Time to act on the Academy Schools Scandal

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Academy Schools Scandal

I watched the BBC Panorama programme on The Academy Schools Scandal on Monday night and I was not surprised by any of its content.  One of the trusts mentioned (Silver Birch) is located in the London Borough of Waltham Forest.  The trust that I used to work for is also located in The London Borough of Waltham Forest, but was not featured in this programme.

As I watched the programme, a feeling of anger and frustration came over me.  Each trust has the same issues (the one I worked for and the ones featured on the programme):

  • Family members employed by the school’s management team (including the CEO’s children).
  • Staff afraid to raise safeguarding issues with SLT and management team for fear of losing their jobs.
  • Examination conditions not being invigilated adequately.
  • Bills not being paid on time.
  • Phone bills not being paid and school telephones being cut off until payment is received.
  • School receiving notification for further action on outstanding invoices.
  • Crucial repairs not being carried out because invoices have not been paid.
  • Finance department paying invoices with credit cards.
  • School receiving a grant for improvements to certain areas of the school but the money was used elsewhere.
  • School letting go of vital staff leaving areas in danger of safeguarding issues.
  • Attendance procedures not being followed correctly.
  • Safeguarding issues being raised and not addressed properly and followed through by SLT.
  • Support and teaching staff not being paid correctly and at times being underpaid.
  • Payroll not assigning staff the correct tax code and staff receiving huge tax bills.
  • Staff paying for Childcare vouchers through childcare voucher companies, the funds taken from their account but not paid to the voucher company and released to the staff member.
  • Student data not being applied correctly to school management systems, so text/email messaging system used to contact parents of absent students does not contact parent.
  • School inventory system not adequate to capture student’s/visitors attendance.
  • Safeguarding issues with students where office staff allow students to leave without first checking with parents they are authorised to go.
  • Visitors allowed into the building without first being asked who they are at the front gate.
  • Visitors not DBS checked before they are allowed to walk through the school. Visitors without DBS check in place are left to walk around the school unaccompanied.
  • Students on school trips not properly registered at school before they leave for the trip.
  • Students taken on school trips by the school without relevant signed permission slips in place from the parent.
  • Teachers leaving in their dozens without anyone outside the academy questioning the reason for their departure.
  • Teachers and staff members driven to leave by aggressive and manipulative management team.
  • School allowing parent Governors of students in the school to take unauthorised absence without applying the relevant Borough guidance.
  • School not following first aid procedures and keeping statutory accident records of injuries for at least 3 years.
  • School not following through accident trends and possible areas for improvement in relation to Health & Safety of Students.

Having watched this I feel I should have done something.  Not enough is being done by the Department of Education and the Government to monitor every Academy in the Country.  Ofsted only see what the school allows them to see.  Ofsted give the school 24 hours notice before they visit, but most schools know when they are due for an inspection.  Staff are coached by management team to say what they want you to say.

Ofsted inspections, guidance given by some schools: School staff are told to keep out of their way by the management team, they are told not to acknowledge their presence if they walk past them and to keep their head down.  Management team coach the best students in the school to speak to Ofsted about how great the school is, when in fact it probably is not.

In my experience, academy management staff give the school the impression that they are not governed by anyone so what they say goes.  This should not be the case.

It is time to act

The Department of Education/the Government need to assign a team of highly experienced people to go into schools to assess each school at timed intervals.  Schools should not be given any prior notice for these visits.  This way, they can see first hand exactly how a school is run and whether there are any safeguarding concerns.  This also gives the teachers and support staff a platform to speak openly about their concerns without fear of being sacked or their position being made redundant.

Parents and staff are left frustrated by the lack of experience some of these management teams have.  Some parents and staff feel that they are not running these schools properly.

In my view children/students should be at the forefront of a school, not management teams who run the school to benefit their own ends.

I personally feel that not enough care and attention is given by our Government to ensure that these establishments are being run properly by experienced staff, including the CEO and all staff members.

Our Schools/Academies not only need help with this, they need more funding from the Government too.

How you can make a difference

Petition: The Government/DofE to assign a team to monitor every School Academy:

This petition is currently being reviewed by The Petitions Committee but you can sign it here:  Once it goes fully live, we will update this article.

https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/251393/sponsors/new?token=Y7mPIqMZwVaOkvdXSkfi

Petition: Increase funding for schools:

Sign this petition to help all schools make ends meet.

https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/232220

Whistleblowing guide for School Staff:

If you are a member of staff, your school should have a whistle blowing policy.  The policy should contain information about what protection is available to you if you decide to report another member of staff.  It should also contain what areas of malpractice or wrongdoing is covered and the routes available to you for reporting a concern.

  1. Follow your schools guidance on whistle blowing.
  2. If you have done this and you have not received a satisfactory response, you should contact the ESFA.  If your complaint falls outside their remit, they will give you details of organisations to provide you with further advice or request that a representative of EFSA look into your case.
  3. If you remain unsatisfied you should send your complaint to the Secretary of State for Education.  You will get an email back advising “Parliamentary protocol dictates that I can only deal with issues on behalf of my own constituents.”  It will give you a website link to complain to the Department For Education (DfE)Forward your original email back to him/her and copy in your local MP, advise you remain unhappy and would like a response.
  4. If you’re an employee who wants to whistleblow to Ofsted, call their Whistleblowing Hotline on 0300 1233155 (8am to 6pm, Monday to Friday) or email whistleblowing@ofsted.gov.uk.
  5. If you have child protection/safeguarding concerns, you should contact your local authority.

Parents guidance on how to complain about an Academy:

  1. You must complain to the academy through their complaints procedure.  An Academies complaints procedure MUST comply with Part 7 of the Education (Independent School Standards) Regulations 2014.  If they do not comply with it, the academy may be in breach of its funding agreement with the Secretary of State for Education.
  2. If you have done this and you have not received a satisfactory response, you should contact the ESFA.  If your complaint falls outside their remit, they will give you details of organisations to provide you with further advice or request that a representative of EFSA look into your case.
  3. If you remain unsatisfied you should send your complaint to the Secretary of State for Education.  You will get an email back advising “Parliamentary protocol dictates that I can only deal with issues on behalf of my own constituents.”  It will give you a website link to complain to the Department For Education (DfE)Forward your original email back to him/her and copy in your local MP, advise you remain unhappy and would like a response.
  4. You can complain to Ofsted if you feel that the school is not run properly.  Just google search “email address for Ofsted“.
  5. If you have child protection/safeguarding concerns, you should contact your local authority.

Parents guidance on how to complain about a maintained school:

  1. You must complain to the school through their complaints procedure.  A maintained school’s complaints procedure must be publicised under Section 29(1)(b) of the Education Act 2002.
  2. If you are not happy with their response, you should complain to the governing body of the school.
  3. If there are additional stages in the complaints process, you should go through each one until you have completed each step.
  4. If you remain unsatisfied, you should complain to your local authority.
  5. If you remain unsatisfied you should send your complaint to the Secretary of State for Education.  You will get an email back advising “Parliamentary protocol dictates that I can only deal with issues on behalf of my own constituents.”  It will give you a website link to complain to the Department For Education (DfE)Forward your email original back to him/her and copy in your local MP, advise you remain unhappy and would like a response.
  6. You can complain to Ofsted if you feel that the school is not run properly.
  7. If you have child protection/safeguarding concerns, you should contact your local authority.

Parents guidance on how to complain about a private school:

  1. You must complain to the school through their complaints procedure.
  2. If you are not happy with their response, you should complain to the governing body of the school.
  3. If there are additional stages in the complaints process, you should go through each one until you have completed each step.
  4. If you remain unsatisfied, you should complain to The Department of Education (DfE).  They have certain powers as a regulator is the school is not meeting the required standards set by the DfE.
  5. If you remain unsatisfied you should send your complaint to the Secretary of State for Education.  You will get an email back advising “Parliamentary protocol dictates that I can only deal with issues on behalf of my own constituents.”  It will give you a website link to complain to the Department For Education (DfE)Forward your original email back to him/her and copy in your local MP, advise you remain unhappy and would like a response.
  6. You can complain to Ofsted if you feel that the school is not run properly.
  7. If you have child protection/safeguarding concerns, you should contact your local authority.