NFS update

Well, sort of. One of my ‘followers’ points out that, if Torch are to appoint ‘experienced’ teachers for their Nottingham Fantasy School, they’d better get their skates on. The resignation date for teachers currently in post is 31 May so time enough. However, I can’t find any jobs advertised on the TES website so they’ve got to get their act together pretty swiftly after Easter as I think this would give them about six weeks to get applications in, short-list, interview and offer jobs. I’ll keep you posted.

Incidentally, whilst searching the TES site I discovered that Meden School (the OTHER Torch school) is looking for eight new staff including an Assistant Head, a Director of English and ‘Head of School’, that is, a Headteacher, basic salary of £80000. Wonder what’s the story?

Torch salary

The Torch Academy Gateway Trust is the rather pretentious title adopted by the wannabe academy chain of the Nottinghamshire schools Toot Hill Comprehensive and The Meden School in May 2012. The erstwhile head of Toot Hill became the Executive Headteacher and Chief Executive of the Trust. Each of the two schools also has a separate head.

The company accounts reveal that in the twelve months ending 31 August 2013, this CEO was paid in the range £200-205 thousand. That’s for overseeing two schools. Admittedly, during that period he led the Trust in trying to set up two ‘free schools’. One of these, the so-called Trent Bridge Free School, was turned down by the DfE but the other, Nottingham Free School was approved and is going ahead to open this September so perhaps he is being rewarded for his work there.

In the current year, Torch has subsumed Nottingham University Samworth Academy, back in the autumn, just before Ofsted descended on it and found it to be inadequate. So presumably this CEO will be expecting a rise this year to reflect the additional stress. After all, £200000 is barely twice what a mere Headteacher of a large London secondary school could expect and the good citizens of Nottinghamshire lavished £143000 on their Chief Constable last year.

And, just to remind you, this is public money, yours and mine.

Holiday free-for-all

Like quite a few of Gove’s ideas, the latest announcement about term dates has a grain of justification. Leaving aside that the long summer hols are about the only perk left to teachers, it probably makes sense on educational and child care grounds to have a look at changing. However, no one with an ounce of common sense would think of handing over decisions to individual headteachers.

We live in one local authority area which is where our son went to school. My wife and I worked over the border for another LA. On several occasions half term holidays did not coincide so it is easy to imagine the chaos that would ensue if even neighbouring schools had different term dates. Arranging child care and family holidays would be a nightmare. Someone needs to have responsibility for coordinating but ideology dictates that Gove must give heads ‘freedom’ to do their own thing.

Letter about the ‘free’ school in Nottingham Post

Here is the text of a letter which, in edited form, appeared in the Nottingham Post, Monday 23 June (text in italics did not appear in the newspaper):

“I feel I must respond to Cllr Philip Owen’s letter (‘Free schools will raise educational standards’, 15 June). I’m no apologist for Labour so I’ll let Cllr John Peck defend its record and his remarks, but Cllr Owen’s comments about ‘free schools’ must be challenged.

Where is the evidence of the “enthusiastic support” for the ‘Nottingham Free School’ which, according to him, is the only reason this ‘virtual school’ (it currently only exists on-line) is about to spring into the real world? These parents, currently clamouring to be allowed a free school are, apparently, dissatisfied with existing  provision, which will surprise the many good schools in the Sherwood area where, it is rumoured, this school will be sited. If these schools  are so poor, maybe any available resources should go into improving them rather than starting from scratch in a hastily refurbished derelict building somewhere (remember, they’ve got just over a year to conjure up a fully-functioning school from thin air).

Free schools are “influential in driving up standards”, claims Cllr Owen: tell that to the parents of children at The Discovery (free) school in West Sussex, just rated ‘inadequate’ by OFSTED. As for offering greater choice, in my experience what parents want is a good local school they feel happy to send their children to. 

Not the site for the new 'free' school (probably)

Not the site for the new ‘free’ school (probably)

In any case, looking at the ‘Nottingham Free School’ website, I can’t find very much in their ‘offer’ that’s different from any other school, apart from an option to do Latin and LAMDA public speaking exams. Even then, don’t expect them to keep to that ‘offer’ since they are still apparently planning to share resources and staff with their ‘sister’ school, the ‘Trent Bridge Free School’: they don’t seem to have noticed that the Department for Education and Science turned down the TBFS application! They, like Cllr Owen, need to keep up with what people actually want and what is happening in the real world, not indulge in some ideological fantasy.

Colin Tucker”

Also posted on ‘Hands Off Our Schools’

D’ya wanna be in my gang?

tomasevic image
Activists in Nottinghamshire have been organising to fight proposed ‘free’ schools in Arnold and Trent Bridge. These are the brain-child of a successful local head teacher, John Tomasevic (right). He has taken Toot Hill School through from ‘satisfactory’ to ‘outstanding’ in OFSTED terms and on the way has supported another Nottinghamshire school that was struggling. All well and good but suddenly these two schools are ‘The Torch’ group and Mr Tomasevic is the Chief Executive, proposing the two new schools.

The so-called ‘Trent Bridge Free School’ seems to be the leading edge. Although no premises have been identified it does, bizarrely,  have a website, complete with pictures of pupils in TBFS uniform. The area it is proposed to serve already has two ‘outstanding’ schools, both, as it happens, academies. There does seem to be a shortage of places but this could easily, and more economically, be addressed by expanding the current schools.

Torch have held some public meetings, fairly poorly attended and anti-academy campaigners who attended the meetings say Mr Tomasevic gave a mediocre account of himself. There has been discussion in the letters page of the Nottingham Post along with some reportage of the meetings and a short article by the man himself. In the most recent article (27 November) Mr Tomasevic claims to have had about 120 expressions of interest in each school and hopes to have about 180 by the end of the year so that he can apply to the DfE for the go-ahead. Check back here for further developments.