Education round-up: worrying developments at Davies Lane and George Tomlinson

In previous posts, I’ve looked at some of the worrying developments that are occurring in relation to the governance of Waltham Forest schools.

Now word reaches me of two further instances which set alarm bells ringing.

Davies Lane Primary School recently was taken over by the Arbor Academy Trust.

Almost simultaneously, the governors took the decision to dismiss NUT representative Tobias Hayden.

According to the union, this occurred after a disciplinary hearing held in Mr. Hayden’s absence, and stemmed from two particular aspects of his activity, which are described as follows: ‘In the Summer term, Tobias invited junior doctors to speak to the school’s NUT group. Meetings such as this were encouraged by the NUT to show solidarity for our joint campaign. Tobias was also vocal in his opposition to his school becoming an academy, in line with NUT policy. As part of his opposition he approached parents at the school to discuss the academy conversion’.

A petition at Change.Org is calling for Mr. Hayden’s reinstatement:

The latter is particularly worth reading because of some of the signatories’ comments. There is talk of systematic bullying and autocratic management, with those most closely involved on the teaching side withholding their names for fear of management retaliation.

As I understand it, Mr. Hayden will appeal, so it is unwise to comment further.

However, let us hope that, this time at least, in compliance with the most elementary principle of natural justice, he is allowed to defend himself, and in person.

Meanwhile, over at near neighbour George Tomlinson Primary School, controversy continues.

As I have noted previously (see links below) in recent years George Tomlinson has been through the mill.

Briefly, first, LBWF claimed the school was in financial crisis; then the existing governors ‘resigned’; next the school was placed under the interim management of The Lime Academy Trust (TLAT), prompting fears of ‘academisation’, and consequent protest from parents; and finally, in the hope of generating a completely fresh and positive start, the local authority reasserted control, and oversaw the appointment of a new board of governors and senior leadership team.

The latter step, especially, appeared to suggest that George Tomlinson was back on track.

But as often happens, Town Hall rhetoric has not been matched by changes on the ground. Despite promises to the contrary, communication with parents remains poor; indeed little news has been disseminated since as far back as July. More seriously still, it now emerges that the governing body has embarked upon making 12 teaching assistants redundant, which, amongst other things, threatens drastically to increase the workload of the remaining staff.

Underlying all of this are two continuing uncertainties. One concerns George Tomlinson’s real financial situation. LBWF insists that pupil numbers have been falling, which inevitably necessitates cuts. Yet the evidence is hardly supportive. It appears that far from being in the red at the end of 2015, the school carried over £210,000. Moreover, while it is true that the 2016 budget predicts a deficit, one reason for this may be a six-figure outgoing to cover the entire cost of TLAT’s involvement, doubly unfair because (a) LBWF assured the erstwhile governors that it would pay for the interim TLAT head and (b) then imposed other TLAT management staff, a unilateral action and so one it has a moral and perhaps legal responsibility to finance.

Relatedly, there is also the fundamental question of whether the spectre of ‘academisation’ still lurks in the background. That subject merits close scrutiny in its own right, and I’ll return to it shortly in a succeeding post.

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