You heard it here first!

The government has appointed Barry Day and the Greenwood Dale Trust to run the Al Madinah free school in Derby, as predicted in my post 1 November. Day is the former Headteacher of Greenwood Dale school, an early-adopter of the old opted out/grant maintained status. Now CEO (or some such) he’s been quick to jump on the govewagon and his lot currently runs twenty or so schools in the Nottingham/Derby area. Most recently he was handed the nice new buildings of Sinfin School which was swiftly rebranded City of Derby Academy.

Having read the full OFSTED report for Al Madinah, I think it’s a safe bet that the kids there will be better off under Greenwood than the incompetents currently running it. However, there are challenges ahead for Day. There are no nice buildings to take over and presumably he’ll need to keep the Islamic ethos of the place.  Gove is a big fan and he must be counting on Day to get him and Lord Nash out of a jam.

Will this ‘chaotic’, ‘dysfunctional’ school be allowed to continue?

Thanks to a leak, we now know how damning the OFSTED report on Al-Madinah free school in Derby actually is. We have seen how Mr Gove has rushed in to ‘rescue’ children from ‘failing’ schools in the past. One example was Sinfin nearby in Derby which was still a fully functioning school before Gove sent his storm troopers in to quickly convert it to City of Derby Academy, now corporately badged as part of the Greenwood Dale empire. So what of the four hundred or so children at Al-Madinah? How is their education to be continued without further disruption? It is not their fault that their parents foolishly signed up for a school that has turned out to be useless, parents who, no doubt, thought their children would be royally indoctrinated into a Muslim faith and culture. I regret all so-called faith schools but this one has turned out to be a school only in name. However, it cannot just be closed and the children and their parents left to flounder.

Be that as it may,  Al-Madinah could be something of a watershed for both Gove and his new ‘shadow’, Tristram Hunt. Obviously, Al-Madinah is an extreme example but it does show the folly of the whole ‘free school’ phenomenon: they’ve started up in unsuitable buildings which nonetheless have been well furnished at public expense but with, apparently, nobody with much experience of teaching or running a school. Self-evidently, these children would have been much better off in a local-authority run school or, even, an academy which had been based on an existing school. Hunt has an ‘open goal’ to expose the utter foolhardiness of Gove’s reckless policies if he can summon the courage to believe that public opinion will be behind him and not Gove’s ideology. Gove, already under pressure for his constant meddling with the exam system, should come under greater scrutiny for his ‘free’ school policy.

When Gove’s political epitaph is finally written (oh, make it soon!), we might find ‘Al-Madinah’ written on his heart.

Al-Madinah in trouble/Sinfin dressed to kill

Further problems at Derby’s first ‘free’ school: a couple of weeks ago there were reports of a DfE investigation into dodgy financial dealings, denied by the school. Then came reports that female teachers were required to wear headscarves, whether they were Muslims or not, and that girls were being made to sit at the back of class. It is now being reported that the expected OFSTED visit will happen very soon, and quite right too. This ‘school’ typifies the utter stupidity of Gove’s ‘free school’ nonsense. You’ll recall that this ‘school’ (and I’m using inverted commas to imply this isn’t a school in the sense that any sensible person would understand it) opened in September in ‘temporary’ buildings (ie, part of an office block). There was promise that a ‘new building’ would appear during that first year but, here we are, 13 months on and, guess what, they’re now in TWO office blocks! How can Gove blather on about high quality education and rigour when kids are allowed to be taught in this way?

Talking of ‘teacher dress’, yes, I’d say teachers should dress smartly, bearing in mind that those in practical subjects need something a bit, well, practical: not easy to teach art or run around a sports field in a suit. So I’ve no great problem with the new brooms at Sinfin (sorry, Derby City Academy) insisting that staff ‘dress as if for an interview’. The new regime has also instituted a new uniform for kids and spent loads of dosh on actually giving everyone a new blazer and so forth. There’s a new rule banning mobile phones (good luck enforcing THAT one!). However, wasn’t the academisation of this school rushed through because of its poor standards? So, what is puzzling me is, why has there as yet been no steer on teaching and learning? Surely, if they are going to do better the key is not what anyone’s wearing but what is happening in the classroom. Or could it be that there really wasn’t much wrong and the academisation was just a put up job between the DfE and OFSTED. Nice new buildings too.

Sinfin to be made an academy

Barry Day, chief of Greenwood Dale Trust, which will 'take over' Sinfin.

Barry Day, chief of Greenwood Dale Trust, which will ‘take over’ Sinfin.

Unsurprising really, but it has just been announced that Sinfin Community School in Derby WILL be converted into an academy. Those who thought Gove’s recent setbacks would divert him from his purpose were wrong. The new academy — converted as early as 1 May this year, according to some reports — will be run under the auspices of Greenwood Dale in Nottingham. Continue reading

It’s for your own good

An enforced academisation is being challenged in the City of Derby. Sinfin Community School has been told by Education Secretary, Michael Gove, that  it is not performing well enough and he has sent in his storm troopers, despite the fact that the local authority had an improvement plan.

Fire at Sinfin School Continue reading