Researching school governance

Whilst now the parent representative for Raine’s parents on the Steering Group, I feel myself thrown into the Deep End. Having requested training from Tower Hamlets, this was refused. Apparently there is no formal training available for Steering Group members, though the Steering Group is supposed to oversee the planned closure and transfer of pupils to Oaklands.

Doing this one needs quite a bit of knowledge about school governance. Yet, the London Borough of Tower Hamlets has no training scheme for associates and refuses governor training for me. I was trained during my time as LEA school governors 10 years ago but times do change, but I do have some ideas.

I am now finding myself looking up School governance regulations in my own time. I will continue to blog along those lines once I have studied lengthy documents that deal with the issue.

What is important for me is that Interim Executive Boards can be set up to help a school improve performance. Question for me is, would dissolving a school be within the scope of those rules, as obviously closing is different from improving.

As I have mentioned in my previous blog, the current IEB board of Raine’s Foundation school was staffed by Sir Alasdair MacDonald who from the start recommended the closure of Raine’s and proceeds to do so.

We now have entered the second phase of the process and I am having to read up on a lot of paperwork.

What I find interesting from reading around various blogs on the Internet is, that LEAs do not have to consult building owners but only the executors of educational strategies, e.g. in the case of Raine’s the Diocese who deliver the education under lease of the Foundation Trust for the building.

It is always good to know the rules and make qualified remarks rather than wasting time on polemics.

Deal or no deal

With the oncoming general election the Conservatives are striving to get into government once again, which would lengthen their stretch by another 5 years.

Promises to end fracking, raise benefits by the inflation level from next year is meant to appeal to those poor who are leaning towards the Leave campaign but are natural Labour voters.

I think that offer is not good enough. What about the rubbish housing laws that see the poor misplaced and moved out of areas into short-term tenancies?

What about working conditions that don’t even allow workers to determine when they want to take a holiday, gave us zero-hour contracts?

And of course the promise of the Labour Party to end the misery caused by tuitition fees will be very attractive to large swathes of the population, even the middle classes will like it.

Free care for the elderly will attract everybody who has some property and does not want to have to sell it to pay for care.

The Conservative Party even gotten rid of the maintenance allowance for poorer students. That was a payment of around 3 – 4.000 pounds per year to help students with rent and living costs whilst studying. The first act the Conservative government did was to stop the Child Trust Fund, which paid money into an account created for every newborn child.

A rise of benefits with inflation will not even touch the loss of other major needs.

The benefits freeze was initiated by George Osborne, who then opted to leave the government. Osborne also was a big influence on the decision to hold the referendum that still haunts this nation for years to come.

Last ditch effort to save Raine’s

The school needs a

  • fresh approach, a board of positive governors who leave no stone unturned to get the school back on its feed.
  • A maverick headteacher who wants to save the school and breathes new life into the school
  • An inventive new focus on specialisation in subjects like sport or others to be determined
  • A focus on the green location of the school with good access to the nearby Victoria Park
  • A quality school run by the Church of England for the Community.

Mr Alan Parker, who chairs the Steering Group, which is occupied mainly with amalgamating Raine’s pupils into Oaklands, should Raine’s close is not as independent as it seems.

Mr Alan Parker is a Consultant and Council member of the New Visions for Education Group, which is chaired by Alasdair MacDonald.

Sir Alasdair McDonald is also Board member at Drum Works, who work with pupils of Raine’s Foundation school and his profile there says:

“He was headteacher of Morpeth school and during that period, attainment at the school rose significantly and Ofsted inspections in both 2007 and 2013 rated Morpeth as Outstanding. He “was achieving against the odds”.

Sir MacDonald does not want to allow Raine’s to try the same miraculous improvement and delivered a Feasability study on 1. April 2019, which he recommends the school (Raine’s) should be earmarked for closure on 31. August 2020. .

Because that is Sir Alasdair Macdonald’s view, he should not have become an IEB board member because he was pre-judgemental in all his activity during his time as Interim Executive Board member.

The board should have been staffed with neutral members who had an open mind as to the future of Raine’s and not with significant persons who – from the outset – saw no future for the school but closure like Sir Alasdair MacDonald.

I think this was an erroneous decision by the Department of Education to appoint Sir Alasdair to the post and then instal Alan Parker as chair of the Steering Group, when Alan Parker has already gotten a fairly close working interest and relationship with Alasdair MacDonald.

I do not wish to retract in any way from both as teachers, I am sure they are excellent at that. Both Alan Parker and Sir Alasdair McDonald have very distinguished careers. However from the view of a parent who wants to keep Raine’s open as a local school, I must emphasize that I cannot be wholly positive about the appointments.  I know Mr McDonald personally when he worked as headmaster at Morpeth school and also find Mr Parker pleasant to work with on the Steering Group. This article is not a personal attack on either of those two gentlemen.

Whilst of course somebody who supports the closure of Raine’s would be very proud to have such distinguished persons overseeing the process.

There are ways to try and save Raine’s with a maverick headteacher who believes in the school just like Alasdair MacDonald believed in Morpeth when he started there in 1991.

I am certain that a well qualified, positive headteacher could attract parents to enrol their children in Raine’s and together with specialising in some subjects – as Raine’s already spearheads sport as a special subject – and with the great location of the school it would be easy to market the school and turn it around. Certainly there would be no shortage of publicity with the East London Advertiser reporter Mike Brooke has himself been a pupil at Raine’s Foundation.

I completely agree with the aims of the New Visions for Education Group as it is stated within their website, but I cannot agree that the closure of Raine’s school is the only solution of the problem that occurred with Raine’s.

It had been said by Christine McInnes during the Cabinet meeting on 30. October 2019, that the board of governors failed to follow recommendations in 2016. But because of that, to close down a school is unfair on the community and the children.

I really hope people will attend the next consultation meeting.

The meeting will be held from 5:30 – 7:30pm at the Professional Development Centre, 229 Bethnal Green Road, London E2 6AB. From Monday 4th November more information can be found at: https://www.towerhamlets.gov.uk/lgnl/council_and_democracy/consultations/Proposal-to-close-Raines-Foundation-School.aspx

It would definitely be interesting to get the view of all the parents involved to be able to get a better picture of what parents actually want. There is quite a lot of opposition to the closure of Raine’s as the publicity trail shows.

Raine’s can still be saved

A public meeting is being held on Mon 11th Nov following the decision by Tower Hamlets Council to issue a statutory notice on the proposal to close Raine’s Foundation School. This means that the proposal to close the school and expand Oaklands to accommodate some displaced pupils, is being progressed to the next stage and will initiate a statutory 4 week consultation period, due to begin on Mon 4 Nov. You are invited to attend this meeting to find out more about the next stage of the process and to feedback your views to senior leaders. The meeting will be held from 5:30 – 7:30pm at the Professional Development Centre, 229 Bethnal Green Road, London E2 6AB. From Monday 4th November more information can be found at: https://www.towerhamlets.gov.uk/lgnl/council_and_democracy/consultations/Proposal-to-close-Raines-Foundation-School.aspx

My last post was rather depressed because watching that council meeting really gotten me down. But I met Father Alan from St. John’s on Bethnal Green and speaking to him gave me some new energy.

I have gotten some great ideas for the next stage of the consultation because I still believe that a closure of Raine’s school can be avoided. There is still hope.

Labour can’t loose this general election

Corbyn has the winning formula.

He appeals to

  • the young by promising to abolish university tuitition fees
  • the middle ages by supporting young students and older relatives and by improving workers rights, health care and public transport.
  • the old by promising free health care.

Nobody cannot vote for this unless they are rich and do not rely on public services. Since the rich are in the minority, they cannot possibly win any election.

Even though I fell out with Labour big time some years ago, this new election manifesto is likely to be a big winner.

people in line

Photo by Cátia Matos on Pexels.com

We have listened to the repetitive speeches how the Conservatives increased the employment rate but forgotten to mention that those people also increasingly rely on food banks.

Raine’s to be closed

I watched the Cabinet meeting and listened to the arguments and reasoning behind the Mayor’s decision to endorse the recommendations and issue the Statutory Notice to close Raine’s Foundation school, saying that he, John Biggs, is in the borough since 40 years and that Raine’s used to be the Bees Knees and he is sorry that it came to that conclusion for the school.

  • Councillor Wood, who used to be a great supporter of the school also did not have much opposition to offer in respect of the Report to the consultation and the facts that
  • Raine’s was refused conversion to Academy status because education results weren’t good enough.
  • Christine McInnes explained that the council can only intervene and offer suport initially in the hope that the Board of Governors take advice and initiative required changes.
  • The Board of Governors was replaced by an Interim Executive Board in October last year, effectively dismissing the elected board of governors who used to be in place.

I wasn’t aware of the exact history of the school governance as I had not been involved prior to September this year, when I joined the Raine’s / Oaklands Steering Group to manage the proposed closure of Raine’s and proposed expansion of Oaklands school. I had been at a meeting in the Spring of 2019 and voted for the Patrice Canavan taking over as Executive head teacher.

Of course as the school has problems recruiting pupils, Ofsted has given not only once but twice a ‘in need of improvement rating’ and the school’s academic results are below average, those three factors now lead to that decision.

There will be further consultation to try and soften the blow this will be to parents and digest further input about the issue.

I find it very disturbing for my own child at the school, that Christine McInnes thinks, pupils at Raine’s would achieve a grade higher at another school because we could not move schools whilst the GCSE course had commenced last year. It makes it harder for my child to achieve the best grades possible. My child’s grades will be good enough though to study Maths and Science in 6. Form college, achieved in Raine’s. The GCSE exam will follow in the spring of next year.

Achievement percentages are usually determined by the amount of high achievers in a school. The lower the pupil numbers, nomally the lower also the number of high achievers and that then lowers the achievement percentages overall.

I think that the council assesses the situation mainly on strict statistics instead of applying some common sense and actual emphathy.

Of course if pupil numbers lower, then the achievement statistics will automatically lower unless you are a Grammar school and only accept high achievers in the first place.

Education has become a bit of a rat-race. Open school, attract pupils and you are in business.

We will be having a further consultation meeting in the very near future and that will be announced to parents very shortly.

 

Tower Hamlets forecast

Prediction of an increase of 4% more children and 1,600 extra school places needed.

I think  that the Council shuts down a secondary school with a brand new building in a pleasant healthy air and green-leaf environment just because it has had some bad statistics in the past is beyond comprehension.

Why doesn’t this council show initiative and revive Raine’s Foundation school with innovative intervention instead of closing it down?

Perhaps it has to do with finance, that debts accrued over falling pupils numbers and the resulting per-pupil funding short-fall caused a deficit and the only way to absorb that deficit is to close it down and start afresh?

chest-hospital

Raine’s is next to the Chest Hospital, view from Victoria Park, 1 minute away from the school

We need to achieve continuation for Raine’s pupils and the current strategy is to move them to Oaklands. Oaklands also has a nice new building but less capacity than Raine’s has at the moment and the envronment is far less nice than the Raine’s neighbourhood. You will not find many trees around Oaklands school but you find many trees around Raine’s school.

I would rather see Raine’s extended and the building used for education as it is in a healthier environment. Health is important.

Tower Hamlets council is going to deliver a decision on the consultation tonight at the Cabinet meeting.

Whilst clean air strategies are being developed to make the air cleaner all around the borough, methods include extra charges for vehicles who enter the inner London zones, at the moment we still have too much difficult areas. It would be inventive of the council to move schools into clean air zones rather than leave schools where they are and wait for another few years until traffic measures bring carbon levels down.

Unfortunately there is a distinct lack of flexibility both in national and local government policies to adapt to health needs because institutions are too fixed on locations.

In Fairness the Mayor promotes traffic stopping measures around Oaklands school in Old Bethnal Green Road and there is an ongoing consultation at the Professional Development Centre from 9. November at 10am and 14. November at 5pm.

Should good air quality trump?

raines school

the brand-new building of Raine’s Foundation school

The current case on the proposed closure of Raine’s Foundation school raises a lot of questions.

Council has admitted that the air quality of the location of Raine’s is healthier than in the rest of the borough but because the academic achievements are lower than the average in Tower Hamlets and the school is the only one with a ‘need of Improvement’ Ofsted rating since a few years and parents do not want to send their kids to the school and admission numbers constantly fall, the school should be closed.

chest-hospital

Raine’s is next to the Chest Hospital, view from Victoria Park, 1 minute away from the school

Yet we constantly see this harrowing pictures of children being unable to breathe on the way to school or have schools in unhealthy air areas. We have a healthy air campaign.

gatehouse schoolAlso in this area is the private Gatehouse School, which is thriving. Gatehouse school is part of the education provision in the area near Victoria Park.

I find it quite amazing that healthy environment cannot be utilised for the benefit of secondary school pupils and education provision cannot be moved to a healthy air area but instead education takes places in a preferred other area that is not so healthy. It doesn’t make much sense to me.

It would make sense if parents sent their kids to the Raine’s Foundation school and then started an action group to pressurise for better educational results, lobbying the governors and so on.

Setting international standards

What humanity needs is an international set of professional standards, that enables all communities of the world to set rules of human interaction.

Even the smallest indigenous communities have standards that are set to enable the community to thrive.

Depending on location and environment, the more primitive societies made the most of what they had but set moral standards to prevent sexual exploitation or unhealthy live styles.

Most major religions are centred around the unquestionable servititude towards a divine being – a God –  and the rulers in charge identified themselves as being a direct descendant of that God. Of course that developed through from ancient times via the Greeks, Romans, then Christians in the west and Muslims in the East.

Through international communications it becomes clear that a lot of such communities exist world-wide, communities who teach their children, that their God is the only true one.

Conflicts are created when one community teaches their followers that they can exploit anybody who is not part of their religion as for example Daesh or Isis did. They said it was OK to exploit anybody sexually who was not a strict Muslim.

This principle leads to tribal conflicts on smaller area disputes as they can happen in African tribes for example, who roam wild areas and conflict with each other over territorial disputes.

Modern gangs, even in western societies use the rape of another gang’s members as a tool of control and stamping on authority. The rape of the women in other tribes is also an ancient method of destroying other cultures.

Religion started off as a moral code to regulate personal and family life to restrict behaviour to acceptable standards to avoid disease transmitted by sexual activity for  the members of any particular community.  Where later on science came in was when ‘doctors’ found  cures for common illness through scientific research, developing medications that could be administered and also by finding hygiene rules to avoid water contamination for example.

Setting a commonly accepted code of standards is important to avoid local and wider conflicts and to enable humanity to develop.

Whilst primitive cultures enslave their followers by simple dicatatorial rule, e.g. everybody must follow the laws of the leader, modern society exploits the poor by having rules, which create dependency. Universal Credit is a nodern example of that because it drove recipients into prostitution or they could not afford to live.

Other countries developed away from religious Gods and became Communist, again using strict dictatorial rules to regulate society.

A lot of states now have nuclear power and use that as a threat to keep foreign influence away.

I really do not think it matters what type of rule a society has, it just matters that each member of any society can live with a freedom of choice and without having to loose dignity.

Yes, the ability to choose aslo depends on intellect and brain function. This can vary from individual to individual. Yet professional standards should regulate good standards of living and enable everybody to contribute to the best of their ability.

Unfortunately much of modern society is determined by venture capitalism, a form of control over people, by making those with the most money privileged. Whilst it doesn’t matter how people gotten rich, they do not loose their wealth, even after they have been found to supply humanity with dangerous products.

Using advertising and mass-media, any producer of any goods can use streaming to attract people to buy their products and get rich, may that be cigarettes or e-cigarettes, alcohol or petrol cars.

Modern societies life-styles have been driven by a desire to have comfort in the home and use less physical activity.

People are required to use their energy to work for an employer and then have little time for their personal lifes. Laws force any person to work for any employer who will give them a job, not allowing the individual to choose.

This produces a downward social spiral. Dismantles family life and the ability of the individual to choose a healthy profession over an unhealthy one.

Earth warming has now become the biggest threat to humanity but the mechanisms that drive international trade, which is mainly responsible for earth warming, are not being dismantled.

When I say international trade I also mean the goods that are being traded and the production of which causes a big carbon foot print.

Wars and conflicts have an enormous carbon foot print. The use of fossil fuels, which also produce petrol, diesel and plastics is a major source of carbon.

Unfortunately many societies cannot exist unless they engage in trade because all services and labour are distributed due to a GDP calculation that is established. GDP stands for General Domestic Product.

Societies, countries rely on tax collections to provide services for the inhabitants.

Unless governments make a stand and refuse to accept taxes from bad companies, we cannot progress.

We need to exercise control over venture capitalism and control goods and services for their beneficial impact on society before we produce, advertise and sell them.

Worrying breakdown in local services

I have never experienced such a breakdown in local services.

  1. Our local secondary school, Raine’s Foundation is under threat of closure
  2. 2. Our local GP, The Mission Practise is refusing to give patients appointments.
  3. The London Chest Hospital was closed some time ago.

Taking this as a sign of a reduction in local services, residents should be concerned and make enquiries to their local Member of Parliament, their Councillor and perhaps the Mayor of Tower Hamlets as to why our local services are not delivering the care our community needs.

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