on the proposed James Brindley Academy project in Stoke-on-Trent.

NHS Stoke-on-Trent made this difficult decision to ensure the project can continue forward without any doubts about the sponsorship and so that business could continue as normal for everyone involved.

The Department for Education has agreed that the Ormiston Trust already the sponsor of the Ormiston Sir Stanley Matthews Academy which replaced Blurton High School this September, can become the lead sponsor. Ormiston Trust will work with NHS Stoke-on-Trent and Keele University as strategic partners to deliver the new academy to the current timescales.

A non-profit organisation, Ormiston Trust first sponsored Gateway Academy in Thurrock in 2006, and now sponsors eleven academies across the UK, four of which opened this September in East Anglia, Stoke-on-Trent and Cheshire.

Ormiston Trust’s Managing Director Joyce Hodgetts commented: “We are delighted to become the sponsor of the proposed James Brindley Academy. Ormiston is committed to improving the life chances of young people as demonstrated by the excellent recent results of our 7 existing academies. We are very proud of the sustained success of the work we do and look forward to the staff, students and parents being a part of this.”

Chris Dawes, Chairman of NHS Stoke-on-Trent, stated: “Despite the change in status following the Health White Paper everybody at NHS Stoke-on-Trent remains committed to the vision of the new academy at James Brindley and are eager to work with Ormiston Trust and Keele University to make the vision a reality.”

The Academy will continue to have Science and Health as specialisms, and Clive Rigby will continue to be Principal Designate.

In addition, the Building Schools for the Future (BSF) funding for the new academy was secured last month and the work to translate the education vision into an early design has been progressing throughout the summer.

Stoke-on-Trent City Council cabinet member for children and youing people’s services, Cllr. Debra Gratton, said: “Obviously we’re disappointed the NHS Stoke-on-Trent won’t be able to continue as the lead sponsor but they will still have involvement with the new academy and we’re delighted that Ormiston Trust have agreed to take over. I would like to assure pupils, staff and the local community that this will in no way affect the timetable for the building of the new academy.”

Building work on the new academy is due to begin in September 2011 with pupils moving into the new school two years later. However, the Academy is still on course to open in existing buildings in September 2011.

Academies – Let’s Move The Debate On Says Stoke-on-Trent Central MP Tristram Hunt

Stoke-on-Trent Central MP Tristram Hunt [Lab] is for the debate over Academy type schools to move from their governance to what is actually taught in them.

In a letter to the Guardian Newspaper, Tristram highlights his concerns over the teaching of Science in academies being significantly lower than in council controlled schools.

Stoke-on-Trent escaped the government cuts in the BSF programme and as a result 5 academy type schools will be built across the city. They are:

*James Brindley Science College will close and a new academy will be built on the same site.
*Brownhills Maths and Computing College will close and a new academy will be built on the same site.
*Blurton High School Business and Enterprise College will close and a new academy will be built on the same site.
*St. Peters High School and Berry Hill High School will close and a new academy will be built on a new site located at the current Sixth Form College, Fenton.
*Mitchell High School and Edensor Technology College will close and a new academy will be built at a site located in the east of the city.

Here is a copy of Tristram’s letter:

The Campaign for Science and Engineering (New academies will leave pupils struggling to succeed, say critics, 26 July) is right to be worried about the teaching of science in academy schools. The percentage of pupils taking GCSEs in physics, chemistry and the biological sciences in academies is markedly below schools in the maintained sector. And it is the same case in the humanities. Just 17% of pupils in academies take geography GCSE, compared to 27% in the maintained sector; 21% take history GCSE, compared to 31%; and 26% take a modern language, compared to 44%. New evidence from the Historical Association also indicates that academies are more likely to teach history at key stage 3 within a less focused integrated humanities programme. A worrying picture is emerging, with non-specialist teaching of history at key stage 3 being far more common in academies than in other types of school and less time being allocated to the subject.

Perhaps it is time the debate over academy schools moves on from questions of governance to what pupils are actually learning.

Tristram Hunt MP

Lab, Stoke-on-Trent Central

Who would want to be a teacher?

I met up with an old friend last night in Leek for a pint. He teaches in a primary school in the West Midlands and has being teaching for 25 years in the same school. He yearns for the day that he can retire as teaching is having an impact on his mental health. A few years ago he broke down in the classroom and was off work with depression. Recently the school failed its Ofsted and fear that his mental well being is in decline re surfaced. He told me about the failings of the Head at his school who has allowed things to slide. It seems one of the factors in the failing was the toxic reports that the parents gave on the head. He tells me of the impossible demands of the parents who are quick to criticise but slow to offer any support themselves either to their off spring or generally to the school. Over the years the social composition of the school has changed with the middle class element voting with their feet. The school draws from a large council estate. The kids the boys especially spend much of their free time on computers, sometimes several hours into late in the night and arrive dog tired at school. By 10 am many of them have their heads down on the desk, as they are exhausted. He gave the class of 31 an exercise on South Africa and only three had bothered to do it. The range of abilities of the kids is also very wide ranging from kids who can give all the Prime Numbers up to 100 and others who do not know what the next number after 99 is. Disruption is an increasing problem in the school although not in his class. He is the only male in the school “apart from the rabbit in class 2″. His colleagues can only talk about teaching and the X Factor. He increasingly finds them and the job a chore. Then of course there is Ofsted, which has increased its failure rate from 3% to 10% so that more schools fall into the net. He is scathing about Ofsted and on a previous visit characterised the inspectorate as ” as middle class, middle aged women from Herefordshire” who knowledge of the problems of a Black Country school in a social priority area are sketchy at least.

I have another friend who I have also known since the 70s. She teaches in a High School in the City, which is in special measures. Again it is in a troubled area of the City. She works something like 70 to 80 hours a week. She seems to have no time of her own. Work pressure is crushing and again her health is affected. The Head Teacher piles more and more work on her and her life is spent in writing reports often at very short notice.

A third friend teaches at a FE College. He has worked their since the 80s and again is finding the increasing demands of his job testing. The manager who has never taught and has come from industry is a bully and there have been arguments and threats. There are minor victories when he informed the manager of spelling and grammatical mistakes in one of the frequent missives from the manager.

If these accounts are typical of the experience of teaching in the opening years of the 21st Century then who would want to teach?

I am a qualified teacher and I did teach again in 2005 in a local FE College. I had been some years out of the game but I was shocked by a number of things that I witnessed. It seemed that the A level students I was teaching German History to seemed to lack any initiative or drive. What surprised me was that some of them were destined to go to some prestigious Universities like Bristol, Durham and Leeds. I set them an exercise on the domestic and foreign policy of Kaiser Wilhelm. I gave them the website, lists of source material, extracts from books and other information that would help them each to give 5-minute presentations on subjects like Wilhelmite expansion in Africa. No one did the exercise although I believed that the ability to present information would hold him or her in good stead throughout their working lives. Anyway no one did it. Again in writing reports I was told to eschew the truth and write only positive things about the students even though I wanted to write words like ” lazy” and “oaf” in the reports. I feared that we were producing students who were incapable of independent thought or action. Friends who work in Higher Education confirm the lamentable state of students who arrive at Universities. Maths students who don’t know what “factorise” means, etc.

Last year the NUT produced a report on the mental health of teachers. It catalogued the increasing workload being placed on teachers. Half of teachers were considering leaving the profession citing work demands, lack of support and poor pupil behaviour as being factors. The HSE also found that Teaching was one of the most stressful occupations.

Unmanageable workload, violence, excessive monitoring, disruptive pupils, constant change and workplace bullying were common factors which is leading to a haemorrhaging of teachers from the profession and for those who remain an increased likelihood of mental harm as experienced by my friend.

With another burst of reform promised by the new Government it looks like we will be in for a bumpy ride.

Springfield Action Group hand petition over at Council Meeting.

By Tony Walley.

The Springfield Action Group were out in force at the civic centre today.

They staged a very peaceful protest against the proposed siting of a new Academy type school on a brownfield site just off Anchor Rd which is a haven for local nature enthusiasts and dog walkers.

If the proposals goes through not only will the local community lose this valuable peace of open space but our council will miss out on the chance to develop an unused piece of land that is in desperate need of improvement.

Today I caught up with the Springfield Action Group Chairman Andy Maskery, listen to the Audio Interview:

[audio:http://www.pitsnpots.co.uk/audio/1009/and-m.mp3]

Later this afternoon during a mammoth full council meeting and long after the representatives of the Action Group had left the chamber, Labour Group leader Mike Barnes criticised the Council Leader Ross Irving and his cabinet for promising further discussions relating to the various locations available for the new school and then a week later submitting an Outline Planning Application costing in the region of £18,500 for the Springfield site.

Council Leader Ross Irving responded to the criticism by stating that the exact location had not been decided but the Springfield site application had been submitted as a precaution if other sites proved unsuitable. He also revealed that just two locations were now under consideration, the site proposed by Rob Flello MP and Longton North Councillors, Denver Tolley, Mark Davis and Tom Reynolds just off Mossfield Road and the controversial Springfield site.

All other site have now been discounted due to the additional costs of land stabilisation and road access which would have to be covered by the city council as they fall outside the BSF funding criteria.

Labour Group Councillors Reynolds, Shotton, Knapper & Tolley all insisted for openness and transparency in future discussions relating the this issue and they asked the council leader to understand why the community were sceptical about the information coming out into the public arena given the fact that there is now a definite planning application for the Springfield site.

Keep Adderley Green – In Full Swing!

By Tony Walley.

The fight to prevent a brand new Academy on the ‘Springfields’ site off Short Bambury Street is in full swing!

On Saturday a 70 strong protest march took place to highlight the un-suitability of the first choice location for the proposed Parkhall Academy.
If the plans were to go ahead local residents and people in the surrounding areas of, Adderley Green, Sanford Hill, Meir Hay, Weston Park, Weston Coyney and Parkhall would be robbed of a valuable piece of green space, which is enjoed by many in particular local dog walkers.

There is now a website up and running which you can visit at www.keepadderleygreen.co.uk.

This committed group of people are not against a school for their area, indeed quite the opposite! They are against the destruction of a local piece of green space that is full of local wildlife and attracts many visitors from the local area.

The Springfield Action Group [SAG] are keen to point out that they believe it is a huge mistake to build a brand new school on a much loved area that is a haven for walkers and pet lovers when there is an abundance of land that is available off Mossfield Road that is as easy to access from all the catchment area for the proposed Parkhall Academy. They also firmly believe that a new school off Mossfield Road would dramatically improve the local area and still provide a safe route to school for all children of secondary school age by utilising the excellent cycle/walking trail that runs from Weston Coyney to Berryhill and takes in the Springfield site.

Take a look at the video of Saturday’s march:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KFKS5x78eI8

Wol’s Weekend Wanderings!

Comment By Tony Walley.

Tony Walley

Tony Walley

Well you have drawn the short straw this week as Matt has been on a pamper day at a health farm with his missus. Apparently he has had a facial and was contemplating a “back, sack & crack”. We wish him the best of luck with that!

What can I say about this week? I’ve been outed as a Libdem and we have witnessed a fantastic victory by the TAG as they realised their dream of keeping their school open.

I’ll start by saying that I’m absolutely amazed that my membership of the Libdems has caused such a stir at the civic, and that it’s been something worthy of making public and even being a talking point at all. I am, by my own admission,  quite a political person and joining another party just seemed a natural thing for me to do when I realised that Labour was no longer the party for me.

Let me put Libdems and other interested people”s minds at rest by saying I have no intention of standing as a councillor or anything else now, and probably never.

Sources have informed me that Jean Bowers hasn’t greeted my membership with much, if any enthusiasm. I just intend to carry on doing what I do with the people who are involved in this site and who I’m proud to say are good friends.

Trentham is still rejoicing this weekend, and quite rightly too. They have won an unlikely victory. They have succeeded when many tipped them to fail. Rob Flello has proved to even his doubters that he is an effective hard working MP and he will take some shifting from this particular Labour seat.

Terry Follows is an Independent who has stuck to his task of supporting the TAG and their school. I have the utmost respect for the man and there is no doubt that his motion won the day at the last council meeting. Terry has suffered a terrible loss in his life and I sincerely hope that he finds some comfort in the plaudits and compliments he receives. There is one thing for certain he will never be short of friendship in Trentham. His success has even seen people mention him in dispatches regarding him being a possible contender for council leader.

The TAG will be celebrating their victory but they will know better than any that, left to this EMB they would not be sipping their champagne this weekend. Ross Irving and Roger Ibbs constantly told the media and the TAG for that matter, they were fighting a fight that they could not hope to win. Jim Knights intervention has turned all that on it’s head and made Mr Irving and Mr Ibbs look rather silly. Both had claimed that government would not allow the EMB to save Trentham High. So what changed? Rob Flello persuaded Jim Knight that Trentham had a case and it has lead to two senior councillors being left out in the political wilderness with no chance of gaining re-election in their Trentham Wards.

Is it fair on Mr Ibbs & Mr Irving? Who Knows, but it shows you just how fickle politics can be. I guess these two councillors will have plenty of time to contemplate their downfall. It is my guess that they are feeling pretty miffed with the minister.

Many people in Trentham will feel that they simply backed the wrong horse.

This weeks EMB will not be forgotten for a very long time and for different reasons.

This collection of players are arrogance masquerading as incompetence!

The EMB had before them a chance to make a real positive change for the children in our city and quite frankly they blew it. They knew going into that meeting that they had to save Trentham High. To ignore the ministers wishes was a step too far even for them. But didn’t they let everyone know they did it grudgingly? Oh yes, we have to save THS but let’s take them out of the BSF programme and leave them without any funds for a refurbishment.

They could have given an incredible gift to the people of Bucknall/Berryhill/Bentilee by moving the proposed Parkhall academy to the Mitchell site. But once again they chose to go against the wishes of the people. Joy Garners reference to taking text messages from the working class people of Berryhill was a joke. The text messages she was sent were sent by Terry Crowe (he told me himself!) who was accusing her of turning her back on the Labour Party and it’s wishes, and yes the working people of that area. Why did she tell the people of Trentham? Doesn’t she know that all the people of this city deserve to be treated the same, equally and fairly. Working or un-employed, rich or poor, man or woman, gay or straight, we should all be afforded the same treatment.

Why did Jean Bowers think it was fair to make out that Rob Flello had worked harder on the BSF issue than Mark Fisher? How could it be fair that Mr Fisher was not afforded a right of reply? The man has served the people of Stoke Central for many years and yet he and Barry Stockley were treated like they were in the dock awaiting sentencing for a very serious crime. They were guilty of a crime alright, the crime of representing the people who elected them, which is more than can be said of the now discredited EMB!

The EMB was chaired very aggressively by Mohammed Pervez. This wasn’t a meeting chaired strictly, this was a meeting that was chaired in an inflammatory manner. He chose to ignore councillors who pointed out that fellow councillors were being refused admission. He ignored pleas to move the meeting into the Kings Hall so all the public could be included. He wasn’t tolerating this or standing for that, and he even took the time to attack the BNP. Yet HE FAILED to control his EMB members from  attacking the efforts of  one of our MP’s.

I think it’s clear to all now that any member of the present EMB should not be taken onto any cabinet under any future leader. I think the city have had more than enough of these people now. It’s time for a change of vision for sure, but also, equally as important, it’s time for a change of personnel.

Once again the stand out performers were the usual suspects. Peter Kent-Baguley, Brian Ward, Roy Naylor, Alan Rigby, Terry Follows and Mike Barnes.

If we have to have a coalition in June, lets see some fresh faces on the cabinet. Lets see people who are now known to represent the wishes of the people. Whoever the leader happens to be let them make this pledge to us: fresh faces, brighter future!

Councillors wishing to be the new leader should be made to state his/her vision for our city for us the electorate that they represent. Let them also be made to disclose the names of the councillors who would be invited to serve on their cabinet. Let’s see an end to the trend of controversial policies, and lets have a period of inclusion and harmony.

We the city are waiting, expecting and even demanding. The politics in this city have been tarnished for too long and I say enough is enough. Who will rid us of all the ill-feeling and unrest? Who can heal this politically broken city?

Finally, you had to feel sorry for Michael Howard of the council’s press department. Michael has always treated us with respect (unlike some) and for that, we are truly grateful. He was the same on Wednesday as we arrived at the EMB. We sat near him on the press seats and a few times I looked across at him and thought (and I swear I’m not being sarcastic)  “My god, at least we can tell it as it is. Poor Mike has got to make something positive out of this lot!”

I know now what makes a real press guy and why we are but mere amateurs.

I read the press release the next day, my god, he is bloody good!

That is my weekend wandering and I commend it to the blog………

Two flagship academy heads resign!

By Pits’n’Pots Reporter

As Stoke on Trent is carried down the government’s flagship academy model of education by our Elected Mayor, disturbing news has emerged about these type of institutions.

Two of the country’s flagship educational academies have lost their head teachers in the past three months.

The losses are a new blow to the academy system, which was set up in 2006 to transform education in the poorest parts of the country by replacing failing secondary schools.

The state-run, semi-independent academies are partially funded by wealthy individuals, companies, universities and church groups.

But the scheme has been struggling with a high staff turnover. A government-funded survey has revealed that 11 out of 27 academies lost their heads since opening, with many leaving within the first year.

Critics are blaming the departure of academy heads on school sponsors, claiming that headteachers are being treated like ‘football managers’ – under pressure to achieve instant results.

Fiona Cordeaux quit her post at Walthamstow Academy last month, despite improving grades.

Her departure has been blamed on clashes with staff over her leadership style.

She had been fighting staff claims of a ‘blame culture’ in the school.

Mrs Cordeaux’s resignation follows the December departure of Paddington Academy’s head, Phil Hearne, who left after only 17 months in favour of another job.

Both academies are run by the scheme’s biggest sponsor, United Learning Trust, as part of a 15-school national chain funded by the Christian charity.

John Dunford of the Association of School and College Leaders, called the high turnover ‘a great concern’. He said: ‘Sponsors are copying the worst excesses of football manager syndrome,’ adding that they often had unrealistic expectations.

Alasdair Smith of the Anti-Academies Alliance added that the ULT resignations have raised questions over whether the sponsor was ‘fit for purpose’.

A spokesman for the ULT group said: ‘It is unfortunate that the Anti-Academies Alliance continues to attack and oppose all academy sponsors when academies are achieving so much in often very challenging areas of the country.’

He added that the recent resignations were the only departures to have affected the group since July 2007.

This news comes at the same time that teachers claim that pupil behaviour has become much worse.

Teachers are saying that children have become disrespectful, insulting and even physically aggressive in the classroom.

Poor behaviour is now seen as a routine interference when trying to teach, while many teachers say they have experienced health problems such as stress and anxiety because of it.

Almost two thirds of staff have had to deal with a disruptive student for punching or kicking while a quarter said they had to deal with a pupil for spitting, according to a survey by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL).

And 1.5% said they had dealt with incidents of a child stabbing or attempting to stab someone.

The problems appear to be worse among younger children, with a third of primary school staff reporting incidents of violent behaviour such as punching and kicking compared to a fifth of secondary school teachers.

And teachers are not just facing abuse from students, the research found.

The survey found that almost four in 10 teachers have faced aggression from a parent.

More than eight in 10 said they had been verbally abused and insulted, while more than half said they had faced threats or been sworn or shouted at.

Teachers said they believed parents became aggressive because their child had been disciplined in class or received poor grades.

Dealing with disruptive pupils has had an effect on teachers’ attitudes, with almost half saying they had considered switching professions because of it.

More than a third had lost their confidence because of bad behaviour and a fifth said it had caused mental health problems.

While teachers said that they thought their school’s behaviour policies were adequate, there were concerns that students were able to get away with behaving badly because not every member of staff adhered to it properly.

ATL members will debate motions on pupil behaviour at their annual conference in Liverpool this week.

Source: Mailonline.

Closing schools, opening academies…the thoughts of a parent

This post is from Karen Pate, a parent with children at Trentham High and at Ash Green primary school in the same area. She is one of many worried that an academy merging Trentham and Blurton High could make things worse rather than better for their children’s education.

As a member of the Trentham action group (TAG) to save Trentham High, I have been concerned over the way in which Mark Meredith has used every method possible to ensure that the school is forced to close.

Building Schools for the Future (BSF) should do exactly what it says on the tin; be about improving school buildings and facilities with the sole aim of improving the education for pupils in Stoke on Trent. The city has been at the lower end of the education league tables for far too long and no one is disputing the need for change.

The Elected Mayor’s sole plan, however, has been to spend money on new buildings in the hope that this will in some way raise educational standards. If the aim is to improve standards then it is surely counter productive to close the school that is currently the best non-selective school in the city. And it is even more detrimental to the city to refuse to look at the well-researched alternative proposals put forward by governors of Trentham High. Their proposal to form a soft federation with St Joseph’s College,  a school that is massively oversubscribed each year was dismissed by Ged Rowney (SERCO) and Mr Meredith as impossible without even bothering to research the facts. This Federation has been agreed, is ready to launch and could see real improvements in the education offering to pupils in the south of Stoke on Trent.

The other main proposal was to turn Trentham High into a true community school, run as a co-operative between parents and local residents. This proposal was granted on a Friday afternoon by government, but mysteriously rescinded the following Monday – suspicious? You bet it is.

There has long been a rumour that the council wishes to sell the land that Trentham High school stands upon for residential development. The closure and quick demolition of the Edith Beddows old people’s home has now been completed and appears to allow an alternate access route to the site. If this does turn out to be behind the decision to knock-down an achieving school, then there must be serious questions asked.

As far as academies go, the more that one investigates, the more worried one becomes. Trentham High out-performs more than 95% of academies across the country. How will the imposition of an academy improve our children’s education? This is a question that remains unanswered.

Academies operate their own admissions policy and can set their own employment contracts for teaching staff. The Local Education Authority will have no power over the running of an academy once it is set up, whatever it might say about having the power to ensure that it is fair and open. Exclusions of pupils are higher for academies than other types of schools. The academic record of many academies is poor and many so-called failing schools are in fact, academies. None of these facts and figures are hidden ““ check out the Anti Academies Alliance website for much, much more information to evade the Government’s spin.

This report has been filed today by Staffslive Reporter Michelle Kendal:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eXsxK9Q_y8g

Thanks to Michelle for that report, we are proud of our association with Staffslive. Visit their website here.

What are your thoughts? If you are a parent at Blurton, or anywhere else affected by the academy proposals, we want to hear your views too”¦

IF YOU BUILD AN ACADEMY, “WE WILL TAKE OUR KIDS ELSEWHERE”

By Matt Taylor

Last night, in an emotional meeting at the Britannia stadium held to consult over the proposed Academy to replace Blurton and Trentham High, parents made their position known with a show of hands ““ with all but one of around 150 people voting against the plans. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a vote that would count for anything other than to establish the opinion of people in the room.

The conference was held so that the proposed sponsor of the new institution, Ormiston Trust, could consult with parents to give them more information about how the Academy would work. But frustrated parents, governors, councillors and even one pupil were, after feeling their views had been ignored before, not interested in the details, but in telling the panel in no uncertain terms that they were “not wanted”.

Rousing speeches from worried family-members and elected representatives alike were greeted with undivided cheers befitting of the venue from the crowd.

But Get Rowney, Director of Children and Young People’s Services for Stoke-on-Trent remained adamant, and near the end of proceedings came out with the audacious comment, “this is the problem with people in Stoke” as he retorted that the angry people in the room just wanted “further delays”.

On the panel with Mr Rowney was Bernard Dickinson, principal at the Ormiston Community Academy in Sheffield, Ian Cleland, Chief Executive of Ormiston Trust, and the head of S-O-T communications Dan Barton, who chaired proceedings.

Mr Dickinson was there (one parent said as a “lamb to the slaughter”) to explain how successful his academy has been, but was received with mocking laughter when it transpired that the results he was quoting were about his school which has only been open since this January.

And Mr Cleland explained how he could transform under-performing schools in deprived areas into successful organisations. But this was met with annoyance by parents, one of whom demanded “what can you do for places which aren’t performing badly?”, since Trentham High actually has a better record than any of Ormiston’s academies do currently.

There was an obvious sense of resentment in the room, with a “Ëœthem and us’ situation between the panel and their 150 adversaries developing. Ian, a parent at Ash Green, which is a feeder school for Trentham High, asked:

“Could you explain how this consultation works? 1344 comments against and four of support was the result of the last consultation. But it wasn’t taken into account. And Mark Meredith said we were the minority trying to “derail” the plans. Is this time different?”

Ged Rowney’s response was to say that the complaints had all been “fed into the Executive and Members Board (EMB)”. And when asked why they had been ignored, parents were dished out with the same retort that this was the decision of the elected representatives, none on whom were present to be accountable for their decisions.

Karen Pate, who has a daughter at Ash Green primary and at Trentham High, said:

“I’d like to put forward a formal complaint that we don’t have our portfolio-holder here. We did invite him. But he is not able to make it. Will an academy improve things? Evidence does not support that it does. None of the academies out-perform Trentham.

“We came up with a cooperative solution run by a community. It was granted on the Friday and rescinded three days later.”

Terry Follows, councillor for Trentham and Hanford and a Governor at Trentham High, the Priory and Ash Green, said:

“Can I just dispel that the council wants academies. It is the [elected] mayor who is supporting these academies. Blurton people don’t want an academy ““ you hear this Mr Rowney? They want their school rebuilt.

“Why should parents take a risk with an unproven school? It doesn’t make sense. There is no reason to have five academies in Stoke-on-Trent, no reason at all.”

Julian, a parent with one child at Trentham and one on the way there, said:

“We have a 47 percent national average for passes of A to C in GCSE. Stoke is 36 percent, and the academies’ average is below 30. How can you even dream that you will get to the 57 percent we have at Trentham?

“You will have a brand spanking building and it will be empty ““ because we will take our children elsewhere.”

And it wasn’t just Trentham parents that were against the academy. At this meeting, it became clear that there is considerable discontent at the Blurton camp as well. One unhappy Blurton mum commented:

“My daughter is in year 8. She has gone from the bottom to the top of the class. All we want is a new school on the current site, with better equipment for the teachers.”

As Bernard Dickinson explained how this brings his school the opportunity of half-a-million pounds in extra funding a year, and that £23 million can provide a different environment for learning, he came up against the suggestion, “well just give us the money”, which really sums up the sentiment of all of the parents, pupils and governors who were present.

These parents are happy with the environment they are in. They simply want new facilities with new technology. The resounding message which came out of last night’s events was that all they want in Blurton is a new school on the same plot, while Trentham families would be happy with a refurbishment. And councillor Brian Ward was optimistic that an imminent change in the city’s political make-up could make this a possibility. He said:

“This is a decision being pushed through politically by the [elected] mayor.  The mayor leaves office in June (which received cheers from the crowd). If the political make-up does change, and Terry Follows has supported this, we will be fighting on your behalf. We believe we could get new schools built and your school left in your community.”

A seven-strong group of protesters against the closure of Trentham High are to cycle from Westminster – where they walked to deliver their petition last year – to Strasbourg next month, in order to hand the document to MEPs at the European Parliament. Two of the group are grandparents in their 60s. Check Pits’n’Pots-The Radical Press for more on this story soon.