7pm Tuesday 18th March
Midlands Arts Centre (MAC), Pinsent Masons Room 1
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The Academies Enterprise Trust – AET – is the largest privately-run chain of academies – 66 schools.
Four of them are in Birmingham: Four Dwellings secondary and three primaries – Greenwood, Montgomery and Percy Shurmer.
AET has just announced that it is going to privatise all its non-teaching staff in a massive 10-year contract worth up to £400 million.
According to the TES:
England’s biggest academy chain to bring in private sector to run schools
The country’s largest academy chain, Academies Enterprise Trust (AET), is considering outsourcing most non-teaching roles to private companies in a deal worth up to £400 million.
The 10 year contract would include school business managers, librarians and IT staff as well as a range of back office positions such as HR, finance, and secretaries.
Headteachers, teachers and teaching assistants would be the only roles not affected by the move.
Unison, a union that represents 240,000 school support staff, has issued an angry warning about the move, claiming it is an “unprecedented privatisation of school services”.
The contract was advertised on the European Union’s online tender service and the deal will be worth between £200 and £400 million.
TES 31 January 2014
And the Guardian asks:
If academies save money on wages, whose gain will it be?
An academy trust promises efficiency savings: how much of the money will line executives’ pockets?
Guardian 18 February 2014
Most of these school staff will be in the GMB or Unison. But it is vital that all the school unions stand together to oppose this job-cutting pay-cutting privatisation. A lethal precedent is being set: if they can do it to non-teaching staff they will do it to teaching staff next.
AET of course have a reputation as a a dodgy outfit even by academy chain standards – gaming the exam results while paying themselves huge salaries. Here is their record of failure:
Detailed examination of the 2013 GCSE results released last week by the Department for Education show that academy chains – bodies that manage as many as 70 academy and free schools – had a higher than average reliance on equivalent qualifications to standard GCSEs, such as BTecs.
The figures show that the Academies Enterprise Trust had a 52% pass rate including equivalents, but just 36.5% with equivalents taken out.
Guardian 29 January 2014
Academy Enterprise Trust paid almost £500,000 over three years to private businesses owned by its trustees and executives
Observer 20 July 2013
Academies Enterprise Trust (AET have been ‘barred’ by the Government from taking over any more schools. It was revealed that the academy sponsor have been instructed by the Department for Education (DfE) to concentrate on raising results in their existing 66 schools.
The report states that 18 of its schools are failing with 30 in need of improvement and only two rated as outstanding.
Local Schools Network 21 April 2013
Originally posted on Education for Everyone:
GCSE performance table day is again an occasion for the DfE spin doctors to exercise their skills in the manipulation of data. The headline this year is that the number of schools below the floor target has fallen substantially. This is of course evidence that “the government’s education reforms are raising standards in secondary schools.”
The first question to be asked is “what reforms”? The new curriculum hasn’t started yet. Nor have the new GCSE’s. In fact all these pupils took the exams that Gove has condemned as representing nothing but dumbing down. Improving results under the Labour government are consistently put down to easier exams and grade inflation by Gove and his followers. But apparently this year, higher results represent real progress.
There are only two actual policies mentioned in the DfE press release – academisation and the English Baccalaureate.
This week “the Department for Education claimed that today’s tables showed that sponsored academies were improving at three times the rate of other schools this year” (Telegraph, 12/12).
The DfE have claimed that SATs results in primary sponsored academies had grown by 3%, compared to 1% in all schools. This is an important statement, as it is likely to be used to argue that only by becoming an academy can an “under-performing” primary improve. It will be used to justify forced academisation. Is the claim a valid one?
Henry Stewart has analysed the data in two posts on the Local Schools Network website. The conclusion is indisputable (unless you’re Michael Gove, who ignores evidence that doesn’t suit him): the latest SATS results show that primary academies do no better than similar maintained schools. In fact the biggest increases are in local authority schools.
Read the analyses at
In response to questions at a budget consultation meeting on Thursday, Cllr Brigid Jones replied that she has vetoed this plan.
According to Paul Dale on The Chamberlain Files website on 6 December, Birmingham City Council is set to pay outsourcing company Capita £500,000 to oversee a major research project into the future of schools. An ‘Education Services Transformation Programme’ will examine how to deliver services against a backdrop of public spending cuts and the rapid growth of independent academies. Capita is already siphoning off massive profits from its £1 billion worth of contracts with the Council to oversee ICT services, at a cost of £120m a year.
A discussion document launched by the council children’s services strategic director, Peter Hay, sets out a six-stage approach to “transform” the way education is delivered in Birmingham and is expected to be approved by the cabinet on December 16. Crucially, the programme will try to broker a deal between the local authority and head teachers about the way in which the Dedicated Schools Grant should be divided and how much of it the council should retain to fulfil its statutory duties. It will also examine how the council can cope with the soaring cost of looking after children with disabilities and learning difficulties. The future of £145 million worth of non-statutory services, including early years’ provision, childcare, some home to school transport services, outdoor learning and business support to schools, will also be under the microscope.
The discussion paper calls for “meaningful and iterative” dialogue with heads and governors and says that the voices of children and young people must be heard “particularly in communities where outputs are poorer”. It continues: “The scale of the challenge and the complex balance of resources and responsibilities mean that a whole system transformation is necessary.”
There are six stages to the programme, which is expected to report recommendations by June 2014. Capita “will ensure that all stakeholders are engaged, deliverables at each stage of the process are sound and the individual cases are synthesised into a coherent overall solution”, according to the education transformation programme document. Capita has agreed that a “robust ethical wall” be put in place to make sure that information gained in supporting the education transformation programme is not leaked to another part of their business, the document notes.
The Council has recently announced its proposed cuts in its education budget in its ‘Children Young People & Families Directorate Factsheets’. You can find it online here.
The Council says ‘We need to make big cuts in our services in the next financial year and substantial cuts are expected to continue at least until 2018. This means we are planning for a future with a lot less money to spend on services for Birmingham people.’
So the cuts listed below may well increase in future years.
Below are the main cuts proposed, taken from the Factsheet with BCASE’s comments in italics.
Public consultation will lead to an informed decision point for Cabinet in March 2014. The three options being presented for consultation are:
A. No change: accept deficit and fund from elsewhere.
B. Partial decommissioning – partially reduces revenue liabilities, but does not address capital spend requirements of £4m.
C. Complete decommissioning – eliminates revenue liabilities and capital spend requirements (repairs) and may deliver capital receipt (approximately £2.8m).
We say this is a very well-regarded high-quality service using Birmingham’s exceptional range of sites. It needs to be protected. The worst option is C, which would leave the field to private companies seeking profit with a lower quality of provision and staffing. Schools need to write in now demanding no cuts in OLS.
This provides ICT curriculum guidance and support to early years, primary and secondary schools. The CLC is a fully-traded service but had a deficit last year and is currently projecting a potential deficit in 2014/15. Options proposed are either:
a) Efficiency savings from closing one centre, reduction in staffing (due to the decline in the demand for Music Technology) and increased traded income generation from both Birmingham Schools and other LA areas. A one-off saving of £25,000 in 2014/15.
b) Closure of both centres
We says again, schools using the service need to be campaigning to save it.
This aims to secure good or better (as judged by Ofsted outcomes) education for children in all Birmingham schools. The service will need to be further restructured to achieve the proposed savings. School-to-school support for school improvement will continue to be coordinated via the School Improvement Group (SIG). This is currently supported by LA School Improvement Advisers working directly with vulnerable schools and those in special measures, in line with the LA’s statutory responsibilities to secure standards. The savings target will necessitate further reductions in these staff. One-off saving of £98,000 in 2014/15.
We say this service is already pared down to the bone – a team of 9 for around 400 schools. Now it looks like perhaps 3 will lose their jobs. Responsibility for school support is now largely the responsibility of the schools themselves through the new Birmingham Schools Partnership, but the LA still needs a large enough central team to coordinate support and carry out its statutory duties. Reverse this cut!
Early Years has the statutory duty to ensure all 3 and 4 year olds and vulnerable 2 year olds (60%) have access to 15 free hours early education.
Children’s Centres (CC’s) provide access to a combination of health, family support, early education and training and employment services across the core purpose for families and children aged minus 9 months to 5 years, increasing to age 11 where appropriate. The local authority has a duty to provide sufficient CCs for all under 5s (85,000) in order to improve health and education outcomes and address child poverty through early help and intervention. A cut of £1m in 2014/15 and a further £11m in 2015/16.
Savings in 2014/15 include Workforce Development – £200K will be saved by ending the Council’s support to developing early years practitioners to become graduate leaders and gain early years professional status following removal of DfE funding – and First Steps Networks – £250K will be saved from the recommissioning of this service, which supports child-minders in each of the 16 children’s centre localities.
For 2015/16, the Council needs to implement a transformational change in this service. The Green Paper, Supporting and Educating Young People has identified that the Council’s investment in these services is significantly higher than in comparator authorities, whilst it has underfunded child protection services. This saving proposal is designed to address this issue.
The Council has identified that some £11m of its current spend on services provided by children’s centres could be charged to Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG) with the approval of the Schools Forum. The review of early education, early help, family support and Children’s Centres will identify to what extent this cost will be met from DSG in 2015/16 or reduced through the transformation of the service.
We say that the option here is to transfer most of the cost from the LA to the schools by getting the DSG to pay – which means a cut in schools’ budgets, which are supposed to be protected. If they don’t, the service will be cut back. And this at a time when Mr Gove is intent on victimising Birmingham.
The current service provides statutory functions in supporting parents, carers and schools around absence from education. This includes working with families where children have not taken up a school place, support with finding appropriate schools, taking court action where parents fail to follow up school places and working with children who are persistently absent from school. The service has already reduced its staffing capacity from over 160 two years ago to 19.
A one-off cut of £687,000 in 2014/15. The savings will be achieved by a deletion of current vacant posts, and further reduction in management and other posts.
The service funds £188k for Education Social Work (ESW) posts within the Youth Offending Service and this figure would be reduced in order to prioritise resources within the newly configured team. This would have a direct impact on support to young people to improve attendance in education and targeting those at risk of not being in education, training and employment (NEET). Withdrawal of this funding may also impact on targeting of troubled families.
The work of Education Welfare has been critical to supporting the work around troubled families and the team is developing effective partnership working to support work across Family Support, Safeguarding Teams and Schools.
There is a risk that absence figures across primary and secondary groups may increase for vulnerable groups as a result of reduction in training and support to schools to target this area.
Targeted support to schools around attendance has been critical and resulted in year on year improvements in attendance at secondary level. The service provides training programmes to Birmingham schools to undertake the spotlight on attendance process which has to be undertaken prior to any statutory legal action being initiated. The service also receives income generation from marketing of education packages for primary and secondary schools and this work would cease as there would be no capacity to continue, resulting in loss of annual income of £80,663 based on 2012/13. This activity could be picked up by the Birmingham Education Partnership.
Again, a vital service where cuts will hit hardest at the most vulnerable. If BEP takes it over it will further reduce schools’ budgets since that is where BEP funding will come from.
The Council no longer has the ability to meet costs from its own resources that could be charged to the Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG) and is seeking to work with the Schools Forum and wider Education community to rebalance expenditure between the rate fund and DSG. The areas that are under discussion include:
This aims to achieve a one-off saving of £8m in 2014/15. These proposals will impact on the amount of funding available to schools but it is intended to mitigate much of this through the use of DSG under spends in 2013/14 carried forward into 2014/15.
But if DSG underspends don’t cover the £8m then either the schools will have to pay more out of their budgets for this year or the Council will make more cuts elsewhere.
BCASE says that these cuts will damage the services, the schools, and our children and young people’s education, especially the most vulnerable. They need to be vigorously opposed by the schools, the unions, parents and communities. Let’s make our voices heard in the consultation (though whether they’ll listen is another question) and let’s campaign to defend our services.
For the city-wide and local campaigns against the cuts go to Birmingham Against the Cuts at birminghamagainstthecuts.wordpress.com.
This post is also available to download as a BCASE Briefing document here.
On November 6th 2013 the new Birmingham Education Partnership was launched at a conference of 265 headteachers in the new Library. Its aim is to bring together all Birmingham state-funded schools, including academies and free schools, for mutual collaboration and support, in partnership with the local authority, to raise standards. As the BEP brochure says, ‘The BEP will partner with the city council to ensure challenge and ‘school to school’ support is coordinated for all schools’. (The brochure is available on the BEP website)
For those headteachers it represents a rejection of Mr Gove’s vision of a fragmented market-place of competing schools and a commitment to the idea that Birmingham needs a coordinated system of schools linked to elected local government.
Labour first proposed a new ‘umbrella trust’ when it took over the Council in May last year, but it was never able to convince the schools and it began to seem that, with the local education authority rapidly shrinking, the Birmingham school system was doomed to disintegrate. But earlier this year a number of headteachers, led by primary head Sarah Smith and secondary head Tim Boyes, took hold of the initiative and got the support of the vast majority of heads to go ahead.
Tim Boyes and Sarah Smith have now been elected chair and vice chair of the BEP. It will be run by a Board comprising an elected primary and secondary head from each of the 10 constituencies (now called Districts) together with representatives of nurseries, special schools, teaching schools and the King Edwards schools. The local authority will have a seat but no vote. The new structure will be in addition to, not replace, existing networks and consortia. Schools will pay an annual subscription of £1 per pupil.
We welcome the BEP. Collaboration between schools has been shown to be the most effective way of raising standards (as the London Challenge demonstrated), we have seen the growth of effective collaboration in Birmingham but it has been uneven, patchy. The BEP has the potential to ensure a city-wide coordinated approach, mobilising and making full use of the expertise across our schools. This is in the best interests of our children and young people. It should also reduce the temptation for schools to join academy clusters and prevent them from becoming vulnerable to forced academisation.
However, we recognise that the BEP is in an embryonic stage and its future development is uncertain. It will only achieve its potential for ‘school improvement’ if the large majority of schools commit themselves not just to signing up but to putting their resources into building the Partnership and its activities.
That means going beyond ‘school improvement’ in the sense of meeting the government’s and Ofsted’s performance targets. The BEP has to have more than a remedial role as a lifeboat for vulnerable schools. It should have a developmental role for all schools, because all schools can develop. Similar Partnerships in other authorities have shown the way, setting up cross-school working groups on specific issues to meet the developmental needs of their local school systems.
And this raises a question. Will the BEP, while supporting schools to meet their performance targets, limit itself to initiating developments within the agenda Mr Gove has set down, or will it challenge and go beyond it? In other words, will it develop a vision for education which really meets the needs of young people in Birmingham – a vision which is committed to tackling the equality gaps, which stimulates a love of learning, which embodies cooperative values, and which develops a critical understanding of the world and the desire to change it for the better?
Which raises another question, the most fundamental one that the BEP faces. Who should decide what the vision is for education in Birmingham? The BEP brochure says:
‘The vision for the Birmingham Education Partnership (BEP) is that headteachers, from all types of schools, take on collective leadership of education in our city. As head teachers we believe that together we have the closest working knowledge of the needs of schools and that, united, we are best placed to meet these needs.’
‘This is a unique chance to effect a step change in Birmingham with headteachers taking on the effective leadership of the educational agenda in our city.’
It needs to be emphasised what a radical move this is. It means that the leadership of education in the city will be handed over into the sole hands of headteachers. They will control not just their own individual schools but, collectively, the agenda for the aims, purposes and strategies of the whole Birmingham school system. The role of the local authority in the Partnership will be marginal – just a set on the Board with no vote. The role of school governors? None, they are not represented on the Partnership. The role of parents? None – they aren’t represented either . Teachers and other school workers? Nor are they. And neither is there any representation of local communities.
At school level we have a stakeholder model, with all these interests represented. At city-wide Partnership level we have a managerial model, with all these other stakeholders excluded and the local authority – elected local government – marginalised.
The mistake the headteachers are making is to conflate strategic leadership and operational leadership. It is true that the ‘closest working knowledge of the needs of schools’ lies in the schools themselves – though with all the teachers, not just the headteachers. They have the principal expertise to support other schools.
But that operational leadership is a different matter from strategic leadership – setting the aims and main strategies for the city’s school system. All stakeholders have a right to contribute to that, with a particular importance for the role of the local authority as the elected representative of the interests of the citizens of Birmingham.
As we said, we recognise that the BEP is at an embryonic stage and its future development has not yet been mapped out. During the next months it will be establishing the structures and procedures for its ‘school improvement’ role. But we think it vital that at the same time it begins the process of enabling the participation of the full range of stakeholders. As a matter of principle governors, teachers, parents, communities must have a voice, alongside headteachers, in the strategic leadership of education in the city. The reasons are two-fold: it is a democratic right, and it is a practical necessity if we are to build the active involvement of the whole community in raising standards, tackling inequality, and making Birmingham a ‘learning city’.
We note that the section on a vision for education in the ‘Strengthening the Birmingham Family of Schools – the role of the City Council’ Scrutiny report states that:
4.2.2 Clearly this vision needs to be agreed and shared by key stakeholder representatives covering all aspects of education hence our suggestion of a time-limited Strategic Board. We have recommended groups from whom leaders should be drawn but do not see this as definitive.
This statement seems to recognise the need, as the BCASE Briefing also does, that key stakeholder representatives including those of school governors, parents, teachers and local communities should be involved in the development of a collective vision for education in the city.
Thursday 28th November, NASUWT Offices, Ludgate Court, 57 Water Street, B3 1EP.
‘Baverstock in the City targets Gypsy and traveller children, those for whom English is not their first language and pupils with challenging behaviour’ (BBC website 13 September)
Birmingham CASE has written to the Sparkhill councillors and MP Roger Godsiff to express our concerns about the proposed Free School which is being planned to open in Sparkbrook ward, on the Moseley Rd. Here is our letter:
‘The ONE Free School’ is being proposed by Baverstock Academy, which is a considerable distance away near the Maypole. It is intending to open, prior to receiving approval to become a Free School, as an annex of Baverstock in the near future. It has an Open Day/Evening on 15 October. (See http://www.baverstock.bham.sch.uk/user/74/128920.pdf)
This leaflet states that ‘We believe that it is the ‘right’ of all students to be educated in a fully inclusive and mainstream school’. However, the proposed new school is far from being a ‘fully inclusive and mainstream school’. On the contrary, as the BBC News website reported on 13 September, ‘Baverstock in the City targets Gypsy and traveller children, those for whom English is not their first language and pupils with challenging behaviour’ (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-birmingham-24060831).
The BBC report continued: ‘Thomas Marshall, head teacher of The Baverstock Academy, said: “There are close to 900 Gypsy Romany traveller children without a school place at the moment.” “The number of students with English as a second language is growing and growing across the city as people move into Birmingham and they don’t have school places because they tend to move into the centre of the city where there aren’t enough secondary schools.” ‘An application to turn it into a free school has been prepared, which would give it a capacity of 1,000 students.’
The Free School would be run by Baverstock Academy, which claims on its website to be ‘the MOST IMPROVED School in the country 2012 and top 1% of schools nationally 2013’.
There are several issues here which give cause for concern.
First, and most importantly, is it educationally justifiable to segregate Romany children in a single separate school, rather than integrate them into their local schools? In our view no. Damien Le Bas, editor of the Travellers’ Times, spoke in the BBC report, of his concern about segregation and said ‘I benefited enormously through being in a mixed school with people with high expectations’. We recognise that, as he also said, ‘Romany Gypsies and Irish Travellers report problems with school that includes bullying and teachers that misunderstand their ethnicity’, but the answer is for schools to address these issues, not exclude these children in a separate school.
Second, we question the Baverstock headteacher’s claim that ‘There are close to 900 Gypsy Romany traveller children without a school place at the moment’. Where is the evidence? What is the LA doing to address this appalling situation? Or isn’t it actually the case that this is a grossly exaggerated figure plucked out of thin air to in an attempt to bolster the case for the Free School?
Third, a practical issue. How are these claimed 900 children, spread out around the city, supposed to travel to Sparkhill each day? Wouldn’t it be much better, on practical grounds alone, for them to go to their nearby local schools?
Fourth, we question the claim that Baverstock Academy is ‘the MOST IMPROVED School in the country 2012 and top 1% of schools nationally 2013’. What evidence is this based on?
Fifth, the school aims to admit 1000 pupils. What would be the effect on neighbouring schools? What consultation has taken place with them? Any at all?
Could the proposed ‘ONE Academy’ end up as a convenient unofficial Pupil Referral Unit for the pupils that other schools are reluctant to take or keep because they lower their exam scores?
We believe these are important issues which concern everyone in the city with an interest in education, including of course you as local councillors, and we hope you will be able to enquire into and clarify them.
In June this year Birmingham CASE published a Briefing Paper on a proposed new Co-operative Partnership between the LA and all Birmingham’s state schools. In that briefing BCASE called on schools and the LA to:
The good news is that headteachers and the LA got together before the summer and agreed on the aims and structure of a new Partnership involving all the state-funded schools in Birmingham, including academies. We welcome this – the alternative, a fragmented and uncoordinated market would be far worse for education in the city. On November 6 the Partnership is being launched at an event in the new Library. We wait to see exactly what has been proposed. We have two concerns: