Several things strike me about this article in the Yorkshire Post. Firstly, the stunning lack of democracy evident in a process where a decision is made to proceed with Academy conversion in the face of opposition – not just of parents teachers and the community – but of almost half the Governing Body.
Secondly, the phrase at the bottom of the article in which the Headteacher explains that the motivation behind Academy conversion is to “maintain all that is good about Prince Henry’s”. This phrase is becoming very familiar to me. The headteacher of Bournville School & Sixth Form Centre in Birmingham used a remarkably similar phrase ”to preserve all that is good about Bournville”. I heard it again from governors of The Kingswinford School in Dudley and from the Headteacher of Earls High School in Halesowen. Where is this remarkably similar language (used by different schools in different parts of the UK) coming from? Could this phrase be being whispered into the ears of Headteachers and governors by their friendly contacts at the DfE? If so, it must be happening at a very early stage in the process. Bournville School used the phrase in the very first letter to parents informing them that the school was considering Academy status. I am imagining the conversation goes something like this;
HT: ‘But what reason do we give for converting? We are already an outstanding school and there isn’t any evidence that AS will make us any better’
DfE: ‘Scare them – tell them the LA is in decline, funding is being cut and this is the only way to preserve all that is good about your school’
HT: ‘Brilliant! I’ll draft a letter right away…’
Thirdly, this thought got me wondering just how much involvement the DfE has in the consultation and decision-making process of schools considering Academy conversion, and indeed in the initial decision to even think about consultation. How much arm-twisting of Headteachers and Chairs of Governors might be going on behind the scenes? Does this explain the extraordinary decision taken by Prince Henry’s Grammar School in Otley to proceed with Academy conversion against the wishes of its own Governors?
Your thoughts and comments welcome.