Seven Questions: Any Answers?

The powers of Overview and Scrutiny Committee1

In particular, regulations give enhanced powers to a scrutiny member to access exempt or confidential information. This is in addition to existing rights for councillors to have access to information to perform their duties, including common law rights to request information and rights to request information under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and the Environmental Information Regulations 2004. Annotated advice para 38 (my emphasis)


Councillors must exercise their powers to fulfil their statutory obligations. For this huge responsibility they’re well paid.2 Most committees only met once in the first six months of 2021. This is an outrage. Committee chairs sabotage the powers the government has given them.

Havering’s Overview and Scrutiny Committees are listed below, along with suggested questions.

Children & Learning Overview & Scrutiny Sub-Committee

1 How was Marshalls Park Academy selected for £6.8 million pounds of capital works as opposed to the Council’s own Junior Schools?

Crime & Disorder Sub- Committee

2 What discussions have taken place about Knife Crime since Jodie Chesney was tragically murdered nearly two years ago? And what positive action has taken place?

Environment Overview & Scrutiny Sub-Committee

3 When will a Task Force be established to discuss flooding measures? This critical problem needs well thought out strategies.

Health Overview & Scrutiny Sub-Committee

4 How is the Digital Divide being tackled for Havering’s elderly population access to GP services?

Individuals Overview & Scrutiny Sub-Committee

5 The recent report on N.E.London’s Health Service highlighted the distressing experiences of some disabled residents. What has been the Council’s dialogue with partners?

Overview & Scrutiny Board

6 The 2019 purchase of the Marks and Spencer site costs half a million pounds a year in interest payments. Damian White said this would be paid for with rent. How much rent has actually been paid since the purchase?

Towns & Communities Overview & Scrutiny Sub- Committee

7 What was the impact of the loss of business rates when Debenhams store closed?

Damian White’s Councillors are incapable of fulfilling their responsibilities and should be thrown out next year.


1 Overview and scrutiny: statutory guidance for councils and combined authorities – GOV.UK (

2 2020 Members Allowances final.pdf (

Gaynes School, the Pupil Premium and Accountability

It is for schools to decide how the Pupil Premium, allocated to schools per FSM* student, is spent… for the individual pupils within their responsibility.” Government statement (my emphasis)

The challenge to establish a clear link between educational expenditure and pupils’ learning is harder than one would imagine. It may seem obvious that more money offers the possibilities for a better or higher quality educational experience, but the evidence suggests that it is not simply a question of spending more to get better results.”* Gaynes statement (my emphasis)

Gaynes School received £69,190 of Pupil Premium (PP) funding in 2020-21. PP funding demands acceptance of the government’s criteria of accountability. The government’s criteria are clear, unequivocal and entirely reasonable (Addendum one). Gaynes fails to be clear or precise in this important duty.

Gaynes response to disadvantaged children is providing,

Additional Educational Resources for Looked After Children – allocated £1,800

Strategy: For 2019-20, each looked after child has a Personalised Educational Plan drawn up by our specialist worker in conjunction with the local authority to ensure that each student receives resources and support which would be appropriate for them as an individual.”

£1,800 is about £29 per disadvantaged child (2.6% of PP funding). The other £67,390 is invisible. (Addendum two) Gaynes says money doesn’t guarantee ‘better results’. Nonetheless PP funding should be analysed for effectiveness. PP funding is targeted and schools, are best placed to assess what additional provision should be made for…individual pupils…” (my emphasis). With freedom comes responsibility.

Accountability isn’t a threat, it’s a diagnostic tool identifying successes and failures. PP funding is for the most vulnerable children in the country and the government is entitled to know that its ambitions are being fulfilled. Why doesn’t Gaynes meet its obligations?

Addendum one: Government guidance for publicising the Pupil Premium on school websites says it should include –

1) a summary of the main barriers to educational achievement faced by eligible pupils of the school

2) how the pupil premium allocation is to be spent to address those barriers and the reasons for that approach

3) how the school is to measure the impact and effect of its expenditure of the pupil premium allocation. What academies, free schools and colleges should publish online – GOV.UK (

Addendum two: Statement of accounts for Pupil Premium

The Regional Schools Commission tell me that there is a full statement from Gaynes School. It’s in a side bar and is labelled ‘draft’. As a consequence I ignored it thinking that it wasn’t substantive. The link that I was provided with is this, Pupil-Premium-Reports-and-Strategy.pdf (

Quite why the statement of accounts for Pupil Premium is separated into two sections with one labelled ‘draft’ is beyond me but nonetheless that’s as it is.


* Pupil Premium | Gaynes School All quotes are from this document.

** See Young carers (


Gaynes school PP statement Pupil Premium | Gaynes School

Loxford school PP statement Pupil Premium | Loxford

Havering’s Academies and School Uniform

All Havering’s secondary schools have a compulsory uniform policy. This appears to have parental support and is more-or-less uncontentious. Conflicts occur over detail: hairstyles and jewellery feature heavily in this respect.

Uncontentious or not, there’s a problem. The schools are a monopoly. Children must attend or be educated at home. (Home schooling isn’t viable for most parents. This is especially true at secondary level.)

Children are obliged to attend school and schools are publicly funded. Filters are only legitimate when there’s a shortage of spaces. How does a dress code get elevated to being a filter?

Schools are devoted to learning. It’s implausible to claim not wearing uniform harms learning in any way at all. It’s even less plausible to claim that a child not wearing uniform in some way harms learning for any other child. So why are they of critical importance in Havering?

Other national education systems don’t have school uniforms:

The best European school system is Finland. Finland routinely tops rankings of global education systems and is famous for having no banding systems — all pupils, regardless of ability, are taught in the same classes. As a result, the gap between the weakest and the strongest pupils is the smallest in the world. Finnish schools also give relatively little homework and have only one mandatory test at age 16.1

Havering’s academies aren’t outstanding but keep repeating the old routines. Perhaps spending less emotional energy on school uniform and more time on learning would be beneficial?


1 The 11 best school systems in the world | The Independent | The Independent Compare this with the Coopers Coburn Academy policy on hairstyles. Their policy has a 192 words, which can be summarised in nine words as, ‘If we don’t like it, you can’t have it.’ Year-7_11-Uniform_March-2021.pdf (

Hornchurch High School, the Pupil Premium and Accountability

Government guidance for publicising the Pupil Premium on school websites says it should include –

1) a summary of the main barriers to educational achievement faced by eligible pupils of the school

2) how the pupil premium allocation is to be spent to address those barriers and the reasons for that approach

3) how the school is to measure the impact and effect of its expenditure of the pupil premium allocation.*

Hornchurch High received £367,218 Pupil Premium funding (PP), 2020-21, which it spent as it chose. The government does however stipulate accountability procedures. (see above)Hornchurch High’s accountability is a travesty.

Hornchurch High allocates 33% of PP funding to Child Protection. Let’s imagine they’ve identified Child Protection as the main method of overcoming “barriers to educational achievement,” and PP finance is “…spent to address those barriers…” Why wouldn’t they publicise the ”…impact and effect of its expenditure…”? When a third of the PP budget is allocated to a single activity, there should be a compelling reason to justify it. The explanation for the expenditure of the PP funding which remains is equally opaque.**

The attainment gap of disadvantaged children is a scandal which PP funding is intended to close. It’s impossible to know if Hornchurch High is fulfilling its obligations. Another Havering school, Drapers Academy (£384,640 PP), is a model of clarity. Why not use it as a template? Accountability isn’t rocket science.

Addendum: The Partnership Learning trust

They’re part of Partnership Learning academy trust which includes Sydney Russell school, Dagenham (£647,882 pa PP). The two schools have a million+ pounds PP funding of potential synergies. Two schools in the same academy trust and facing the similar issues ought to generate significant expertise.


* What academies, free schools and colleges should publish online – GOV.UK (

** £26,028 for additional English support and £6,000 for additional teaching hours are self explanatory.


For Hornchurch High school PP see Hornchurch High School » PUPIL PREMIUM

For Sydney Russell school’s PP see Welcome to Sydney Russell School. (follow links for PP)

For Drapers Academy PP statement see Pupil-Premium-Report-2017-2018-v20.pdf (

Havering’s Overview and Scrutiny Board 24th November 2020

The meeting received the ‘Inclusive Growth Strategy and Implementation Plan’. It includes statements about educational achievement in Havering in its discussion of economic growth (see table and graph above).

Havering’s secondary schools are, in general, well below the levels of Redbridge, unlike our primary schools which are above average at KS2.Unfortunately, Havering’s secondary academies ‘coast’ instead of building on this wonderful achievement. The government colludes in this,

From September 2019, the department will no longer publish coasting thresholds and RSCs will take no formal action as a result of a school meeting the coasting definition. Whilst local authorities retain the power to intervene, the department is unlikely to support action against a school on the basis of coasting data alone.”* (my emphasis)

Havering’s KS2 general achievement is statistically significant at the national level. Post-16 education, in contrast, is a stark failure, especially NVQ 3 and 4. This is caused by the mediocrity at Havering’s academies (see Addendum). During the debate about future employment and new businesses in Havering, there was much talk about ‘aspirations’ and ‘jobs for Havering’s youngsters’ with ‘higher value jobs’**. None of this will happen without significant improvements in educational achievement throughout the 11-16 schooling period.

Brexit and Covid-19 *** place a premium on education. KS2 achievements should lead to KS4 excellence as a base for achievement at higher education. Havering is sold short by their secondary academies. Only the council can end the cycle of complacency and mediocrity. The government doesn’t want to admit that coasting schools are an outrage but this council should.

Addendum: Education and economic growth

To develop an aspirational programme through the Havering Academy of Leadership, to combat low ambition among young people and their parents. The Local Authority has worked with the early years’ providers, schools, and colleges to develop a shared Education Vision for the Borough. (my emphasis) Para 9:2 p67 (Public Pack)Agenda Document for Overview & Scrutiny Board, 24/11/2020 19:30 ( Let’s remind ourselves that these children and parents are the same children, with the same parents, who over-achieve at primary schools and then stagnate at secondary level.


* Schools causing concern guidance ( p5

** SQW and BBP’s report to the Board Economic Evidence Base: Havering January 2018 pp 118, 121, 126, 140. Table and bar graph on pp141-2. NB: NVQ 4 are degree level qualifications

*** Neil Stubbings at 21 minutes going forward. Annotator Player (


The ‘coasting’ school concept was formulated in 2015 using several key indicators see Coasting Schools Definition: The Nerdy Details Guide (

Havering’s educational institutions are opaque in informing the public about their results usually relying on hyperbole instead of statistics. Havering Colleges Sixth Form Results 2019 says, “I am delighted to announce fantastic outcomes for our students at Havering Sixth Form in 2019.” (my emphasis) Results – Havering Colleges (

For the disparity between Havering and Redbridge secondary schools see Havering and Redbridge: A Tale of Two Boroughs – Politics in Havering

For the council’s potential response see Havering’s Academy Schools: Councillor Robert Benham’s Dilemma – Politics in Havering

Marshalls Park Academy: a Critique


Marshalls Park is an average academy in Havering,* which is why it was chosen for this critique. This is intended to be constructive criticism, contributing towards a reorientation from the merely peripheral to substantive educational issues.


On the academy’s website, the Headteacher in his 18th September, 2020 blog remarks that, “….it’s that schools are under constantly [sic] scrutiny by the whole community and that just magnifies the pressure.”** It isn’t “community….pressure” calling for transparency about GCSE results, it’s a perfectly normal expectation. The presentation of the 2019 GCSE results was opaque. Let’s take the top line:-

Subject ……………….9-4…………….9-5……………..9-7

English Language 68.26%……….52.10%……….7.19%

There’s no explanatory note explaining grade boundaries. Grade 9 is an outstanding result. Grade 4 is a bare ‘pass’ with a three grades beneath them: Grades 1-3. The results don’t show the 31.74% of the 2019 cohort sitting English Language who achieved grades 1-3. It’s as if a third of the school is invisible and unwelcome because they’ve failed the school. The students might say that they have been failed by the school of course.

The Headteacher sings from a different hymn sheet. His 2nd October, 2020 blog focuses on the new Barnes building. The site manager is warmly praised despite the building being delivered late. Astonishingly, the teaching staff’s unique role in 2020 is ignored, as is the implementation of a new system of teaching and learning. The staff’s stellar efforts maintaining progress through the lockdown is taken for granted.

A Headteacher’s blogs are an important mechanism for setting the tone of an academy. The priorities embedded within blogs guide the expectations of the reader. Both of this term’s blogs are unfortunate. They go a long way towards showing why there’s systemic weakness in Havering’s academies. Only sharply focused senior management teams, who aren’t in denial about their GCSE results, will break out of mediocrity. Parents and the wider community are entitled to know in detail the outcomes of GCSE results. They should not be concealed or underplayed on school websites.


* See


*** See my The government changed their position on GCSE results when they fully appreciated that grades were being awarded on the historic outcomes of the school not the individual student. There were massive disparities between teacher assessments and the standardisation principles embedded in the original documents. See also


The GCSE results for 2019 at Marshalls Park academy. As of 6th October 2020 these 2019 results were still being described as ‘provisional’ fourteen months after being announced.They missed the announced date of April 2020 by six months.

For other key metrics 2017-8 see These statistics are the most recent published.

Is Havering’s Academy System an Expensive Failure?

There are eighteen secondary schools in Havering, none of which are administered by the council. They are grouped into six categories of governance, costing huge amounts of public money. Apart from OFSTED inspections, they are broadly unaccountable. Only when the annual examination season reports in August are they reported as Havering schools.* Then the borough takes responsibility when they excel or fail. Why aren’t the trusts which administer them held directly accountable?

Let us take the case of the Loxford School Trust. This Trust is responsible for six secondary schools** in Barking and Dagenham, Essex, Havering, Redbridge and Southend. Perhaps the question should be: how well did the Loxford School Trust do? Their flagship school, Loxford in Redbridge, was deemed below average in 2018.*** Warren School in Barking and Dagenham was average,**** Tabor school in Essex was below average.***** Two Havering schools, Abbs Cross and Gaynes, are respectively below average and average.^ Finally we have Cecil Jones school in Southend. Well this school closed in March 2019. I wonder why?

Loxford School Trust is meant to be an improvement on the, now extinct, Havering LEA. It clearly isn’t. They’re grimly mediocre. Their pinnacle is average. And the educational reputation of Havering has been out-sourced into their hands. Loxford Trust isn’t a bargain basement option. Their CEO is paid £255,000 pa for underwhelming outcomes.^^

Let us consider Empower Learning Academy Trust. They are an entrepreneurial off-shoot of Hall Mead school. They run Bower Park, Brittons Academy and Hall Mead. The leadership of Hall Mead was dazzled by their success in making their school OFSTED rated outstanding in 2013. In truth this is a brilliant result but has it induced hubris? The business plan is: we transplant Hall Mead to Bower Park and Brittons Academy and then they too will be outstanding. So how has it worked out?

In terms of examination results Hall Mead is now average and it appears that they have destroyed value in the period since 2013. Bower Park is below average and Brittons Academy well below average. Achievement in the academy system is illusionary.

British politics is wedded to quick fix solutions. Tony Blair’s government, 1997-2007, prioritised education but his timescale wasn’t decades, it was yesterday. The pre-eminence of private education in Britain meant that was the favoured model. The school system has, allegedly, benefited from shedding the ‘shackles’ of local government. This PR ‘solution’ has been embraced by Michael Gove who claimed, without evidence, Free Schools were even better. His Free School system is an expensive failure,^^^ playing politics with children’s futures.^^^^ The result is administrative chaos. There is confusion as to where accountability lies. The principal achievement of the academy system has been to create a new breed of fat cats at the expense of children’s educational opportunity.

Addendum: Havering schools in 2018
Basic statistics tell us everything can’t be above average. In Havering there are 18 secondary schools. The optimum outcome would be 6:6:6 shared between above average, average and below average. The actuality is 5:6:7, which is well within the tolerances of acceptability. (Quick fix politicians want every school to be above average.) Breaking up Havering’s LEA has smashed financial restraint for the senior managements of academy trusts. The Harris Trust leads the way with £500,000 pa for their CEO. Even the small Partnership Learning Trust (Hornchurch High School) pays their CEO £220,000.^^^^ These figures dwarf Council salaries.

* For 2018 see
** Plus one primary school in Redbridge.
^^ See p58 By way of comparison Havering’s Chief Executive is paid £170,000
^^^ For Hall Mead in 2013 see
^^^^ See
^^^^^In Havering there are also:
(a) Academy Converters Sacred Heart, Campion School, Marshalls Park, Redden Court and Royal Liberty
(b) Foundation schools Coopers Company and Coborn, and Sanders
(c) Various free standing academy’s St Edwards, Emerson Park and Francis Bardsley
(d) Draper’s Multi-Academy Trust Draper’s School. Once again there is an untested belief in transferable skills, from Queen Mary’s College, London. Draper’s school is rated well below average.
(e) Harris Academy Harris school, Rainham, rated above average. Harris CEO is on £500,000.
^* p34

Havering Education: Abbs Cross School Behaviour Policy 2017-9

Abbs Cross school behaviour policy is defensive. What’s demonstrated is a tragic wasted opportunity for having a positive rewards policy embedded within its behaviour policy. This would be alongside and carrying equal weight to the rule directed policy presently existing. Abbs Cross has had a good Ofsted (see addendum two), which provides a platform to build on now that they’ve put their ‘inadequate’ status behind them.

The Behaviour Policy of Abbs Cross school runs to eight pages.1

The Aims (p2) include:

To promote Student Voice in regard to Behaviour for Learning expectations and Rewards (bullet point 6: my emphasis).

The Statement of General Principles (pp2-3) has 20 statements only one of which is a token nod at rewards-
Will support, praise and as appropriate reward students’ behaviour.
There’s lavish detail on control but the positive side of motivation is absent. This is counter-intuitive as students react well to rewards whereas punishment can create resentment and further disruptive behaviour.

The negative tone extends to parents/carers. Student and parental misconduct is highlighted (pp2-3) along with indicated draconian action.2 Later (p6) parents/carers who bring drugs, alcohol and weapons are reminded that this is against school rules. School rules aren’t being broken: laws are being broken.

Under the heading General Expectations(p6) there are 17 descriptive statements (addendum one). At first glance they wouldn’t be out of place in a Victorian factory or prison. They’re prescriptive and, in many respects, petty. They can also be repetitive – compare point 2 in ‘General Expectations’ and point 5 in ‘Students are expected.’

The Ofsted Report, September 2017, (see addendum two) is quite clear that the school is doing well in regard to behaviour. Doubtless the ‘Inadequate’ status was bruising but it’s time for the school to move on. The Behaviour Policy should be reviewed making it more effective so that the elusive ‘outstanding’ status is achieved.

Addendum one: General Expectations

Be punctual to school and to all lessons
Be smart in appearance and in full correct uniform
Be prepared and fully equipped for all lessons including bringing PE kit when needed
Be responsible for the school environment
Be safe
Be kind, polite and careful
Be motivated to learn
Be respectful

Students are expected:

To arrive at school by on time with the correct books and equipment for the day
To respect others and their property
To respect the building and grounds
To follow directions
To wear correct school uniform as outlined in the schools Uniform policy
To move around the school on the left in an orderly manner
To carry their diary with them and to use it appropriately
To complete homework and hand it in on time
To stay healthy

Addendum two: Ofsted Report3


The behaviour of pupils is good.

Leaders have done much to improve behaviour and their hard work has paid off. Pupils’ behaviour in lessons and around the school is consistently good. Behaviour is especially strong when pupils move between lessons where they walk calmly from one classroom to another. Similarly, pupils behave well during break and lunchtimes. As a result, there is very little disruption around the school and pupils get to their lessons on time. Pupils are polite and courteous and relationships between pupils and staff are respectful. This ensures that there is a positive climate right across the school that encourages learning.

Pupils are clear that bullying is rare and that it hardly ever happens. They confirm that behaviour has improved in the last few years and that bullying is no longer a problem. However, pupils are confident that if there was any bullying it would be dealt with effectively by teachers and leaders.

Procedures to check pupils’ attendance and follow up absence are secure. The reorganisation of the pastoral care system has helped to ensure that these procedures work effectively. As a result, attendance has improved and is in line with other schools in England.