Damian White and Havering’s Pandemic

Havering was ravaged by the Covid-19 pandemic, which killed nearly a thousand people and hospitalised thousands more. The Health and Wellbeing Board is the forum for discussing such things calmly with experts. There were three meetings of the Board, at the height of the pandemic, between January and March 2021. The Board has four senior councillors, and health professionals.1 Damian White, Leader of the Council, his deputy Robert Benham, Jason Frost, chair of the Board and Nisha Patel are the four councillors.

There are monthly meetings, so information is always up-to-date. Reading the minutes of the Board is interesting.

Damian loves publicity. Whilst Havering was being ravaged, he appeared on TV on numerous occasions. He presented Havering’s response well and convincingly. He’s also done dozens of Leaders’ blogs during the period, which were informative and helpful. But was it sincere or just a PR exercise, flashy without substance?

The three meetings of the Health and Wellbeing Board were attended by everyone except Damian.2 He attended none of them. So what’s going on?

If there’s a plausible explanation for this dereliction of duty, I look forward to hearing it.

Notes

1 Minutes Template (havering.gov.uk) This Board is very high powered and includes Havering’s CEO who hasn’t missed a meeting.

2 On the 24th February 2021 he didn’t even offer apologies for absence.

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 (www.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 (gaynesschool.net)

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.

Notes

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

** See Young carers (youngminds.org.uk)

Sources

Gaynes school PP statement Pupil Premium | Gaynes School

Loxford school PP statement Pupil Premium | Loxford

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.

Notes

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

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

Sources

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 (drapersacademy.com)

Marshalls Park Academy: a Critique

Introduction

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.

Discussion

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.

Notes

* See https://havering.blog/2019/11/29/havering-and-redbridge-a-tale-of-two-boroughs/

** http://marshallspark.org.uk/2020/09/18/joy/

*** See my https://havering.blog/2020/07/04/haverings-2020-gcse-results-part-one/ 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 https://havering.blog/2020/07/11/haverings-2020-gcse-results-part-two/

Source

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.http://marshallspark.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/Subject-breakdown.pdf

For other key metrics 2017-8 see https://www.bing.com/search?q=marshalls+park+academy&form=ANNTH1&refig=db21274807a54e57bb9bfa2d7497fecf&sp=1&qs=HS&pq=ma&sk=PRES1&sc=8-2&cvid=db21274807a54e57bb9bfa2d7497fecf 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 https://www.compare-school-performance.service.gov.uk/schools-by-type?step=default&table=schools&region=311&la-name=havering&geographic=la&for=secondary&basedon=Overall%20performance&show=All%20pupils
** Plus one primary school in Redbridge.
*** https://www.compare-school-performance.service.gov.uk/schools-by-type?step=default&table=schools&region=317&la-name=redbridge&geographic=la&for=16to18
**** https://www.compare-school-performance.service.gov.uk/schools-by-type?step=default&table=schools&region=317&la-name=redbridge&geographic=la&for=16to18
***** https://www.compare-school-performance.service.gov.uk/schools-by-type?step=default&table=schools&region=881&la-name=essex&geographic=la&for=secondary&page=2
^ https://www.compare-school-performance.service.gov.uk/schools-by-type?step=default&table=schools&region=311&la-name=havering&geographic=la&for=secondary
^^ See http://www.loxfordschooltrust.net/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/126527-Loxford-School-Trust-1718-FinStat.pdf p58 By way of comparison Havering’s Chief Executive is paid £170,000
^^^ https://www.compare-school-performance.service.gov.uk/schools-by-type?step=default&table=schools&region=311&la-name=havering&geographic=la&for=secondary For Hall Mead in 2013 see https://www.romfordrecorder.co.uk/news/education/gcse-exam-results/gcses-hall-mead-school-pupils-celebrate-exceptional-results-1-2348681
^^^^ See https://schoolsweek.co.uk/revealed-the-hidden-cost-of-free-schools/
^^^^^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.
^* http://www.partnershiplearning.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/Accounts-for-website-v2.pdf p34