The Government’s plans to encourage ‘outstanding’ schools to take a fast-track to ‘Academy’ status are a threat to the future of comprehensive Local Authority schooling. They could introduce a fragmented two-tier education system where ‘successful’ schools opt-out of the Local Authority, taking money with them as they go, leaving cash-starved Councils with the schools - and pupils - that need most help.
Fortunately, may schools have held back from rushing into becoming Academies in September – but not all. In Lewisham, it is TIDEMILL SCHOOL IN DEPTFORD that is rushing onwards – yes, that’s the same school that hit the headlines when it was revealed that its Headteacher, Mark Elms, was paid around £ ¼ million *(see updated comments below) in 2009/10 (does the school really need to grab even more money if it can afford to pay a primary head that much?).
Under pressure, the Government has conceded that parents should be consulted over plans to become an Academy – but Tidemill’s timetable shows how limited that ‘consultation’ can be. As last term drew to a close, Tidemill children were handed a letter for parents on July 19th saying that the governors were consulting for two months (i.e. over the summer holidays) before governors make a decision early in September!
BUT SOME PARENTS HAVE NOT BEEN PREPARED TO ACCEPT THIS SHAM CONSULTATION – NOW THEIR CAMPAIGN URGENTLY NEEDS YOUR HELP!
Tidemill parents made sure leaflets opposing the plan were given out at the school gates before the end of term. An inaugural meeting of “Tidemill Parents Against Academies” was held over the summer and, with the support of the NUT and Anti-Academies Alliance, leafleting has already taken place in Deptford with a lot of support from local residents and parents. Local councillors are now beginning to ask questions – but time is tight to put enough pressure on the governors to hold back.
PLEASE SUPPORT THESE EVENTS:
1. A PUBLIC MEETING HAS BEEN ORGANISED FOR MONDAY 6TH SEPTEMBER AT 7PM AT THE ALBANY, DOUGLAS WAY, SE8 4AG (see leaflet).
2. LEAFLETTING FOR THE MEETING will be taking place on WEDNESDAY SEPTEMBER 1st and SATURDAY 4th SEPTEMBER from MIDDAY in DEPTFORD MARKET.
3. A PETITION demanding full consultation before any decision has also been produced and can be signed at http://sayingno.org/cms/ or http://www.gopetition.com/petition/38021.html
Contact the campaign for further info on: firstname.lastname@example.org or 020 8692 8939
* How much was Mark Elms paid?
I am grateful for a comment posted from a local resident (see below) who has signed the parent petition but is concerned that the facts about Mark Elms' pay need to be correct.
At the time his pay hit the headlines in July, I didn't make many public comments about the issue - precisely because the facts were unclear. However, now that the school is the one school in Lewisham to have rushed ahead with plans to become an Academy, it is inevitable that people are linking the two issues - and my comment has clearly been picked up this time!
The issues over the Head's pay are separate to those over the Academy - but these questions will be raised by parents and teachers. After all, in the conversations that I have had with governors in other London schools considering becoming an Academy, the only real argument that has been raised is that they might get more funding (at the expense of other schools and the Local Authority budget of course). So my original question remains, "does the school really need to grab even more money if it can afford to pay a primary head that much?"
Have I erred in quoting a figure of £1/4 million? I took the figure from the only definitive source that I have had access to - Lewisham Council's printed accounts - which state that Mark Elms' pay for 2009/10 was:
Total excluding Pension Contributions 231,400
Employer's Pension Contributions 45,123
Total including Pension Contributions 276,523
I know that other figures quoted in the press have give different details, such as:
• Basic pay - £82,714.37
• City Challenge - £102,955.00 over two years, £50,957 of which was back-dated pay for 2008/09
• Out-of-hours work - £10,000
• Arrears - £9,317
The quoted "out-of-hours" payment has angered local teachers who do lots of unpaid overtime every year too. The decision to pay the City Challenge money also needs explanation as, in my understanding, when a head is "providing services to another school", the money should go from one school bank account to the other school's bank account as a payment to the school for those services. If the figures are correct, I am unclear why the governing body decided to then make those payments to Mark Elms rather than use the funds to, for example, employ other staff and resources to cover for his absence.
I am happy to update the information to be as accurate as possible - if anyone can provide definitive answers!