BY TOBY PORTER
Teachers’ leaders say governors are railroading a decision to merge a school into an expanding academy trust. Ravenstone Primary in Balham would opt out of Wandsworth council control if the governing board approve.
The school, whose former pupils include comedian Stephen K Amos, would join the Wandle Learning Trust, created by Chesterton Primary School and Chestnut Grove Academy – a secondary school – also in Balham.
The school’s board of governors and headteacher Joe Croft sent a letter to parents which said: “We are considering becoming an academy because we think doing so could bring some real benefits to your children.
“No decisions have been made at this stage, and this letter is to set out some information and get your thoughts on the opportunity.
“From the outset, the governors recognised that becoming an academy represented a significant decision.
Ravenstone is a successful, happy school where children thrive and whose distinctive ethos is valued by parents and governors alike. It is vital that this is maintained.”
But the school’s minutes reveal some members wanted to finalise joining WLT by April 1, when parents claim they were only told about the move on April 4.
The minutes also said: “In terms of timing, the Trust were aiming for completion by April 1, 2019. This was considered unrealistic by governors as there were various stages to go through, in particular the consultation stage with staff and parents.
It was agreed Summer would be a more realistic target.”
Also according to the minutes, the Trust had intended to recruit three schools in the next two years. Teaching unions say parents of the school in Ravenstone Road are not being told the whole story.
Brian Cairns, of the National Education Union, said: “Parents are being denied any systematic information on the possible disadvantages of academisation for a small community-based primary school.
“If the school becomes part of the trust – a private company – it ceases to be an entity in its own right. Its budget will be ‘top sliced’ and that money will be used to pay for administration, HR and the salaries of executive officers of the trust.
“The trust plans to extend to 10 schools within five years – a primary school in Croydon is set to join. So much for a ‘local family of schools’.”
The union has leafleted outside the school three times. In Wandsworth, 17 of the maintained primary schools are judged ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted – or 36 per cent – but only two of the academies – 14 per cent.
The school has already held two consultations with parents. Headteacher Joseph Croft said: “Ravenstone’s leadership team and governors will always do what is best for the school and the children, so we are exploring options for the best way to do this in the future.
After careful analysis, we have decided to consult our community about the opportunity to join the Wandle Learning Trust.
We are fully committed to being open and transparent throughout this process, and to listening carefully to the wide diversity of perspectives of our wonderful community, so that everyone involved has the information they need to understand and contribute to this important decision.
“In this spirit, we have held four open parent consultation meetings, and have written to parents about the benefits, risks and issues we are considering, to help ensure they have a balanced view of what is involved.
Staff have also had meetings with the Wandle Learning Trust, Ravenstone governors and the teaching unions. We continue to welcome feedback and input.”