BBC Kent interview on the pros and cons of Academy status (16 February 2015)

BBC Kent interview on the pros and cons of Academy status (16 February 2015)

Alex Ward was interviewing me live on BBC Kent, alongside Paul Clark (Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Gillingham and Rainham), about my views on the pros and cons of Twydall becoming an academy school.

A transcript of my conversation with Alex is below.

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AW: Good morning Stephen, thank you for joining us. What do you think about Academies coming in to run a school, particularly schools that have been put into special measures?

SC: I think, in the end, if someone comes in with a good plan, and the Academy Trust has a good background in education… The Thinking School Academy Trust, as far as I can see, have seven other schools in its orbit. I can’t see that there has been any real complaints about what they’ve been doing. I had a quick look at their website and read some things online about them. They appear to have a good plan and to have a very forward looking view of education which, obviously, could benefit a primary school that has had some difficulties. Although I understand that Twydall has been doing quite well on a general basis and the parents are generally quite happy with education there.

AW: The parents in particular have told us that one of their big concerns is not so much about the school becoming an academy, but more that the Thinking Schools Academy Trust isn’t the most appropriate, particularly when it comes to students at Twydall who have special needs.

SC: Obviously an Academy that has seven schools in its orbit must have children with special needs. It may not have as many as Twydall does, but all schools have children with special needs, and they are duty-bound to look after those children. I’m sure that the provision that that particular Academy would give would take into consideration the particular circumstances at Twydall. I can understand the political side of this, and the debate has become rather toxic. It’s very hard for people now to stand back, take a deep breath and look at the situation in an objective way because (as I think Paul has said), there appears to have been quite a rush to process and it appears like it is a choice of one. Although, if it’s a good choice, it doesn’t really matter if it’s one or ten.

AW: In your experience of looking at Academies taking over the management of schools, is there normally a process where more than one would be involved, and if so is it more of a bidding process, and that maybe parents then and the Board of Governors can have more of a choice?

SC: I don’t have direct experience of the bidding processes. I do believe that in a situation where there hasn’t been an Ofsted report, like there was last year, and a school being put into Special Measures there would probably be a longer consultative process and the school would obviously be looking around for partners. This appears to have been brought on by what has actually happened, although I do understand the school is quite positive about Academy Status, and there is no fundamental objection to that.

AW: Our understanding is, of course, that the Board of Governors have actually rejected Thinking Schools Academy Trust. I was just wondering, what’s your understanding of what might happen now, because the Department for Education is suggesting they do take on this, that this Trust does take on Twydall. What’s next then, in the whole process?

SC: I suppose there could be a forced decision, which would be sad because in the end it’s much better that people agree together and they come together and everybody is positive about it. I mean, the Thinking Schools Academy Trust may, in fact, be extremely good for this school. But, because the processes and the disputes that have arisen have taken over, no one really is able to see whether they are good or bad now. I mean, I think that is the problem, sometimes if the debate centres around that then obviously the whole issue is clouded. I mean, in the end, the most important thing in all of this, is the children and they have to be looked after. Obviously, further delays will mean that this thing will run out for much longer and perhaps things that need to be are not being done.

AW: Stephen, thank you for joining us.