An Interim Executive Board (IEB) of just three appointed individuals will now be put in place. These are: Robert Ellis, a consultant and retired inspector, previously vice principal at Leigh CTC which is now part of the Leigh Academies Trust; Bernie Borland CBE, now Chair of Governors at St. Paul’s Academy, Abbey Wood; and Irene Cleaver, recently retired Executive Headteacher of the King Alfred Federation of Athelney and Elfrida primary schools in Bellingham.
This IEB was not wanted by the School and its community, nor was it needed. As the evidence posted on this blog and in many other places made clear, Sedgehill was in no way a ‘failing school’ requiring this disruptive and distracting interference. However, as soon as Lewisham Labour Council went ahead and sent in the IEB application, stopping its imposition was always going to be extremely difficult.
|A parent explains why the IEB was unjustified
The DfE, with its clear agenda to replace community schools with academies was always likely to agree to support the IEB. They hope that the first step – setting up the IEB – will lead to a second – academisation. As is stated clearly on the IEB application form which this Labour Council were nevertheless happy to complete, “we expect the IEB to actively consider a sponsored academy solution as part of the proposed exit strategy”.
Reading those words, the links between some of the IEB members and existing academies is worrying. However, as things stand, no academy has yet been imposed. The existing Head is still in place. In fact, and thanks to the strength of the tremendous campaign of opposition, the original partnership proposed by the Council, which would have seen the existing Head replaced with management from Bethnal Green Academy (BGA), had already fallen through.
The mass opposition of parents, staff and students has shown that the Sedgehill School community is a force to be reckoned with. The campaign has made absolutely sure that the Council and the DfE knew that they had to tread carefully. Now the IEB should know that it needs to tread carefully too.
Parents are very clear that we want neither our community school ethos nor our children’s education being messed up by any unhelpful meddling, especially for the Year 11’s who are already on track to perform very well this summer. We hope, and expect, that the IEB members, who clearly have long experience in education, will realise that this is a well-loved community school that needs to be supported, not interfered with.
Staff will feel particularly concerned about what this change could mean. If the IEB and Council try and unfairly pile pressure on staff then demoralisation could easily set in, and children and education will be the losers, as well as staff themselves. The NUT will work to oppose such proposals.
I hope that the IEB will quickly call a meeting for parents, students and staff so that they can introduce themselves to the school and listen to the voices of the community speaking up in favour of the School, just as they did so powerfully in the meeting hosted by the outgoing Governing Body last month.
Any suggestion that the IEB is looking to turn Sedgehill into an Academy will be met with outrage by staff, parents and, most certainly, by the students who made thieir views so clear at the mass rally outside Lewisham Town Hall at the end of last term.
Sedgehill NUT members have already made very clear, in an indicative ballot vote of 40 yes votes to just 1 against, that they are prepared to support strike action to oppose any proposal that their employment status changes to working for an academy trust. As we have, as yet, no guarantees that this will not be the case, then a formal ballot for strike action is opening next week, alongside similar ballots in four other Lewisham schools facing possible academy conversion plans. If the ballot results confirm the clear majorities shown in last term’s indicative ballots, then this could well mean that a protest strike across all five schools may take place next month.
The Save Sedgehill campaign can be proud of what it has achieved so far. It has shown the depth of feeling against the Council’s plans, and also shown the widespread opposition to academy status. Significantly, the campaign helped persuade BGA to withdraw, even if it was not able to stop the IEB eventually being imposed.
The campaign now moves on to the next battle - to make sure that the IEB works with the school and its staff to carry on the good work of this genuine community school. I will be arguing strongly that we must maintain our determination to oppose any attempts to impose academy plans that would damage education at Sedgehill and could also threaten the break-up of local authority schooling right across the borough.