Haberdashers’ Academies ‘Beyond the Spin’

Why you should oppose Monson School being taken over by Aske’s.

A year ago, Lewisham Council carried out an ‘informal consultation’ to seek support for their plan to give Haberdashers’ Aske’s Hatcham College (HAHC) control over Monson Primary School in New Cross.

Most replies rejected this proposal to convert HAHC into an ‘all-through’ 3-18 school. But now Aske’s and the Council are pushing forward with a ‘formal consultation’ that ends on December 13th 2007. They want to get this exercise over as quickly and quietly as possible so that they can use the results to force through their plan. If they succeed, Monson would be taken over as soon as July 2008.

The Defend Education in Lewisham Campaign, uniting parents, staff, trade unions and supportive councillors, believes that this is a dangerous proposal that will:

  • give more power over local education to the unaccountable Aske’s governors by removing Monson from Council control.
  • make little real change to Aske’s admissions – their separate testing and unfair banding system will remain.
    divide schools and distort admissions in the north of the borough as parents compete for a place at HAHC.
  • not provide any real benefits for ‘underachieving’ children – just transfer difficulties to other schools

This is why the local community must again oppose this dangerous plan by giving you some of the facts and figures that will not be included in the ‘consultation’ documents issued by Haberdashers’ and Lewisham Council.

Haberdashers’ Aske’s Hatcham College: an unaccountable Academy
The ‘Defend Education in Lewisham Campaign’ believes that every child deserves to go to a good local school. We believe that the best way to achieve this is for well-funded schools to be run by a democratic Local Authority. All schools should use the same comprehensive admissions policies so that they work together to improve education for all our children.
But Haberdashers’ Aske’s Hatcham College is:

NOT a ‘local’ school:
Figures provided by the Council for Telegraph Hill Councillors Ian Page and Chris Flood show that the majority of pupils admitted to HAHC live well over a mile from the school:
Home to School Distance
                             2005  HAHC Admissions      2006  HAHC Admissions
0 – 599 metres                      36                                        43
600 – 1199 metres                33                                        28
1200 – 1799 metres              24                                        25
1800 – 2399 metres              21                                        26
over 2400 metres                 92                                        87
TOTAL                                   206                                     209

NOT a comprehensive school:
Most secondary schools in Lewisham use an ‘area-banding’ system. All children take tests at the end of Year 5 and are then put into one of five bands – 1A, 1B, 2A, 2B or 3. When children transfer, parents know each school should take equal numbers of children from each ability ‘band’. This helps ensure that all schools teach a full range of abilities. Figures from Lewisham Admissions Forum show how a school like Addey and Stanhope successfully operates this system:

                             1A ‘top’      1B       2A      2B     3 ‘bottom’    Total
2007  Intake            24           24       24       25             27                124

But figures for HAHC show it is a very different kind of school:

actual intake       1A      1B      2A       2B      3      ‘ Not known’       Total
2004                       71     21      10        6       1             91                   200
2005                       44     38      25      22       9             68                   206
2006                       54     44      31      23      12            45                   209
2007                       49     46      33      23      16            43                   210

The ‘not known’ figures are probably pupils from outside the borough who did not have a Lewisham banding score (and there were plenty of those, as the ‘home-to-school distance’ table shows!). Many of these are likely to be ‘top band’ kids. So how can HAHC get away with admitting so many more high-ability children at the expense of others? – because they are an Academy school that is allowed to operate its own admissions procedures. Aske’s operates a separate system of nine bands, based on tests that have to be taken by all 2000-plus children that apply to try and get into HAHC every year.
Critically, as the Lewisham secondary admissions booklet explains, in contrast to the Council’s area-banding arrangements, “places will be offered in each band in proportion to the number of children applying in that band”. So if lots of top-band pupils apply, lots more are admitted too.

In other words, if Aske’s can encourage more academic children to apply from across a wide radius of South London (and also admit those with ‘musical aptitude’ and the brothers and sisters of existing pupils too) HAHC can be sure of an intake artificially skewed towards higher ability pupils. Far from being ‘comprehensive’ such a system is really ‘selective’.

HAHC have not agreed to make any changes to this unfair banding system. All they have agreed is to make a change to how pupils are chosen within each band (explained below). For years, HAHC have distorted local admissions with their unfair system. Ignore the spin – there is no real change!

NOT a Local Authority school:
The Government is encouraging Councils to hand over local services into the control of private organisations. Whether it is housing or schools, residents are told that ‘outsourcing’ is the way forward. But the glossy leaflets can’t cover-up most people’s experience of privatisation – it makes things worse.

The Haberdashers’ Company already has control of two independent “Academy” schools in Lewisham. HAHC became an independent City Technology College using Conservative legislation. Under Tony Blair’s Labour legislation, they then made the seamless transfer to Academy status.  As a separate employer, Aske’s issues its own contracts. This includes the following phrase: “Your right to belong to an appropriate Trade Union is recognised but this does not imply recognition of any Trade Union for negotiating purposes”.

Haberdashers’ Aske’s have been given Government backing to run more schools. They were given control of Malory School in Downham which became Haberdashers’ Aske’s Knights Academy (HAKA). The National Audit Office’s report into Academies described HAKA as “the most expensive academy so far” with a staggering final capital cost of £ 40.4 million for which ‘The Worshipful Company of Haberdashers’ had, in turn, to provide one of the smallest sponsors’ contributions to date, at just £295,500 !! What about helping Council schools?

Haberdashers’ were encouraged to take part in the first ‘competition’ required under new legislation to see who would run a new school being opened in Haringey. However, the schools adjudicator was not so impressed with their claims and rejected their bid. Undaunted, Aske’s are now one of the parties seeking to become sponsors of an Academy proposed to takeover Pimlico School in Westminster.

So is the bid to takeover Monson really about helping a “socially and economically challenged area” ? Or is it just another part of a plan to expand their educational empire?

HAHC will NOT become a local school
The consultation document claims that ‘by changing its admissions arrangements’ HAHC will ‘become a school of excellence for local children’. But where is the evidence to back up this misleading claim?
All that HAHC are proposing is to drop the ‘partial lottery’ system that they have used to choose 50% of the ‘distance’ places left to fill within each of their bands. But the unfair banding system itself will remain. That’s the real problem.

According to last year’s consultation paper, nearly a half of HAHC’s places were filled by brothers and sisters of pupils that had already been admitted under their unfair banding system. When you add on further places allocated for SEN and ‘musical aptitude’, there are already only a minority of places left to fill by “distance to school” in any case. Now, with either 30 or 60 Year 7 places to be filled automatically by Monson pupils under these plans, there will be even fewer places left – and they will still be subject to the unfair banding system. Changing the ‘lottery’ won’t make much difference.
The nearest school to HAHC is Edmund Waller. In 2006, the Council’s figures showed 20 children went to HAHC in Year 7. The second nearest school to HAHC is John Stainer. In 2006, just one child was admitted to HAHC. These plans will reduce the number of these local children admitted even further.

Parents who want their child to get into HAHC will have two real options: 1) hope your child is lucky (or able) enough to get in through the unfair banding. 2) get your child into Monson so that they can transfer automatically into HAHC.

So, the only way this plan will make HAHC ‘local’ is if you happen to live locally to Monson – the thirteenth nearest school to HAHC. Small wonder that the Evening Standard report that “estate agents in the area have said homeowners near Monson Primary could expect to see the value of their properties rise by £75,000 or more if the deal goes ahead”.

The plan is about changing the intake at Monson and shifting problems elsewhere

The new consultation paper claims that the plan means that “children at Monson Primary School [will] get much better educational opportunities than now”. But which children do Aske’s have in mind exactly?

As the Evening Standard has predicted, with Hyde and other developers also taking note, the plan will persuade some parents to move in to the surrounding streets to try and get a guaranteed place at HAHC. There’s room for development – what about Sainsbury’s, what about the Monson site itself if it only has to teach 30 pupils in each year group?

Some existing parents of Monson children – and others that may seek to transfer pupils into the school – may be pleased to find their child will entitled to transfer to HAHC in Year 7. But what about the future? A waiting list will grow of families trying to get their child into this Aske’s ‘feeder school’ – ready to transfer from other neighbouring schools when they can. Instead of Monson having the problem of a rapidly changing school roll, this problem of ‘high mobility’ will simply be shifted onto other local schools. Newly arriving local families will find Monson full – and have to find a school elsewhere.
The Council’s leaflet is clear that this is what they intend, explaining that the difficulties at Monson are “linked to the unsettling influence of high pupil mobility – children joining or leaving the school other than in Reception or Year 6 … linking the primary school to HAHC, one of the highest achieving state schools in the country, will create more stable classes and lead to a rise in standards”.

This will be one further example of the conclusions of educational research already summarised in the NUT’s ‘Beyond the Spin’ pamphlet: “that where Academies were raising their standards, they were doing so by improving their intake rather than doing better with the same pupils”.

What expertise does Aske’s have in supporting working-class primary kids?
If this plan was really about supporting working-class primary children in a deprived part of the borough, as the Council claims, why give the school to Haberdashers’ Aske’s at all?

There is no doubt that HAHC gets very high scores in the GCSE league tables, but is that any real surprise? After all, since their intake has been largely made up of ‘top-band’ academically-gifted pupils, wouldn’t it be more of a surprise if they didn’t get a high league table placing? But how much do Haberdashers’ know about supporting younger children and children who may find learning more of a struggle?

The consultation paper unfairly compares Monson’s SATs test results to national averages, without taking their actual pupil intake into account. But the Government’s own “Value-Added” scores – which take these differences into account – can give a better picture of how well a school is really doing. (You can find them on The results for the 2006 SATs show that both HAHC and Monson School performed almost identically (despite Monson’s high pupil mobility). But one is judged as a success and the other deemed ripe for takeover!

Haberdashers may try and answer these criticisms by pointing to Knight’s Academy (HAKA) as evidence that they can boost exam results. It is true that their GCSE results have improved compared to the previous Malory School. Of course, additional resources and the use of Aske’s banding will have helped.

However, HAKA results showing 14% of pupils with 5 A*- C passes at GCSE including English and Maths in 2006 were still way beneath the borough average of 52%. Provisional results have shown this improved to 27% in 2007. But look further.

Provisional results for pupils getting 5 A*- G grades – i.e. five GCSEs of any kind – were just 71%. It seems that 38 of the 132 on roll, well over a quarter, failed to achieve this target. So are Aske’s really the body to help underachieving children?

Reject this divisive proposal
Aske’s and the Council are trying to rush through this proposal without any real debate. There will be just one public ‘event’ at Haberdashers’ Aske’s’ Jerningham Road site on November 28th  2007 between 3.30 and 8.30 pm – although it is unclear if even this will be a proper public meeting.

The real issues will not be answered – just obscured by one-sided consultation documents. But the real questions are too important to hide – they are about the future of education for children and local families in the north of the borough.
The creation of Knight’s Academy, using its unfair banding system, has already damaged comprehensive admissions in the south of the borough. Some neighbouring secondary schools have seen their pupil intake badly affected by the setting-up of this new school.

This plan will set up the same divisions – but not just for secondary-aged children. Primary education will become distorted and divided too. Another school will be taken out of Local Authority control. Once again, other neighbouring community schools will be plunged into difficulties as they are left to teach the pupils that have not been admitted by Aske’s.

Unfortunately, Lewisham’s Mayor and Cabinet and Council Officers seem unable, or unwilling, to understand how their support for the break-up of Local Authority schooling is helping to create a divided system where unaccountable sponsors are able to expand their educational empires at the expense of neighbouring school communities.

Neither will the plan really help support the diverse working-class community in New Cross. Instead, this plan is about changing that community and expecting other schools to meet the needs of newly arriving families – but without the resources being given to Academies. It needs to be rejected.

To find out more,
contact Martin on:
0208 659 8478



4 Responses to “Monson”

  1. Cedric Porter Says:

    Lewisham borough’s scheme for an all-age Academy in New Cross will create an exclusion zone for the majority of local children.
    The council’s proposal to merge the academically outstanding Haberdashers’ Aske’s Hatcham College with the struggling Monson Primary School is strongly opposed by every other primary in the area, but there is no sign this will deter Lewisham from pressing ahead with its quick fix brainwave.
    Because of the adverse reaction to the proposal earlier this year, local schools were surprised to see it reactivated in a letter of October 30 from Frankie Sulke giving a deadline of December 13 for all feedback before the matter was referred to Lewisham’s mayoral cabinet on January 16.
    The council went through the statutory motions of consultation with no public meeting and only one blatantly underpublicised public consultation session.
    Its consultation document went out of its way to rubbish representations from local schools with the outrageously misleading claim that `where families live in relation to HAHC is far more significant than the proximity of local primary schools’.
    The reply slip attached to the document presented the merger as a fait accompli since it left the impression that there could be no alternative.
    There has been a general welcome for the proposal that HAHC should drop its `further distance’ criterion for admissions to increase its local intake. But the suggested merger means Monson pupils would have a pre-emptive right to admission to HAHC before applicants from all other local schools.
    Although Lewisham stress that their proposal will attract surefire DCSF capital funding and possibly help other primary schools with their 2009 capital allocation, the other primaries see Monson’s share of problems simply being shoved down the road onto their doorstep, making matters worse.
    The experience of other areas shoiws that if the merger goes ahead parents with enough money will buy up properties near Monson to ensure their children have a place in the proposed Academy. In other words, Lewisham have opted for social engineering rather than a coherent educational strategy to tackle the underlying problems of an area with many immigrant families – primarily the high proportion of pupils with Englsih as a second language and excessive pupil mobility.
    It is a shame that Lewisham have passed up the opportunity to set the pace as a national role model of good practice in providing the specialist back-up needed to remedy this situation – persuading central government to put its money where its mouth is.
    This is the logical strategy and no reason has been forthcoming from Lewisham why this should not be pursued rather than a magic bullet project that will be divisive and counter-productive. Is Lewisham maintaining that providing Haberdashers’ with a cut-price prep school is the only way to access central government funding?

    This is a copy of my letter which was published in last week’s Mercury.

  2. BrockleyNick Says:

    Sorry if I’m missing something, but don’t the figures for HAHC show that its intake has become more egalitarian over the last four years, with fewer unknowns?

  3. defendeducation Says:

    Under the pressure of the local community, councillors, Lewisham NUT and other community campaigns, HAHC has forced to be more transparent about its admissions, but the fact remains that it still has it’s own banding system (it doesn’t follow the same criteria for banding as the Local Authority does) and it uses this control over admissions to select the children it feels will achieve academically.

    This invariably means that local children are turned away and the intake of other schools in Lewisham is distorted by this selective process. If Monson gets taken over by HAHC this effect will make itself felt in sorrounding primary schools and create yet further inequalities between schools. If every child does matter – this policy will act against this very principle.


  4. Colleges » Monson Defend Education in Lewisham Says:

    […] Get the entire post from here. […]

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