Our Ofsted report: it’s a scandal

Here’s a joke for you: what do you get if you cross a ‘good’ school heading for outstanding status, with The Kemnal Academies Trust?

Give up? Well, I’ll tell you. The answer is a primary school in Special Measures! Boom boom!

Not funny? Too right it’s not. Our Ofsted report was finally published yesterday, exactly 28 working days after the no-notice inspection finished in September. And the findings are no laughing matter.

Sadly, this is no longer true.

Sadly, this is no longer true.

From being rated as ‘Good’ across the board in January 2013, when the school was described as ‘magical’ and its leadership as ‘inspiring’, we are now officially ‘inadequate’ in all areas: leadership and management, quality of teaching, behaviour and safety of pupils, achievement of pupils, and early years provision. TKAT took over the day after that last Ofsted, and look at what they’ve done. Becoming an academy is meant to improve schools. Now that’s a joke.

When I read the report, I was actually shaking. With upset, with anger, with disbelief. The rumours weren’t good – an Ofsted report is usually out within 15 working days and a delay usually means the school has asked for a negative judgement to be reviewed – but this is much worse than I feared. I was one of the parents who called for the school to be inspected, because it was obvious the previous report was no longer a true reflection of the school. But I wasn’t expecting this.

If we’d dropped one grade to ‘requires improvement’, we would have sucked it up: it’s been a tough, tumultuous year, after all, with the loss of our head, followed by the deputy, the rest of the leadership team and loads of other teachers. We’ve had an interim head, and now a part-time consultant head, who joined at Easter and promised us he would uphold ‘the Weyfield Way’ and told us he believed we were still a good school. We were hopeful that he could settle things down and take us forward, and a ‘requires improvement’ rating would be fair enough after all that upheaval. That would mean we’d slipped a bit, but things were moving in the right direction again. That, despite the fallout of our forced academisation, we were back on track.

But inadequate? Special measures? Seriously? Just how do you do that to a good school?! And so quickly? It absolutely beggars belief. That’s not even steadying the ship, for goodness’ sake. This is what being in special measures means: ‘this school…is failing to give its pupils an acceptable standard of education and the persons responsible for leading, managing or governing the school are not demonstrating the capacity to secure the necessary improvement in the school.’ Ouch.

The report is absolute proof that being forced into TKAT’s control has been to the detriment of the school. Every page is damning. ‘Pupils do not make enough progress’ and aren’t being challenged, especially the more able children. ‘The number of exclusions is much higher than most schools’. ‘Leaders’ views about the school’s performance are over generous’, and ‘the headteacher, other leaders and governors have not acted with sufficient urgency to bring about necessary improvements to pupil’s achievement and to the quality of learning’.

Expectations of pupils’ learning, achievement and behaviour are too low, especially when the 2013 report stated that ‘everyone shares the same high expectations. Pupils are challenged and expected to achieve their best at all times’. In the previous report, senior leaders and staff were praised for creating exciting and imaginative working spaces that foster pupils’ curiosity. Now ‘indoor and outdoor spaces do not stimulate children’s learning effectively’ and ‘classroom displays are not used consistently well…..at the time of the inspection many display boards were empty’. As anyone who visited our school when the entrance, corridors and every classroom made you exclaim ‘Wow!’ will agree, this is pretty sad.

Another painful contrast: from ‘pupils demonstrate high levels of respect for the headteacher, staff and each other’ (2013)  to ‘the behaviour of pupils is inadequate’ (2014). Children do not just suddenly shift their behaviour unless something dramatic happens that causes them to lose faith and trust. For this to have happened is an outrage.

Worryingly, the report also recommends two external reviews, looking at what the school is actually doing with the pupil premium – the extra funding it gets for our high number of disadvantaged children – and governance at the school.

Whatever your views and experiences of Weyfield, TKAT, Ofsted, inspections and reports, this is all we officially have to show the world what our school is like. Our public reputation, in Guildford and beyond, rests on this document. And, on the basis of the report, our reputation for being a creative, going-places school that totally engaged an often-challenging cohort has been shot to bits.

The reaction from the headteacher, the chair of governors and TKAT in the letter home is that they are ‘extremely disappointed’ with the report. I bet they are. I’m extremely disappointed too, that my children were at a good school, and are suddenly at an inadequate school. I’m a bit more than disappointed, actually. I’m hopping mad. I can only imagine how the team who achieved the opposite – taking us from ‘special measures’ to ‘good’ in just 12 months – must feel on reading the report. Gutted, probably. What a waste of all their hard work.

I’m also astonished that the head, chair of governors and TKAT have the gall to try and spin the report as being somehow the fault of the previous leadership. As if the school was doing badly, and they have come to our rescue. As if they are doing all they can to improve it, and those pesky inspectors just can’t see it and haven’t given them enough time.

But that’s not the situation here. We were good. We became a TKAT academy. Now we’re in special measures. You do the math, as they say. In 19 months since taking over, they haven’t even managed to maintain our ‘good’ status. That’s the only story.

The obfuscation and dishonesty of the letter home makes my blood boil. It contradicts all previous public assertions that they wanted to continue ‘the Weyfield Way’ because it was clearly working for the children. You can twist the facts and not-so-subtly scapegoat all you want, but at some point, TKAT, you’re going to have to take responsibility for destroying the thriving school we were proud to be part of, and accept the consequences.

I am hoping that those consequences will take the form of the DfE intervening, to finally remove us from TKAT and placing us in the care of a more appropriate, local academy group. When we pressed for this at the start of the year, after the chain had somehow managed to lose yet another head teacher, the Department for Education’s response was that there was no mechanism for this, and that we were stuck in a seven-year contract. Since then, however, the DfE has had to invent a mechanism, since it has become inconveniently apparent that not all academy chains are improving the schools in their care: earlier this year 10 schools were removed from the E-Act chain after Ofsted raised concerns.

And if the DfE can find a way to void a contract when badly-performing schools continue to perform badly, it seems like a no-brainer that they should remove a previously-good school from an academy chain that has made it inadequate. After all, it’s absolutely clear that we slipped through a loophole. We were in special measures, the academisation process began, the new head turned the school around rapidly, but there was no way out at that stage. Good schools shouldn’t be forced into becoming sponsored academies, but we had no choice. It was all a bit ‘computer says no’. The DfE now has an opportunity to undo this terrible mistake, although by the look of this depressing report, it’s a bit late for the children of Weyfield.

There is a pattern here for TKAT. When Ofsted undertook a blitz inspection of six of its schools in the summer, the results were not impressive. And last week’s report from TKAT’s Thomas Bennett Academy in Crawley also shows a drop from ‘good’ to ‘requires improvement’. And they are still being allowed to take on new schools! When, exactly, are they going to be held to account? How much time and how many chances are we going to give them?

So, unlike the beginning of the year, when Weyfield parents overwhelmingly passed a vote of no-confidence in TKAT but were powerless to do more than make noise, we now have both precedent, and compelling proof that we’re not safe in their hands.

TKAT inherited a good school. All they had to do was keep it on the straight and level, and they haven’t even done that. Whatever ‘improvements’ they say they are starting to make this term are too little, too late. They have failed our school, failed our community, failed the teaching team, and, most importantly, failed Weyfield’s children. It’s simply not good enough, and it’s time for them to go. That’s the punchline.

 

 

 

Check your boobs, people!

So Breast Cancer Awareness Month rolls around again: yet another disease awareness campaign during which the women’s mags, weekend supplements, Twitter and Facebook feeds will be full of pink ribbons, real-life stories, tips for examining yourself and reminders of the importance of a Healthy Lifestyle. If you, or people you love, haven’t had a brush with cancer, it’s pretty easy to skip over those pages. I know I used to: those features and posts just didn’t seem relevant because young women don’t get breast cancer, right? And anyway, it’s too scary. And maybe even a bit too much information. And then, ironically, I was diagnosed with advanced breast cancer actually during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, four years ago. I’ve always had immaculate timing. breast_cancer_care_checklist_0

Funnily enough (not funny, obviously, but I’ve always needed to laugh blackly about this stuff – the alternative is dissolving into a soggy pile of woe, which is not really my style), the week I was diagnosed I had, in fact, just read one of those ‘real life experiences’ about a young woman with breast cancer in Grazia, about which I wrote a couple of years ago. I was 37 years old, with a four-year-old daughter who had just started school, and a two-year-old son. That month, everything changed.

Four years on from that surreal whirlwind – from discovery of lump to oncology department in a matter of days – Breast Cancer Awareness Month resonates rather more. But it’s complicated. I sort of glance at the features and the information sideways. I still can’t look at them head on. Even having gone through it – or perhaps because – it’s possible to have ‘cancer fatigue’. And it’s just too close to home – I have my Year 4 mammogram at the end of this month, won’t be officially in remission for another year, and my consultant is now making noises about me being a candidate for the new 10-year protocol of taking the crazy-making Tamoxifen instead of the standard five years. And even when I’ve got through all of that without so much as another twinge, cancer haunts.

People I know who are well past the five years, even ten, 15 years after diagnosis, still say they are not ‘over’ it. That it never really leaves you, having had cancer. That every year around the anniversary of diagnosis, even if it was decades ago, they still have a frisson of fear. The memory of that utterly life-changing, bowel-liquidising moment when they say ‘chemotherapy’ to you for the first time is too powerful to ever fade completely.

And then, inevitably, giving rising rates of all cancers, someone else you know is diagnosed and starts going through the exact same treatment pathway as you, and it brings it all back again. This happened recently to me – an old colleague posted her shocking news on Facebook and it knocked me sideways with nausea. She is handling the treatment with humour, eloquence, stoicism and immense calm, which I much admire. She says my blog posts when I went through it were inspiring, which is very kind, but I think it’s more that the human spirit is quite remarkable. Many, many people who have complete breakdowns at stuff like lost luggage or being hit up the arse by a man in a white van will end up dealing much better with a genuine, life-threatening crisis.

Nevertheless, reading her upbeat updates on her treatment was, I think, the reason why I found myself sobbing in the car park at Surrey Sports Park a couple of weeks ago. I was due to meet my best friend for a swim after dropping the children at school, and just as I parked the car, a propos of bugger all, I had a flashback. During which I was lying topless on the bed in the assessment room at the Royal Surrey County Hospital’s breast unit, with one arm in the air and the consultant taking a biopsy of the lymph lump under my armpit. On the computer, there was the mammogram of my right breast, the terrifying, obviously-not-good-news white mass of tumours shining out of the screen. It was a split-second memory, but it was very, very vivid, and I just burst into tears and sat in the car crying by myself, thinking ‘I am not in any way over this. I have not really dealt with the utter nightmare of what happened, and I am really scared of it happening again’.

It’s over (probably forever), but it’s not ever going be be over, at the exact same time. You forget, and then you remember, and it’s like being winded all over again.

I love autumn. It’s my absolute favourite season. I love the colours and the leaves and the conkers and the low sun, and the return of my preferred uniform of opaque tights, short skirts and long boots. I love the ‘return to school’ feeling, the hard-wired desire to buy new stationery, the urge to make the home organised and cosy in preparation for winter nesting. I love the start of ‘roastie season’, where every Sunday involves friends, family, red wine, open fires, a sizzling joint (the meaty kind, obvs) and all the trimmings. But on top of that, autumn has become my most fearful season, and October is now the weirdest month. There are so many layers of reminders: every year it’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month, every year I am getting jittery as my annual mammogram approaches, every year I remember all over again those dates: the 6th, when I went to the doctor to report The Lumps; and the 13th, when I had the first mammogram and was immediately diagnosed. (October 6th is also the day we moved into our silver lining house three years ago, even more weirdly).

There is, though, the lightness and exhalation when the good news comes back from the radiography department: all-clear, I can relax and start planning Christmas. And the bigger picture stuff: I am so, so blessed. I had the most amazing treatment, from my incredible surgeon to my risk-taking oncologist and the lovely radiotherapy team. I am still well looked after, and in very good hands, and if I have any worries at all, I know I will be seen within days. I can tick off another year and am almost there, almost signed off! And then we can open the vintage Dom Perignon I have squirrelled away!

And, of course, I am still here, and well, and life is to be lived and enjoyed. I’m still around to see my babies grow up into wonderful, kind, funny, clever, dazzling young people and to hug them endlessly. Still here to laugh and cry and eat and drink and dance with my husband and my friends and my family, all of whom are so special and lovely and generally awesome, I must be the luckiest girl alive.

None of which would have been possible if I hadn’t known, via my flicking through all the features in women’s magazines over the years, what to look for, how to examine myself, and the importance of reporting anything that ‘just doesn’t seem right’ as soon as possible. Most breast lumps and bumps and pain are benign, and your mind will have been put at rest. If that’s not the case, and Stuff Needs Sorting Out, you’ll be whisked through our amazing healthcare system and have the best chance of effective treatment. So do give Breast Cancer Awareness Month a tiny bit of attention this October. It might just save your life.

 

Why I want Ofsted to inspect our school

Ofsted. Six little letters that strike fear into the heart of everyone working in education. My children’s school, Weyfield Primary Academy, was last inspected in January 2013 and was judged to be ‘Good’ across the board after a transformational year where our socks were well and truly pulled up from being ‘inadequate’. At the time, every parent, teacher and staff member was over the moon – hence this overexcited blog post at the time. (You can read the actual report here )

Most parents want their child to go to a ‘Good’ or ‘Outstanding’ school, right? So why on Earth have I and several other parents written to Ofsted in the past couple of weeks asking them to reinspect the school with a view to downgrading our Good rating? I don’t know if there’s any precedent for this, it’s so counter-intuitive. So let me try and explain my personal thinking.

Sorry about the missed apostrophe...

Sorry about the missed apostrophe…

The fact is that our ‘current’ Ofsted report is a historical document. It is an account of our school at another time entirely and I believe – as do many other parents – that it is now seriously misleading for prospective parents. The day after we were inspected, the academy group TKAT took over our school, and it has gone into sharp decline. Schools can change frighteningly quickly – and not just for the better – when they become academies.

We now have concerns about all four areas covered in an Ofsted report:

  • The leadership and management. You know this already: just 18 months after that glowing report, the much-missed Simon Wood, our head who was so good that Ofsted’s lead inspector described the school as ‘magical’ left suddenly in January this year. We also lost our fab deputy, and many other senior teachers have since left or resigned. (TKAT, by all accounts, is not a favourite organisation of teachers and heads, who seem to leave in droves, often under mysterious circumstances, whenever the trust goes into a school). The new head Neil McDonough, who started at Easter, is a consultant who is  in school three days a week. He’s still settling in, and as I said in my last post we will fully support him and his team, but the fact is that the current Ofsted report is not about TKAT’s management or his leadership.
  • The behaviour and safety of pupils. A small but very disruptive group of children in Year 6 have been pretty much out of control since January. There have been worrying reports of bullying and appalling behaviour. Rules have been routinely broken and not enforced. Some challenging children are apparently no longer being properly supported.
  • The quality of teaching. The teachers who are still at the school and were part of the previous head’s team are great, but they are now being spread  thin on the ground and I gather there is over-reliance on temporary staff. I am not convinced that the most able children are being pushed or supported adequately, since so much time is taken up dealing with the more challenging children. I hear staff morale is still low.
  • The achievement of pupils. We were on track for significantly improved SATs this year, up from being officially ‘below floor’ – ie one of the worst in the country – but I would not be surprised if they end up not being quite as stellar as anticipated. A number of children in Year 6 were due to take the advanced Level 6 SATs papers – the first time in the school’s history that this would have happened – but in the end none of them sat the papers, without parents being informed or consulted. This does not seem to be serving the most able children in the school – what happened to our ‘reach for the stars’ ethos? I do wonder if this decision was taken to avoid the risk of the children taking the papers but not achieving this level after all the disruption at the school, as this would negatively impact our SATs and reflect badly on TKAT. This possibility is deeply worrying.

I know that being ‘Ofstedded’ is a hideous and deeply stressful experience for heads, deputies and teachers in schools. And because I think our remaining teaching team is fab and has been through an awful lot in the past six months, I kind of don’t want them to have to deal with inspectors again so soon. But I believe, in the end, it will be in the best interests of the school.

A new Ofsted inspection would draw a line under the past six months and give the new leadership team, and parents, a true picture of where we are now, and what our journey from here needs to look like. Coasting on an old report that reflects a completely different set of staff, ideas, values, actions and plans doesn’t do anyone any favours. Our previous head was first inspected two weeks after he arrived, and it was the best thing that could have happened, as the follow-up 12 months later, just before TKAT arrived, demonstrated just how far and fast we had come.

When any new leader comes into an organisation, there is fall-out among the current team, and people leave. Some people won’t like, accept or respect the new boss or their ideas or style; some will be loyal to the old regime; some will not meet the needs or standards of the new leader. For others, it’s simply an opportune time to move on. It’s hard to lead a team that isn’t ‘yours’. When our previous head arrived, a lot of people left by mutual consent and a lot of new faces arrived. The same is true now. We’re losing a worrying number of talented teachers, who will be missed, but our new head needs to build his own team to move the school forward according to his own vision. Whatever page we are on, all the staff need to be on the same one, for the sake of their own enthusiasm, commitment  and job satisfaction, and for the sake of the children.

Neil has already made at least one brilliant appointment: our deputy head Mei Lim. She arrived just over two weeks ago via the Teach First programme to get the highest-calibre graduates into education, and already it’s clear that she will be a significant factor in getting the school back on track. She’s super-bright, approachable, a great communicator and clearly knows her stuff. My kids are a bit in love her already – as DD said, ‘she’s just like Mr Wood – she is really strict when she needs to be, but the rest of the time she is really friendly’. She already seems to know the names of all the staff and children, and is highly visible on the front gate every morning and afternoon. And she has good shoes. We have high hopes of Mei: she may yet turn out to be our silver lining.

There’s some confusion over whether Ofsted still inspects individual schools once they become academies, if they are not in special measures, or if they only inspect all the schools in a chain. Our local MP is writing to Ofsted to find out under what circumstances Ofsted might be likely to inspect either just Weyfield or all TKAT’s 39 schools. Recent blitzes of the E-Act academy chain (where a number of failing schools were taken away from the trust) and the Birmingham ‘Trojan Horse’ schools  affair indicate that the way academy chains run their schools is certainly on the inspection agenda. There’s little evidence that parents can have enough influence to ‘trigger’ an inspection, but with all the bad press, I don’t think anyone would be surprised if one was on the cards anyway.

I have championed and defended Weyfield for a long time, and have no personal complaint against the school or anyone in it.  My smalls are fortunately still perfectly OK, happy, safe and engaged in their Year 1 and Year 3 classes. But my children are the most important things in the world to me, and there has been such a lot of upheaval that I am concerned that the school may not actually be currently delivering them a ‘Good’ education, or is a place where they can achieve their potential. Much as I love my kids being at an officially ‘Good’ school, if we’re honest, the current Ofsted report is not an accurate, up-to-date reflection of where we are today.

I would be absolutely delighted if Ofsted came in and confirmed we were still a different sort of Good. The new leadership team seems convinced that their  three-year plan and vision for the school, outlined last week and sent home today, means that we can still reach Outstanding. Although as one dad said last week, ‘I’d rather the school got back to Good and was still magical, than reached Outstanding and was dull’. Mei Lim responded confidently at a parents meeting last week that being creative and outstanding aren’t mutually exclusive. I really, really hope she’s right, and that we eventually get there after our major setback. In the meantime, I still think it’s time that an inspector called…

In which Pinchy swims for bloody hours

I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to blog about this. I’ll probably work it out while I’m writing. Last month, I did my Biggest Ever physical challenge: I swam 5K for Sport Relief. Yes, I know! Me! The doyenne of exercise-avoidance!

Five kilometres, I can tell you, is a bloody long way. It is, in fact, 200 (count ‘em) lengths of the Surrey Sports Park pool. It seems even longer when you can only do a ‘majestic’ (ahem) breast stroke and have never done more than happily bob around a holiday swimming pool for 40 years prior to taking on this challenge.

I’m being slightly disingenuous, of course: I didn’t just get in the pool on the day and hope for the best. I had been training for it since September, along with my two co-swimmers, my dear friend S and her oldest buddy A. Well, when I say training, it was more like swimming up and down for a bit twice a week, and then going for a natter, a cuppa and a panini because we were ‘famished’. At first, anyway. We were all comfortably swimming a mile – 64 lengths – by November, although that was taking me an hour. And then I sort of… stalled. I didn’t really get in the pool much during December and January. Or February. I started to seriously think about pulling out of the swim. I hadn’t started fundraising and was overwhelmed by the sheer size of the task for a non-swimmer.

Come to think of it, I was overwhelmed by much over the winter. It’s true that you only realise when you emerge from a tunnel how dark and cold it was in there, and how long it has been since you felt the warm sun on your face. Sitting here now, feeling broadly OK, I can’t quite believe what a struggle those wet, overcast months were, in all ways. It was probably a combination of seasonal glumness, a stressful time re finances, my natural tendency towards depression, and big bad life-changing stuff going on for friends who I love fiercely. Plus I was working almost every evening to meet deadlines and very involved with our school campaign after our head teacher left suddenly. (See my previous five posts for the full story!)

This period of General Rubbishness, pre-swim, was topped off nicely by a week in Egypt. Our first family holiday abroad for three years, and the first since I finished my cancer treatment. We took the kids out of school for a week and could still only afford it by hiving off a bit of the money we’d borrowed for a basic refurb of our decrepit kitchen, combined with DH’s first bonus for a few years. In other words, we were quite desperate for a holiday. The kiddies were looking forward to it so hard I thought they would burst before we hit Sharm. We were going to have an amazing time!

There is a small but important life lesson here about ‘non-attachment to outcomes’: the more you want things to be a certain way, the less likely they are to meet your expectations.  I’m always quoting Alain de Botton on travel – something very true he once said along the lines of ‘the trouble with holidays is that you take yourself with you’. The trouble with Egypt was that I took my tearful, short-fused, exhausted self there and expected to be transformed instantly by the sunshine, sea views and all-inclusive package  into the easy-going, cheerful version of myself. What actually happened was that I sat on the lounger with cause-less tears running behind my shades while our delightful and beautiful children had an amazing week in the pool. My Kindle died, both our phones were stolen from our hotel room, necessitating far too much interaction for DH with hotel security and management, reps, and Egyptian police stations, plus there was the worst torrential rainstorm Sharm had seen for decades. My energy was in such a shit place, frankly, it wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if I manifested all of the above, like a frickin’ witch.

I was planning to swim loads while we were there. I didn’t. I did snorkel on a coral reef with beautiful fish, like Actual Finding Nemo, though, and that lifted my spirits a little. When we returned, it was only a fortnight to the Big Swim and I had only covered less than a third of the distance in my training sessions. So I went Forrest Gump. I got in the pool and just swam, for 80 lengths. Then a couple of days later I swam 100. Then 120. And finally, on the Monday before Sport Relief Swimathon Saturday, I ringfenced three hours and swam 180 lengths. At that point, and not at any point before, I knew I could do it. S mentioned that last year’s Swimathon times were on the website. I made the mistake of looking and realised that I really was going to be one of the slowest in the entire country – no-one in my age group had done 5k nearly as slowly as my predicted time of 3hrs 20 minutes. The only women who had done that sort of time were (I kid you not) called things like Doris and Ethel, which I pejoratively assumed meant that I was as slow as a Very Old Lady.

That week, as I wondered again why I was doing this, the Sport Relief programme about Davina McCall’s far more crazy challenge to cycle, run and swim 500 miles from Edinburgh to London, was on telly. The documentary followed Davina on her trip to Africa before taking on the challenge. As she sat with the little girl whose days consisted not of school and games and fun with friends but the monotony of breaking rocks and breathing dust with her mother, hour after hour after hour, for pennies, I cried. I realised that the money I had already raised at that point would send two little girls like her to school for a year. THAT was the point. And I cried again the next morning when I tried to explain to DD when she asked why I was swimming so far. There was my motivation. To give little girls, just like my bright and funny and precious seven year old daughter, a chance at a better life.

Nevertheless, I still had to do the damn thing. I didn’t sleep the night before the swim. I woke up in a terrible mood, really jittery and anxious. S had an upset tummy and A had her back strapped up. It was not looking good. The worst thing was waiting all day: the event wasn’t due to start until 6pm after the  start time moved from 5pm. I went slightly ballistic, and pointed out to the organiser that this would mean I would be in the pool until nearly 9.30pm, meaning my children couldn’t be there at the finish line and our plans for a takeaway and champagne with my M&D, who were up for the weekend to cheer me on, would be buggered. After she realised quite how slow I was (and that she’d probably need to give me the keys to lock up…) she asked if I’d like to start an hour early, in my own special lane. Like a special person. FFS. My sister texted, accurately: ‘We are not a family of athletes, Pinch’. I graciously accepted, of course.

So we arrived at the pool. DD and DS had secretly made me a poster saying ‘Go Mummy Go!’ I got into my cossie. Put my goggles on. Still shaking. My lovely friend B arrived en route to her date night just to see me off. Good luck countdown texts arrived from other dear friends. Team Pinchy was cheering on the sidelines. I got into the water, put my bottles of sporty drink stuff raided from DH’s cycling larder on the edge, and started. I was not entirely in a lane of my own – there was also a small child, who swam the entire 200 lengths in less than two hours, and a series of elderly gentlemen doing the 5k as a relay, who also finished well ahead of me. It took me a good 40 lengths to get into any sort of stride. If one can be shaking while ploughing up and down a pool, that was I. I stopped briefly every 20 lengths for a quick gulp of drink, and to check in with the very patient lady counting for me. Every length took one minute, for the first couple of hours. Then, as everyone else in my lane finished and I had it to myself, I actually got quicker. I was coming in under target! photo 2

My family and S’s arrived to cheer us all on for the finish. The last 20 lengths were punishing: I was breaking new ground, and by that time my right arm was very painful. It’s the one that I had all the lymph nodes removed from; my movement is slightly limited on that side and it does get very uncomfortable at the top and in the armpit if I overdo it, risking lymphodoema and cellulitis ( I’ve only had this once, and it was royally crap).

Then, suddenly, it was the two hundredth length. My darling husband and babies stood at the end of the pool shouting ‘COME ON PINCHY!’, and I was trying to swim 25 metres while doing an odd mixture of sobbing and laughing. And then it was over. My official time was 3hrs 8mins. I’ve just checked and I was the 3,680th person to finish in the country. Whoop! Because I had started an hour early, I was actually out of the pool a few minutes before my much speedier swimming buddies, and was able to cheer them on at the finish. We had done it! Between the three of us we’ve raised a couple of grand so far, I think – you can still donate on my page at https://my.sportrelief.com/sponsor/majapawinskasims - I’m a few quid shy of £700 so all donations very welcome!

There was elation and achiness and lots of hugs. And we all got a medal, much to the smalls’ delight. Then champagne and a massive fat well-deserved Thai takeaway at home, followed by a bath in oil provided in my lovely school mum friend E’s ‘survival pack’ (along with bananas and jelly babies).

I woke up the next morning, terribly glad it was all over (although slightly surprised I had not turned into a size 6 sylph overnight). And at that moment, I began to feel better. Lighter and brighter. I had a health kinesiology session with my very dear friend Magic Emily, which helped shift things further and sorted out the achy lymph-free arm. And I have felt a little bit more myself every day since. I haven’t completely shaken off the Gloom, but I’m getting there. And that’s prolly why it took me so long to blog.

I’m never, ever swimming 5K again. But I quite fancy a different sort of physical fundraising challenge. I’m thinking trekking Peru for Breast Cancer Care next. Machu Picchu, anyone?

 

New head teacher, new chapter?

There are few things more awe-inspiring than a trot round the Houses of Parliament. The oldest parliament in the world! Stunning ‘perpendicular gothic’ architecture! All the pomp and ceremony and hush and history and whispers in paneled corridors! I know there’s a good argument for the country to be run from a more modern, accessible, functional, light and open building, but I have to say, I love the place. And last week I was lucky enough to be invited to a meeting in the Commons which may turn out to be a pivotal moment in the twisty-turny story of our primary school.

Pinchy woz ere

Pinchy woz ere

The academy chain that took over our school in February 2013,  TKAT,  had requested a meeting with Guildford’s MP, Anne Milton:  unwavering supporter of the school, writer of many, many letters asking awkward questions about what exactly TKAT were doing at the school and how they managed to lose an outstanding head teacher, and total laser brain. Anne Milton’s office called and asked if I’d like to come along, as a representative of the Weyfield Primary Academy parents. Ooh, this’ll be fun, I thought. I’d never met TKAT’s CEO Karen Roberts and was interested to hear what she had to say.

Cue slightly awkward moment at Portcullis House last Thursday when TKAT’s communications director Amanda Godfrey spotted me in reception and came over to say hello. I don’t think they were expecting me to be there. We were all – including a guy from the Department for Education invited by TKAT – taken down the underground passage to the Commons, through the various imposing halls and lobbies to a packed tea room where our little party arranged itself around a small table and took tea. All terribly civilised.

I don’t think I’m breaking any confidences to say that the meeting was focused on how we – as a school and a community – move forward from here, and how TKAT can try to put right the breakdown in trust between them and us as parents and staff. The DfE guy told Anne, when she asked how Weyfield could get out of TKAT, that there’s no way out of an academy funding agreement unless by mutual consent.

The main discussion, however, was how crucial the new senior leadership team will be in getting the school back on track. Because despite having no applications for the post when it was advertised in February, TKAT have managed to find us a new head teacher, Neil McDonough, who starts work after Easter.

The letter home from our new chair of governors, fellow blogger Clare Collins said:

‘Neil is a hugely experienced head and is also an Ofsted lead inspector. He is currently an executive head for three primary schools in Kent; prior to this he undertook an interim headship of a school in special measures and saw it removed from this category within a year, with leadership being judged as ‘good’… As governors we are clear that our vision for Weyfield is to foster the “Weyfield Way”, ensuring that high standards are achieved and maintained, and that this must be supported by top quality provision for both the children and the staff. Neil knows Weyfield as, over the last two terms, he has carried out some consultancy work in the school, and we are delighted that this introduction to the school has led to this appointment.’

We’ve since asked TKAT some more detailed questions about his appointment. It turns out he will only be working three days a week in the summer term as he has other commitments (he is currently running a consultancy, Make My School Better), and four days a week from September. How you can effectively run a very challenging school and not be there full-time, I don’t know, but there you are. Welcome to Gove’s brave new world of education.

He’s got a challenge on his hands: staff morale is extremely low, a whole sheaf of senior staff are leaving at Easter, and there’s no deputy yet in post. Some of the anonymous testimonials we have gathered from staff tell a very sorry tale of the current state of affairs at the school, with a rapid decline in behaviour and a perturbing lack of leadership and direction. Most urgently, some of the Year 6 children appear to be out of control. I am hearing stories of toilets being deliberately blocked, walking out of classrooms, graffiti, disrupting lessons, swearing at and threatening staff, and the reintroduction of an exclusion room. Back to the bad old days of two years ago, in other words. Not good for a cohort under great pressure to perform in their upcoming SATs.

The tea party at the House of Commons concluded with Anne Milton (who chaired the meeting quite beautifully) saying she’d be keen to meet the new head before he takes up post, and Karen Roberts looking me in the eye and promising me that TKAT really did want to keep Weyfield and was absolutely committed to putting things right and being more transparent and open and communicating better with us.

Only time will tell, obviously. I am still of the view – as is our MP - that Weyfield should have been allowed to join a local academy partner, the Guildford Education Partnership led by George Abbot secondary school. It will take a lot of evidence in the months ahead to convince us TKAT are in any way good for our school rather than actively damaging it.

But during the meeting – and this is why I said at the start that it might have been a crucial moment – I began to suspect Anne is also right about something else. Namely that now, with the appointment of our new head, is an appropriate time for Weyfield to try and move forward from the past three months of shock and grieving the loss of our tiny-bit-special former head, Simon Wood.

We’re no longer on that particular giddy and joyous journey from failing to Outstanding, and the children, staff and parents all miss him. But I fervently hope that after this significant stumble, we will soon be striding along another road that leads to the same end. I have no choice but to hope, and to try and make a positive contribution to that process: at least one of my children will be at the school for another five years.

There’s little point being obstructive, shouty and militant for the sake of it, since we’re never getting Simon back. (He starts work for another academy chain, Reach2, next month and we wish him the best of luck in his new role.) Equally, of course, we will not simply lie down quietly and be passive when dealing with an academy chain that still has huge question marks over aspects of its processes, transparency, management style, values, accountability and governance.

As parents, I believe we need to walk the only sensible line between the two extremes: acceptance that we are where we are, it is what it is, and while we will give the new head all our support in his endeavours to get the school back on track, we will continue to keep a very close eye on developments, and won’t hesitate to speak up if we feel our children’s education is being compromised in any way.

Because the purpose of education isn’t achieving good SATS results, Ofsted ratings, and gathering data: it’s all about the kids. About their aspirations and progress and happiness. About them deserving to have an education that enables each and every child, regardless of background and circumstance, to fulfil their potential. About them feeling respected and cared for so they respect and care in turn. If our new head truly gets that, and TKAT start understanding it too, we might just have a chance. I am an eternal optimist… I’ll look forward to meeting Neil McDonough soon, and hearing his plans to make our school sparkle again.

Oh, I almost forgot: the BEST bit of my trip to the Palace of Westminster was actually after the meeting. Anne Milton very kindly signed me in to the public gallery – the cool open bit over the Labour benches, not the bit behind a glass wall – and I sat there very happily, in proper awe of my surroundings, trying not to look at Nick Clegg’s crotch as he slouched on the Conservative front bench (I was surprised how many of them were tapping away on phones and tablets. I swear I saw one of them playing Candy Crush). Sat on the iconic green leather benches, I was lucky enough to hear most of the MPs’ wonderful tributes to the last great socialist, Tony Benn. Now there was a man who unfailingly spoke up for what he believed to be right, and those without a voice, and yet worked within the system without compromising his principles. Whatever your politics, he was an example to us all.

 

 

A tale of two Valentines

It was the school Valentine’s Disco last week. It’s one of the smaller annual events in the PTFA calendar: the kiddies get to dress up and have a boogie/slide across the hall on their knees while us merry band of helpers serve hotdogs for four hours. I love being part of the committee and being involved with events at school: it’s my community and I am very fond of everyone in our small-but-growing tribe of active parents. But this year was weird, to say the least.lets dance

The kids had a great time, but for the adults, this Valentine’s Disco was rather poignant. You see, a year ago on Valentine’s Day, just hours before the disco, Ofsted’s report on our school was published. It was the day we officially became a ‘Good’ school, jumping up two grades from requiring improvement across the board, to being described as ‘magical’, after acquiring a rather fab new head teacher just 12 months previously. It was one of the best days ever, for everyone working at the school and with a vested interest in its progress and improvement. I wrote a blog post that very day: we were all giddy with excitement and the atmosphere that evening, as we poured endless cups of orange squash for small people sweaty from jumping around to Gangnam Style, was utterly joyous.

What a difference a year makes. This year, things weren’t so good. Since we were forced into academisation with The Kemnal Academies Trust (TKAT) last February, things have gone from the sublime to the sadly ridiculous. We shockingly lost that amazing head teacher, Simon Wood, on the first day of this term, and now our wonderful deputy is off too. The letter home on the day of the disco from our brilliant chair of governors gently explained that there had been no applications for the vacant head’s post and our interim head – a TKAT executive – will be continuing part-time until the end of the summer term.

In the past few weeks, that sense of joy seems to have been sucked out of our happy school, like the Dementors descending on Hogwarts. It might have just been the onions, but there were many hugs and tears in the kitchen on the evening of the disco, as it dawned on us how different things had been on the same occasion a year previously.

No-one can quite believe it has come to this. This isn’t how the story was meant to unfold. From being the proud ship Weyfield Primary, freshly painted, confident and embarking on an incredible journey, it now feels more like we are battered, weathering stormy seas, completely off course, and our captain’s walked the plank after pirates boarded the vessel (I’m stretching the maritime metaphor here, but you get the gist).

We miss acutely how our school used to be, when it felt like we had strong, energetic, dynamic, creative leadership, when everyone was working incredibly hard, with great cheer, for a common goal, and we were already starting to feel like being Outstanding was a possibility – unthinkable just a couple of years ago.

The teaching and support staff are doing an incredible job in the circumstances, but if I – merely an involved parent – am feeling what can only be described as grief, then goodness knows what it’s like for them. It must be so hard keeping buggering on. They are such a dedicated, committed team, and they care deeply about the children, but I wouldn’t be surprised if some felt unable to continue under the TKAT regime.

My two, in Year 1 and Year 3, are still happy, and really engaged in this term’s topic, but even they say that school just doesn’t feel the same. I gather in some cases behaviour is slipping back to the bad old days, and some of Year 6 in particular have become  disillusioned. Our SATs were on track for dramatic improvement this year, but I wonder if that will turn out to be the case come the summer. I also wonder whether we would maintain our ‘Good’ rating if Ofsted came in to inspect the school now. The quality of teaching isn’t in question, but that sense of magic and wonder and excitement that was so praised by the inspectors  - not to mention the leadership – is fading.

The point of being instructed by the Department for Education that you have to become a sponsored academy is to improve a failing school, but since we were actually already ‘Good’ just before TKAT took over, I can’t see how they are adding value. What exactly are we getting for the slice they take off the top of our budget from the DfE? If anything, the collateral damage of our head leaving will impact the success of the school and the children’s prospects. [TKAT can carry on bleating that he resigned and took another job all they like, but consider this: in the business world, you manage high-performing talent – exceptional individuals who by their nature tend to be mavericks, innovators and change-makers  - extremely carefully. You cherish them, because they are rare and valuable, and try to hang onto them at all costs. You don’t just accept their resignation, unless you’re the sort of organisation that prefers home-grown yes-men, of course.]

And it’s here that our sadness turns to anger. How on earth have we gone from the success of a year ago to the doldrums we find ourselves in now? What is happening at Weyfield is surely not Michael Gove’s vision for his pet academies project.

Something is not right with this picture. And something must be done.

A core group of parents has formed; we are doing our research, taking advice, and we fully plan to effect change. We are all over Facebook and Twitter rallying the troops and keeping other parents informed. We are gathering together our supporters, from all stakeholder groups; Weyfield’s very own Order of the Phoenix is taking shape.

Our first line of attack is the media: we had the front page of the Surrey Advertiser three weeks in a row, plus other stories every week since. We’ve also been in the Guardian twice so far (here and here), and education correspondent Warwick Mansell wrote a brilliantly detailed blog post on how academy chains are managing their heads, based on our story for the National Association of Head Teachers. The journalists covering our story are doing a very good job of revealing what sort of organisation TKAT is; no wonder we didn’t get any applicants for the headship.

We’re also working closely with our local MP Anne Milton – who has been incredibly supportive and helpful – and asking questions and demanding answers of everyone from the school and the academy trust, to the Department for Education and the highest levels of government.

The bottom line is: we want TKAT out of our school. We want to be released from our seven-year contract with them, and to find a more suitable partner who truly shares the values exemplified by ‘The Weyfield Way’. The fact that there is no direct precedent for this is irrelevant: Weyfield IS the precedent. We should never have been forced into academising with them in the first place: we’ve slipped through a gap in the system, and we are exploring every avenue to find a way out, with several promising leads.

If TKAT thought we would quieten down and drift off after we realised Simon wasn’t coming back, it must now be dawning on them that they were very much mistaken. They are learning we have a strong parent voice, that we are intelligent and articulate, that we are not going away, and that we will not let them get away with anything we are unhappy with. Censoring the minutes of the first parents’ meeting on 9 January, for example: during the process of transcribing the recording of the meeting, TKAT asked for the comments from an NUT rep to be omitted from the record. This is clearly neither transparent nor acceptable – the NUT were understandably livid – and after pressure from parents, we now have a full transcript. They are making noises about listening and working together – they ran two sessions to ask for parents’ input into the kind of person we wanted as a new head, for instance – but I have to say, the consensus among parents (and staff, we suspect) is that they have handled things so badly, we just don’t trust them.

If you only drop your kids off at school, pick them up at the end of the day, and assume/hope they are safe and learning what they need to learn in between times, you might not get why I’ve got such strong feelings about all of this, and have become so involved. But because of what’s happened at our school, I’m starting to understand what’s happening to education in this country, and it’s not pretty.

I was never that much of a political creature before, bar shouting at Question Time every week, but this issue has politicised me. Because it’s not just about how and by whom schools are managed, or about how we measure progress and attainment. It’s not just about the wisdom of the academies project, or Voldegove’s obsession with facts, test results and league tables. It’s about our children. Not just what and how they learn, but also about their well-being, safety, prospects, ambitions and happiness. The whole child, in other words. Too often, the children are missing from this debate. And on our local level, we just don’t feel that our children are being well-served by the academy trust we find ourselves with.

We’re all painfully aware of how much things can change – for good and for bad – in a year; I wonder where we will be by the 2015 Valentine’s Disco. Will we still be with TKAT? Will we even have a permanent head teacher by then? How many other staff will have left? My dearest hope is that whatever transpires, by this time next year the joy is back in the school. Between hotdog shifts, I hope we’ll all be dancing madly to ‘Happy’ with the kids, and really feeling like our ship is back on course.

The disappearing head: the next chapter

I know you’ve all been dying to know: so what happened next, after our amazing head teacher disappeared on the first day of term?

The last couple of weeks have been a proper rollercoaster, to say the least. The first few days after we got that letter home saying Simon Wood had left, it was like Weyfield Primary Academy was in mourning. There were lots of tears from staff and parents that we tried not to let the children see. Not having a chance to say goodbye was the worst thing for everyone, especially the children. It was like a light had gone out.

In the days before the planned meeting for parents to meet our new interim head and ask questions of our academy group, TKAT, feelings were running high. At the meeting, they didn’t even send anyone operational who had been involved with the school or the senior leadership team: we got their brand new communications director, who stuck to her script and simply refused to answer a single question relating to Simon’s departure, which totally wound up a full room of emotional parents. She made it clear that he would not be returning as head teacher, but did say that he would be visiting the following week to say goodbye to the children.

When asked a question about how TKAT usually managed high-performing talent within the organisation, she came out with the stunning line ‘we grow our own talent’. Ouch.

Year 6 parents were particularly concerned about the impact on the children and the pressure on them to turn our SATs results around without the support they had been receiving from Simon and our wonderful deputy head (who will be going on secondment to another local school soon), and with the further upheaval of the appointment of another permanent head teacher. One parent pointed out that there are something like 20 primary head vacancies in the Guildford area and it was going to be difficult to find someone as exceptional as Simon.

Then a parent quite legitimately asked a question about whether there had been any police involvement, given Simon’s sudden and mysterious departure. The playground is fertile ground for rumour, after all. She hesitated just a little too long before eventually saying there had been no police involvement. Allowing some rather unpleasant rumours and questions hanging in the air was an unforgiveable thing to do to the reputation of a man who had done nothing but good for the school and the children, and a number of parents requested strongly that TKAT issue a statement to parents making it clear that there was no allegation of personal or professional misconduct on Simon’s part relating to his resignation. She flatly refused. As someone who has worked with PR and communications professionals for all my working life, I was astonished. We all get that there are legal constraints about what you can and can’t say when someone leaves an organisation, but this was appalling crisis management.

At the end of the heated two-hour meeting – which was recorded and minuted – 90% of the parents present voted that they had no confidence, having heard everything she had to say, in the way TKAT was managing the school. It just didn’t feel like we were on the same side.

By the end of the week, the Reinstate Simon Facebook page – which neither Simon nor any member of staff did anything to encourage, and did not contribute to – had 464 likes. And then the media coverage started: the lead front page story in the Surrey Advertiser that week, and the week after. Our MP, Anne Milton, has been simply amazing and has restored my faith in politicians. She tweeted that she was ‘doing everything I can to help’, wrote very firm letters to TKAT and the schools minister, and did a long, thoughtful interview on BBC Surrey radio in support of Simon and the school.

The momentum built. Parents picketed outside the school with placards, and were interviewed on BBC Surrey and our local radio station Eagle FM. This very blog was featured in the Guardian education diary. Teachers, heads and parents from across the UK and the world expressed an interest in the story.

Then on Thursday 16th January, the school had a visitor. Simon Wood returned for the afternoon and spent time in every classroom saying goodbye to the children. Everyone was thrilled to see him, and after school, despite the pouring rain (did I spot a head teachers’ union umbrella?!) he was mobbed by parents wishing him well. I kept an eye out for Goveian snipers on the roof…

We got one answer: he told us he will be starting a new job in April, but not as a head teacher. Here’s his letter to Anne Milton MP sent on the same day as his visit to school:

‘I am delighted to be able to now share the news that I shall, in April, be joining REAch2 – the largest primary only academy chain in the country. I will join them as an Executive Principal, with the remit of supporting schools in challenging circumstances; securing rapid improvement, and particularly focusing on curriculum innovation. This post would not even have been one I would have considered had I not learnt so much from Weyfield and its community – both in and out of school. I am indebted to Weyfield for this experience which has proved to be life-changing for so many of us. The chance I have been given now in sharing elements of ‘The Weyfield Way’, and potentially influencing, at present, some 12,000 children is really exciting, and one that the Weyfield community can be so proud of having been instrumental in creating. Without the pupils, and families’ engagement, along with the staff team’s innovation, determination and creativity none of this would be possible. It is only right to say that I shall not be returning to Weyfield as Head and, understandably, the campaign to ‘reinstate’ me now needs to refocus its energies on ensuring that ‘The Weyfield Way’ continues; providing pupils and families with life-affirming, life-changing and aspirational experiences and opportunities, always.’

I could not be more proud that our head has been snapped up to be a Superhead. TKAT clearly didn’t know what talent they had (or did, and we have a case of tall poppy syndrome) and I hope his new bosses will appreciate a truly inspirational educationalist.

That evening, it felt something like closure for all of us, of the part of the story in which we had a giddy, extraordinary two years of being led by someone rather special. I think a lot of us felt a bit flat, and sad, knowing for certain that things would never go back to how they were.

TKAT must have hated Simon being back in school and treated like a celeb by everyone, though, because the following day we got another letter home:

‘Dear Parents and Carers. As you are aware Simon was in school yesterday to enable the children to say their farewells. I am now in a position to inform you that towards the end of the Autumn Term Simon applied for and accepted a promotional post with another organisation. Simon tendered his resignation on the morning of 19 December 2013 and his notice would have expired on 30 April 2014. His resignation had not been requested by TKAT and he did not give a reason for his resignation. TKAT proposed that rather than working his notice period he cease working at the School at the end of the autumn term and Simon agreed. I wanted to follow up the meeting held on 9th January to allay fears that were raised at the meeting. I can reassure parents that Simon’s departure was not in any way connected to child protection issues. No such issues have ever been raised about Simon during his time at Weyfield. I trust that we can now move forward and focus on continuing the development of the ‘Weyfield Way’. Yours sincerely Karen Roberts Chief Executive The Kemnal Academies Trust.’

At least she finally cleared up the child protection red herring – a full week after parents asked TKAT to – but many parents and staff are unhappy about the tone of the letter. A woman who to the best of my knowledge has never even visited our school has made it sound like our head was hunting around for a promotion and simply abandoned us. But we know that he was committed to Weyfield’s children and had a seven year plan to take the school to Outstanding. And we know he would never have considered another post except in extremis. And for an organisation that had previously refused to make any further statement about his departure, they suddenly seemed suspiciously keen to tell us every chronological detail.

Reach2 is the answer to the question of where Simon Wood has gone, but not the why, and TKAT’s statement is certainly not the full story. There are still serious questions to be asked about TKAT’s rapid expansion and its management of head teachers who are not ‘home grown’, especially since we now know that they boast of having ‘removed’ 26 of the heads from their 40 academies. (See for yourself in TKAT’s evidence to the Education Select Committee) You can kind of see how this might happen when a school is failing and that’s why they have become a sponsored academy, but by the time TKAT took over we were rated as Good already, and I wonder if they’ve never really known what to do with us.

There’s another twist in the tale: last week, hidden away on the letters page of the Surrey Advertiser, there was a long letter from a former governor at Weyfield who had been involved with appointing Simon and resigned the day TKAT took over. The letter goes into full and frank detail of what happened pre-takeover, and makes it clear that the school was trying to partner with a local academy group but were bullied and threatened by TKAT and the DfE into signing the contract. I imagine the relationship between our leadership team and TKAT was strained even before they took over.

I should at this point make it clear that none of this is about our interim head David Linsell. At the meeting he didn’t do a bad job of introducing himself given the tough crowd. He told us he had left his previous school to join TKAT as a regional director, had had no idea he would be coming to us until the day before the end of term, and was only going to be with us for four days a week until a new head is appointed. He is experienced, has been very visible outside school almost every day at drop-off and pick-up, and says he is starting to fall in love with the place. He’s also handled the local media with dignity and openness.

Speaking of which, there were two points at which TKAT had the chance to avoid much of this negative media coverage and bad feeling. If Simon had been allowed to be in school on the first day of term to tell everyone he was leaving and hand over to the interim head, it would have been a lot easier on the children and we would have had to accept that it was his decision. Failing that, if they had resisted sending out that rather cold letter last Friday after Simon had visited the school and told us about his new job, we might just thought: end of an era, these things happen, we’ll miss him, but life goes on.

But whatever happened between Simon Wood and TKAT, the deadly ineptitude with which the academy group has handled his departure at every turn means that they have  totally lost our trust. Our focus now must be on finding a new academy partner for the school. There’s a new Facebook page, there will be more stories in the media, and we will continue to campaign for TKAT to be removed and Weyfield returned to its community.

I don’t think there’s any precedent for this. We have asked TKAT to send us their complaints procedure and then we will go to the DfE (How to Complain about Academies).

But there is one silver lining. What a community Weyfield has become! It’s ironic that Simon leaving has achieved this, with parents who had never spoken to each other before now feeling like they have a common cause. That’s some legacy. We’ve got some answers – at least we know he isn’t being tortured in some Goviet gulag with all TKAT’s other missing heads – but other questions remain. The Weyfield story continues…