Like thousands of schools across the country, Moulsecoomb Primary has been subject to funding cuts that have reduced opportunities for children. But with an academy order hanging over it, the job of school improvement has been made even harder.
Moulsecoomb School’s recent monitoring inspection by Ofsted reported that effective action is being taken with the school’s improvement plan described as ‘fit for purpose’ and leaders having ‘a clear set of principles and values that inform the work of the school community.’ This is a great tribute to the Headteacher, teachers and support staff who have worked tirelessly to raise achievement. The report, received on 26th February, was greeted warmly by parents, staff, and unions as it confirmed the overwhelming view that the school will thrive as part of the Brighton and Hove family of schools. This correlates with national data which shows that schools with difficulties are more likely to improve their performance by remaining with a local authority, and at a faster rate, than by being privatized.
The school received an academy order after an Ofsted inspection declared it inadequate. With a packed public meeting and a concerted campaign in the community, 94% of parents voted against academisation. Unanimous strike ballots were held by the National Education Union, UNISON and GMB. Three potential academy sponsors withdrew their interest.
The academy order can only be revoked by the Secretary of State for Education. Unions are calling on Gavin Williamson MP to secure the school’s future and announce it can remain a community school. Mackie Hill School in Wakefield recently had an academy order revoked after improvements in its performance were confirmed. But Moulsecoomb might have to wait for a year before a full Ofsted inspection. Leaving it limbo is playing politics with children’s futures.
In a frank and revealing statement in the monitoring report, the inspectors observed that the focus on providing ‘high quality education for all’ is being hindered because ‘the headteacher has had to devote his energies to matters related to the academy order and the restructuring of staffing’.
If another academy sponsor were to come forward, the protests and disruption would start again. Unions are calling on the Secretary of State to put the needs of local children over political dogma and revoke the academy order as soon as possible.
NEU District Secretary Paul Shellard, said:
“No-one connected to Moulsecoomb Primary wants it to be academized. Now Ofsted have said the academy order is an obstacle to school improvement. Gavin Williamson has a straight choice: support the school in continuing its trajectory of improvement or condemn it to uncertainty and the clutches of undemocratic and unwanted multi-academy trusts.”
UNISON Branch Secretary Matt Webb said:
“The latest OFSTED monitoring visit reinforced what the community and unions have been saying all along – the school, with the help of the local authority, is making huge progress in spite of the uncertainty of a fourth multi-academy trust coming along, and in spite of the resources which the school are having to continually pour into the academisation process.
A huge congratulations to all the hardworking and committed staff at Moulsecoomb Primary for achieving so much and a huge congratulations to the local authority and community that has supported them. There is evidently, by OFSTED’s reckoning, not a single reason to hand the school over to private hands.
The school and community have had to see off some multi- academy trusts whose awful behaviour towards the school and community has been that of plastic smiles and open contempt. The government should be working in the interests of the community – not against it.
Enough is enough now – it is time for Gavin Williamson to act and put an end to this drawn out fiasco.”
GMB Branch Secretary, Mark Turner said:
“We are pleased that the monitoring visit confirmed the positive direction of the school’s improvement and we would like to thank all the staff for their continued dedication through the unnecessary disruption of the academy plans. We now hope the Secretary of State wakes up to see that clearly the best way forward is for the order to be revoked so the school can continue its progression within the LEA and focusing on the vital work of educating the local children without the threat of privatisation.”