Great news from Hove

Hands Off Our Schools

The news from Hove Park School, where governors have unanimously rejected proposals to turn the school into an academy, just shows that ‘academisation’ is not inevitable, if you get a well-organised opposition mobilised quickly. Having a nationally-known comedian in your parent body (Mark Steel) and a professional song-writer (Robb Johnson) also helps a bit! The message of Snaresbrook, where academisation was also fought off successfully, is the same. Both schools seem to have had well-qualified and experienced middle-class parents (Snaresbrook even had a barrister) who felt confident organising a campaign: not all schools have that and too easily ‘roll over’, when they could have sought help and support from groups like HOOS. Hove also shows the central importance of the head teacher – Mr Trimmer was the driving force but once he changed his mind (for whatever reason) the governors followed his lead.

Great news and inspiration for campaigners…

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AGM Tuesday 23 September

Just posted on the website of Hands Off Our Schools. Anyone interested in the future of education in our area is welcome to join us for our meeting – there’s no obligation to ‘join’.

Hands Off Our Schools

Our Annual General Meeting takes place 7pm Tuesday 23 September, at Beeston Library. We will elect Chair, Vice-Chair, Secretary, Treasurer, Minute Secretary for the very important next 12 months which will include a General Election at which education will (or should) be a crucial issue.

The AGM will be followed by an ordinary meeting at which we will update ourselves on local developments, including the Nottingham Free School and Nottingham Academy of Science and Technology, and develop our campaign strategy for the coming months.

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Toby Young and the West London Free School : how to avoid educating your community.

This person is doing a good job – spread it around.

Disappointed Idealist

I have a friend who thinks Toby Young is pretty close to evil. I don’t know Young, although I’ve heard him speak on educational matters, and as a result have a fairly low opinion about his intelligence or honesty, or both. Few can be ignorant of the fact that Gove gifted his good friend Young a school to play with. The West London Free School is the flagship school of Gove’s flagship programme. The proud boast of its founder and fans is that it will bring rigour, challenge and success to an inner city area, succeeding where all those terrible state schools previously failed.

So inevitably, I decided to have a look at its statistics. I noticed that a Gove fan BTL in the Guardian had begun to try and suggest that the statistics are all too complicated to really demonstrate  anything much, and while I accept that it’s almost…

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Will Gove’s Empire Outlast Him ?

A lengthy but well-written and incisive analysis of the current dismal education scene, which I thoroughly recommend.

Disappointed Idealist


This started as a small idea, and grew into a bit of a monster rant. I’d advise making yourself a cup of tea before reading. For those members of society with better things to do than waste ten minutes on my waffling, here’s a summary :

Some argue Gove’s reforms won’t last long without him. I argue that GERM reforms come in two flavours : ideological/religious, and financial/self-interested. The former classroom-based reforms may well change rapidly because GERM ideology is inconsistent, unpopular, faith-based not evidence-based, and even GERM zealots disagree with each other on various issues. The latter structural reforms are likely here to stay because they have created a cadre of self-interested “winners” who have a vested interest in defending the new system. I also pepper the argument with historical references which made a lot of sense in my head. Sorry.

Gove The GERM

This weekend, Warwick Mansell –…

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Mossbourne Academy : the model for us all ?

A good blogger – have read his/her comments on Guardian’s ‘Comment is Free’ and always found them sane. S/he now seems to have started a blog of his (or her?) own. One to follow, I think.

Disappointed Idealist

Ah, Mossbourne. It’s time to talk about Mossbourne. After all, everyone else does. It is, without question, politicians’ favourite school for posing with children to underline both their fundamental humanity, and also their commitment to “rigour”, “standards”, “Wilshaw” and all the rest of the meaningless clichés which have come to replace any mature, evidence-based policy-making in education.

I have a connection with Mossbourne: early in my DFE career, I was a junior civil servant tasked with steering the forced closure of Hackney Downs School through judicial review. I don’t recall much (it was all a very long time ago), although I do recall that I was surreptitiously reading Bill Bryson’s “Neither Here Nor There” in court, and actually laughed out loud at one point, which I hastily disguised as a cough to avoid the disapproval of the collected legal types. I can’t tell you much about what Hackney Downs School was…

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Religious Segregation Must End

The Political Idealist

I have no intention of raking over the “Trojan Horse” scheme- the alleged plot by extremist Muslims to take over various state schools in Birmingham. However, international readers may care to read more on the issue here.

Out of the controversy has emerged a broader debate on the role religion should play in any of Britain’s state schools. About one in three of Britain’s state schools are classified as “faith schools”- mostly affiliated with the Catholic or Protestant Churches. A few Muslim schools are beginning to emerge, but they are few and far between.

The influence that the affiliated Church or religious organisation exerts on a school is actually extensive. They are represented on schools’ Board of Governors; they can dictate the Religious Education and Personal, Health and Social Education curricula. Other things which characterise Church schools are the regular Assemblies given by the local vicar (which always seemed…

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OFSTED: Smoke and Mirrors and Malevolent Magic

A message from the front line.


smokemirrors ‘Every damn thing we’ve talked about at school this week has been driven by Ofsted, and not by the need to educate children effectively’   @cbradbee tweeted last Wednesday.

Even in so few words, the distress and despair of this teacher is palpable. The fact that the OFSTED obsession is interfering with, and often hindering, the effective education of the children is a sad reflection of the times we live in. No surprise, then, that this tweet also summarises the entire ethos and philosophy of schools like mine.

Absolutely everything we do, nowadays, is driven by what our SLT team expect that OFSTED will be looking for. Much tea-leaf-poring has now been distilled into a list of lesson ‘requirements’ which is, I believe, based largely on the OFSTED lesson observation criteria. Lesson perfection; lesson utopia.

And yet. There are those who profoundly disagree. According to a BBC News report (13…

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(Another) Open Letter to Michael Gove

An all-too-familiar story: bullying and the opposite of democracy. Shameful.

a discount ticket to everywhere

Dear Mr Gove,

I know you’re getting a lot of open letters these days, but I do hope that you will read and pay attention to them. Maybe it would be a good idea to consider why so many people are upset.

I am writing to express my dismay at the high-handed and autocratic measures that Norfolk County Council is taking to force our boys’ school, Cavell Primary and Nursery School, to become an academy. Yes, the school is in special measures. Yes, it is government policy that schools in special measures should become academies to bring about improvement. However, in this case the school had opted to enter into a cooperative trust with other local schools, who were already working together strongly to share good practice and for the benefit of all schools involved. This approach was favoured by the school, the governors and the parents, who expressed overwhelming…

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This much I know about…my ambivalent response to Gove’s re-takes don’t count in schools’ accountability measures policy change

This from the front line…


I have been a teacher for 25 years, a Headteacher for 10 years and, at the age of 49, this much I know about my ambivalent response to Gove’s re-takes don’t count in schools’ accountability measures policy change.

My strapline for this blog is taken from Hamlet – There is nothing either good or bad/ But thinking makes it so. It’s Shakespeare’s glass half full/half empty line for his Elizabethan audience. I have always been able to control my thinking and see my way through any challenge. But this week has been different. This week, with Gove’s announcement about re-takes and accountability measures, I have dithered over what to do in response to this policy change like never before. I even tweeted this, which ain’t like me at all…


The York Press has two photographs of me depending upon whether it is covering a positive story or a negative one. Well, this…

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