A group of parents of Sedgehill School students met tonight to organise a last-ditch campaign to persuade Lewisham Council to back down from their threat to dismiss the Governing Body and impose an Interim Executive Board.
As explained in my earlier post (http://electmartin1.blogspot.co.uk/2014/12/stop-smash-and-grab-at-sedgehill-school.html) and a News Shopper local press article (http://www.newsshopper.co.uk), imposing an IEB will not only cause immediate turmoil for staff and students, it will also open the door to the forced academisation of the School.
If anyone wants to question that a forced Academy is the likely result from a decision to impose an IEB, then the DfE's IEB "application form" leaves little room for doubt. It states bluntly that: "We expect the IEB to actively consider a sponsored academy solution".
This is a drastic step for any Local Authority to take, not least Lewisham Labour Council who must surely be beginning to realise that its grounds for serving the earlier 'warning notice' are already being widely questioned by parents, students and staff from across the Borough. Yet Lewisham Council has given Sedgehill Governors just one more week - until Friday December 12th - to put forward reasons why they should not be summarily disbanded.
There was real anger expressed by fellow parents at the meeting tonight. We all know Sedgehill to be a warm, caring community school, valued by parents and students for its support for our youngsters, not just a cold 'exam factory'.
Yet that doesn't mean that Sedgehill doesn't care about exam results either. As the Council website was happy to explain this summer, "Sedgehill School student, Michael Powell-Davies – who is also a pupil ambassador – will be heading to Sheffield University to read English Literature after achieving 2A*s and 1A and fellow Sedgehill student Anton Blades will be studying history at Exeter University after gaining 1A* and 2As". So much for "unacceptably low standards".
Sedgehill School is also the kind of school whose students can produce this kind of performance at the Royal Albert Hall: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yYpOfV8PCO0. It's a school where Grayson Perry can visit to discuss issues of identity: http://www.channel4.com/programmes/grayson-perry-who-are-you.
Sedgehill is NOT a failing school.
We're not going to let this community school be destroyed without a fight - and we've got a week to put up a fight to stop the IEB.
- This weekend parents and students will be writing letters, emails and video messages to the Mayor of Lewisham Steve Bullock, the Director of Education Frankie Sulke, as well as MPs and councillors.
- School students - who have already signed a 1000-plus petition today - have taken on the task of using social media to spread the campaign (https://www.facebook.com/savesedgehill)
- On Monday, some of us will join parents and staff from other schools at the next meeting of Stop Academies In Lewisham in the Railway Telegraph Pub SE23 at 5.30 pm (See:https://www.facebook.com/StopAcademiesinLewisham)
- On Tuesday, we hope as many parents as possible will be attending the consultation meeting called by the existing Governors at the School from 6pm
- On Friday at 4pm, just before the deadline for the governors to respond to the Council's IEB threat, students, staff and parents will be bringing their letters and petitions to a mass lobby of the Town Hall at 4pm. We hope we will be joined by SAIL supporters and by many more who want to join us in exposing - and stopping - this injustice. Please come and join us!
Thanks to Cllr Best who chaired this afternoon's Sydenham Assembly, I was given a chance to speak briefly at the end of the meeting to explain the threats facing Sedgehill School. I was able to discuss with a lot of local residents afterwards, who were very supportive and surprised (if not a little confused) about what the Council was doing. Then, on the way out, I met the Mayor.
Unfortunately, our conversation only confirmed how far apart his views appear to be from the views of the Sedgehill (and other) parents that I have been speaking to. I hope that the Mayor will agree this is a factual report of our discussion which I report here as a parent and resident attending his local ward assembly:
The Mayor argued that he didn't understand the 'prejudice' against Academies. I tried to explain that Academies were, at best, no solution to educational issues but, at worst, would lead to the complete break-up of Local Authority schooling, replacing community schools with academy chains. I also explained that families valued community schools where individual children mattered; that we didn't want the harsh 'exam factory' ethos that many reported from Academy schools.
The Mayor argued that, at Sedgehill specifically, the Authority had to intervene for the good of the children at the School, particularly looking at this summer's GCSE results. I asked why the same action wasn't being taken at all the other schools where there was a dip in exam results too - because this was a national issue over changing exam structures, not a Sedgehill issue. I argued that the action being proposed would damage education, causing disruption and demoralisation - particularly as, by acting as they were, the message being sent to families was that Sedgehill was some kind of 'failing' school. I explained that Sedgehill was not a failing school, that most parents were pleased their children were at Sedgehill and felt they were being well-taught and well-supported by the School. I warned the Mayor that he had misjudged how much support the School had amongst parents and students and that, at the very least, he should delay rushing any decision over the IEB until there had been a full and open consultation with parents and the school community.
Unfortunately, I was left fearing that, in order to justify their proposals, the Council will have to rely on attempts to undermine Sedgehill's real achievements - to the detriment of the pupils and staff that the Council says it wants to support. In turn, we have to take every opportunity to show how strongly the school is supported by the school community - culminating in a really big Lobby on Friday.