Z is enthused

I seem to have agreed – not just that, but been willing – to become involved with another school thing.  I stood down as a school governor a year and a half ago, but carried on as a member of the academy trust.  That successful schools should be stand-alone academies was a ‘thing’ a few years ago and local authorities were out of favour, so that only the small but successful  schools found it best to stick with them.  Then there were free schools, an increase in commercial academy trusts etc – all rather unfocussed.  In the last few years, it’s also been all about Multi-Academy Trusts, where successful schools would band together and take on responsibility for managing other schools, spreading expertise and sharing administrative costs, so that there would be overall improvement.

I say all this with a poker face.  There have been enough initiatives in the last 30 years, since I first became a school governor, and I’ve worked with all of them and tried to get the best out of them.  Some were plain daft, others weren’t.  But anyway, the school I still think of as “mine” is still a stand-alone, independent, state funded academy, but the way capital funding, as distinct from pupil allowance, is meted out makes it more sensible now to band together.  The school has been in no hurry, but finally has agreed to apply, with a couple of other schools, to become a multi-academy trust.  This was in the papers a few weeks ago and consultation has taken place and so on – it needs a board of directors.  Unexpectedly, I was asked to be one and, just as unexpectedly, I felt enthused.

I went to the AGM of the existing trust a couple of weeks ago, had quite a few questions to ask and came away feeling that I’d put my mind to work, in a way that was interesting rather than worrying, and that I hadn’t felt for quite some time.  I still didn’t expect anything more than signing off papers, some time next year.  But here I am, back to meetings and paperwork and negotiations and planning, and feeling interested rather than pressured about it.  The thing is, it’s all about the planning and detail, and maybe interviewing and evaluation, and that’s what I’m good at.  I used also to be good at the joining in, hands on part, but I don’t want to do that any more.

Tim was very lovely about it and said he could see that I wanted to do it.  I’ve entered into things before, that I later felt would have been better avoided, but I’m fairly sure that this won’t be one of those things.  It’ll be a fair bit of commitment for the next few months, maybe up to a year, but after that it’ll be very little work and just as much interest as I want it to be.  It’s not a sure thing yet, of course, there is still a lot of planning and then an application for the project to go through.  And the matter of the best way to run schools is another matter.  Whatever current brainchild of the government is what goes, and all we can do is make the best of it.

3 comments on “Z is enthused

  1. Blue Witch

    In the last few years, it’s also been all about Multi-Academy Trusts, where successful schools would band together and take on responsibility for managing other schools, spreading expertise and sharing administrative costs, so that there would be overall improvement.

    Just what good LEAs used to do then, and there were many (although I know that you felt that your LEA wasn’t a good one before ‘your’ school became an Academy).

    I am horrified and saddened at the very poor deal most students get now that the nasty word ‘money’ has taken over from educational striving for all, and ‘business managers’ and paid governors (often with no experience of education other than they once, years ago, went to school) rule.

    If you are a parent of a child who has any additional learning needs at all, you might as well give up, because your child has 12 years of improperly supported hell to get through, and everything you do and say to MAT’s SLTs to get them proper support will never elicit any response except, “We don’t have the funding…”

    Teachers are no longer respected by anyone, are not allowed to do professional jobs, and ‘teach’. I am unsurprised by recent statistcs – eg average ‘lifespan’ of a teacher is now just 5 years. Teaching is no longer about children and young people.

    Are you watching the BBC2 series ‘School’? You should. Lots of very pertinent issues.

    All that said, I hope your new role is fulfilling for you and that you can help ensure that issues that need to be addressed are. Good luck!

  2. Blue Witch


    …has just popped in to my inbox. Please read, digest, action, and share.

    The SENCo is the only legal role in a school that requires the holder to be a qualified teacher.

    I cannot begin to tell you the number of SENCos who have cried down my telephone or on my shoulder in the last couple of years because they cannot do their job or meet the needs of their students, and adequately support their TAs, while also doing all the pointless paperwork and meetings now required.

    Sorry, but I care passionately about CYP with SEN and ALN and they, and those trying to support them, are currently drowning. I will continue to do all I can to raise awareness of all their plights.

    Yesterday I was told that a (nice, middle class, well-dressed, polite, compliant) 13 year old boy having ‘meltdowns’ at home (including banging his head on the floor and walls, and physically hitting and slapping himself, almost every night due to frustrations that his specific learning difficulties/SEN weren’t even being addressed, let alone met), “Does not meet the safeguarding criteria for referral to our school counsellor, so you’ll have to find a private counsellor as we know CAMHS is an 8 month wait and we no longer buy in local authority EP time because it is too expensive.” FFS, that sort of child was my bread and butter before schools killed support services by their misguided belief that they could do so much better alone.

    6 x 1 hour 1:1 sessions and that child’s problems would be solved. No support – and a lifetime of ill health, physical and mental, guaranteed. Yes, I could do it free of charge, but I shouldn’t have to, should I? And I can’t mop up the 10 or 15 kids in each and every secondary school now with such problems, needing such support, can I?

    This is what Academies and MATs mean for real students with any kind of additional need these days.

  3. Z Post author

    Well, there can be good MATs and this one will be. There won’t be paid members, trustees or governors. I don’t know how things will go in the future, but not while I, nor others I know and trust, are involved. The rot started quite a few years ago and I agree with a lot of what you say. School budgets have been horribly squeezed – my school can’t afford to replace the deputy head who’s just retired and I know of another school that can’t afford a headteacher. Everyone else has had to step up.
    When we applied to be an academy, it was for sound reasons. The LA had been very good but was not any longer. Big town schools were their priority and small town schools weren’t. Not long after we became an academy, there was a storm and water poured through the roof because the buildings had been so badly neglected, whilst other schools had millions spend on improvements which were way beyond repairs. We were heavily criticised for the way we managed our money, though we were always in the black and prepared ahead. I had to write very forceful letters. It was also demanded, not long after we became an academy, that we accept a pupil who’d been found guilty of a sex crime. If we hadn’t been an academy, we’d have had to accept him because we had a space. More forceful letters from me and we were referred to the schools’ adjudicator, who wrote back pointing out that academies weren’t under his authority, which the LA hadn’t bothered to find out . The excellent advisors were being made redundant, which we were very unhappy about. Independence was the best thing for us – we gave a better service to our pupils, by a long way and that included SEN. In fact, if a pupil needed outside support, there was a massive waiting list, even when we were a County school, because the person concerned was usually on long-term sick leave through stress and overwork. We were better buying in help because we could pinpoint what was needed.
    More recently, there’s been no money, and that’s that. The school is fine at present, but it only takes one wacko secretary of state changing the rules again and we could be forced to join whatever MAT or academy chain that is decreed. We’re better choosing our own path and, to my relief, they turned down one offer, not long after I left the governing body. It might have been the best option if exam results hadn’t gone well, but they did, so carrying on alone was better then.

    I can’t watch television much any more, certainly nothing worrying in the evening. I don’t sleep enough as it is and I can’t cope with anything extra – in fact, I rarely watch anything at all. Sorry your second comment didn’t come through at once, comments from ‘approved” people are posted straight away, but links go to moderation and I wasn’t signed in on my phone.


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