Hearsay or Factual, that is the question …

Sunday 14th October 2018

A lot has happened since my last posting and much of it is key to events that have been occurring and indeed they continue to unfold.

To offer you a clear view of this, I will try and diarise the events under different headings in the order in which they have occurred and then continue with an overview of next steps as best I can. My apologies for this but today’s blog post is going to be a somewhat lengthy one but I thought it was only fair to bring all Harrop Fold parents who will be reading this, as many of you have reached out and said you do, up to speed with events.

11th October 2018 –

We (Harrop Group of Parents) received a response from Salford Council to our questions that we posed to them at the meeting that took place on the 27th September just prior to the meeting we had with all parents. The response from the council included answers to the 13 questions we posed to them at the said meeting. The response went as follows:-

Dear all

Many thanks for getting in touch. Please find below the written responses following our discussion when we met on 27th September. I understand that you expected a quicker response and we always try to respond to requests in 10 working days.

I am really concerned to hear that you have anxieties that the situation is not improving at the school.

Some parents have provided positive feedback about their experience when they have raised issues with the school.

I visit the school regularly and I can reassure you that the staff team at Harrop are extremely dedicated and take their professional roles and responsibilities extremely seriously. When we last met, we agreed as a group that the school needed a period of time before we met as a group again to evaluate progress – it was suggested two months. This will allow the school the time to respond to parental concerns via the usual school process and for a parent forum to be set up as this currently doesn’t exist in the school.

You have requested to meet again and we can offer [Dates removed for various reasons]

I am concerned that some parental concerns are being posted on social media rather than being raised with the school directly. For example one recent post has been about what an individual has ‘heard’ about a situation rather than having first-hand knowledge and clearly this creates unhelpful rumours on the Harrop Fold school twitter account. I hope you will support the school community by continuing to reinforce the message that any concerns that parents wish to raise with the school should be directed to the school following the usual process. This will enable the school to look into concerns thoroughly.

Regarding the pupil who you report has been kept off school, I am making the assumption that the case you are referring to is the one that was reported at the parents meeting on the evening of 27th September. Whilst it wouldn’t be appropriate to comment on individuals, this has been looked into thoroughly by the school following the meeting and I can assure you that all pupils who are absent from school are followed up appropriately by the dedicated Student Development Team. If you can provide any further evidence directly to the school so that this can be followed up further.

Many thanks for getting in touch to raise your concerns with us. Please let us know the best time to meet. We all have the common goals that we discussed during our previous meeting about supporting the school to support the students and move forward for the future. We all want the best for the school and the students.

Best wishes

Cathy


You will notice that I have highlighted one of the paragraphs above in a different colour and I have also made part of this statement in bold. The reason for this will become clearer further into this blog post.

ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS POSED AT FIRST MEETING 27th SEPTEMBER

1. What are the school’s plans to deal with the current staffing issues in the school where a high number of staff, senior staff and behaviour trained staff are absent through suspension or ill health as a direct result of investigations?

A:- The Governors have approved an Interim Leadership team structure which includes additional interim Senior leaders. In addition experienced behaviour trained staff are on secondment from a local school.

2. What are the Governors doing to push the investigation along to hopefully enable the reinstatement of three senior members that will help bring that stability back?

A:- The Chair of Governors has received reassurance that the investigation is progressing as quickly as possible. The outcome of the investigation cannot be pre-judged

3. What are the school’s plans to deal with the current Drug problem that is escalating in school?

A:- We are aware that there have been rumours of drugs at school, which have escalated via social media channels, and we would wish to assure parents that the school is not aware of any such drug problem. The school wishes to assure parents, that it remains vigilant to any evidence of any such problems. In addition, if pupils, parents, carers or members of the public are aware of evidence of drug use or activity, then these should be reported to the school or the police and these will be investigated thoroughly. The School wishes to reiterate that it has a zero tolerance approach to drug activity.

Since the start of term there has been one parental concern that has been received by the school. This has been thoroughly investigated using CCTV and pupil interviews and this proved to be unfounded.

4. What are the school’s plans to deal with the fact that teachers are being deployed to toilet doors to lock and unlock to ensure only one pupil is in there at one time due to the drug related issues?

A:- Teachers are not deployed to toilet doors and students may freely use the toilet when another student is already there. Toilets are locked during lesson times and pupils are encouraged to use the toilets at break time and lunch time to ensure pupils do not waste valuable lesson time. For those individual pupils who need more frequent access to the toilets, they can use the toilets as needed.

5. What are the school’s plans to deal with the current bullying fighting and attacking by pupils on pupils during lessons?

A:- The issue of bullying is treated very seriously by the school. There is a dedicated Student Development Team who work with individual pupils to ensure that any bullying is dealt with swiftly and effectively.

6. What are the school doing about the issue around reports that knives are being brought in to school? – Is it time to bring Police back in to Harrop to ensure that stability is fast-tracked?

A:- The school has a zero tolerance to knives being brought into school. Any parent who has concerns regarding knives needs to report these to the school so the concerns can be thoroughly investigated.

7. What are the school doing when teachers are not able to control unruly behaviour in lessons, which then leads to lack of learning for pupils who want to get on?

A:- Any poor behaviour is dealt with firmly and fairly according to the school policies and parents are asked to support the school in supporting these policies.

8. With regards to the interim head, what are his long term plans and ability to commit to the role and to our school?

A:- Damian Owen has agreed to remain at the school for as long as is needed. With Head teacher recruitment timescales, this will be, at least, until the end of Spring Term.

9. Are behaviours and policies around behaviours and other matters being followed within the school?

A:- The Behaviour Policy for the school has recently been reviewed and refreshed by staff and this policy is being followed by staff.

10. What are the figures looking like for attendance, punctuality, behaviour etc.?

A:- All of these area are key priorities for the school. Regarding Attendance and punctuality data these key performance indicators for the school needs to improve on previous years. The data has improved in recent weeks but still needs to improve further. The school expects all students to attend school regularly and punctually and reinforces this expectation at all times. Re behaviour – see response below.

11. What do the records show for the number of incidents pre Drew Povey’s absence as well as the data since Damien Owen stepped in?

A:- This analysis has not yet been undertaken. It will be provided as part of a report to the governing body. As a new behaviour policy has been introduced so comparisons between this year and last will not be meaningful.

12. Are the Governors currently acting under the ADVICE of the LA?

A:- The governors are being supported by the LA.

13. What assurances AND demonstrations can the school give us that all COGS and SEN pupils will be fully supported with full public transparency and demonstrated celebration of all the positive good work being achieved?

A:- All pupils, including COGs and children with SEN, will be supported by our dedicated staff teams to achieve their full potential. The successes of all pupils will be celebrated via our rewards system and other school processes.

Best wishes

Cathy Starbuck

Assistant Director (Education, Work and Skills)


Now, I could provide you with my take on each of the above answers but I will just allow you to draw your own conclusions to the somewhat political answers if I may, many have done so already.

But one that is clear to see, and this refers to the highlighted paragraph within the letter, the council, remember we are getting responses from THE COUNCIL here and NOT the Governors as you would expect, is that we are not believed when we say that parents are raising, valid concerns around the safety and well-being of their children. Yes, it is fair to acknowledge, and believe me, we DO INDEED acknowledge that there is balance, anyone who is part of our Facebook Group for parents with concerns at Harrop will tell you that we are constantly praising and highlighting the good work that is being done by the school, we are constantly singing the praises of teachers who care, especially two in particular who are really going above and beyond and should actually get a medal for what they are doing to support the many concerns raised by many parents.

We absolutely appreciate and respect that Claire Wright, Interim Depute Head has been very supportive and has met, I think with each of us over the past couple of weeks to discuss one issue or another and I am not going to try and tell you otherwise, that would be wrong and would appear to you on the outside looking in that all is doom and gloom, it isn’t. There is some progress being made.

But parents are raising many issues and concerns with us, we now have quite an exhaustive dossier of complaints shared with us (some of which will be added at the foot of this post, the rest will be presented to the school at our next meeting) about the school and what is happening at Harrop just now. They are all indicative of the bad, unchallenged behaviours, the smell of drugs in toilets, the kicking in of doors during lessons, which are being disrupted as one pupil will try to attack another for no apparent reason. We have comments from parents about seconded staff who have “balled at” their children when they have attempted to ask for the lesson to be calmed down as they are not able to read or concentrate. We have been provided with screen shots of text messages between child and parent during school hours where they have said they are outside of lesson crying because they cannot learn in this environment and none of the teachers have the power to do anything. We have “hearsay” (and I quote that because that is what the council believe this evidence to be and that is fine, is it their opinion that it is hearsay, I rather think it is the council’s way of turning a blind eye to what is occurring) evidence that the teachers, in some cases, not all (again that balance where balance is due), do not have control. It seems to be teachers who have been drafted in from another “local school”, we believe this to be Buile Hill, which I am led to believe have their own behaviour issues to deal with and am not quite sure what more they can bring to Harrop and clearly the “hearsay evidence” we have directly from pupils and children would back up and support that concern. Teachers who do not know the history of children with special learning needs, dyslexia concerns who are unforgiving of the need to have their work printed on coloured paper so they are able to read and digest it before commencing the task in hand. All of this, makes for a very concerning and worrying time for a lot of parents.

But, it is “Just Hearsay” apparently.

13th October 2018 –

We posted the above answers from Cathy Starbuck onto our Facebook page as we promised we would do at the time of the parents meeting on the 27th September and our membership of that group rose from 93 to a massive 145 and it is still climbing. 145 is actually 1/5th of the number of parents with children at the school. Interestingly, around 89% of all members are active and posting. They are posting their stories about what Mary or Johnny has said happened in school today. They are posting about FACTUAL events where they have attempted to phone the school to discuss this issue or that issues. They are posting about meetings they have had and that post meeting they are feeling completely let down by today’s Harrop Fold, which is not a patch on the Harrop of old.

Now, I can accept, and I actually completely understand where the council are coming from in their concerns about parents on a group, having discussions, possibly embellishing stories and adding a little drama for effect. I get that, I totally do. After all, emotions get us like that as Human Beings, we

cannot help it, it is a built in mechanism to do with the hierarchy of needs. For anyone interested, you can read and learn about this with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs which talks about the humans’ innate curiosity when our absolute needs feel threatened. It makes for some good reading. I haven’t just “thrown this in there” for the sake of it. It is actually quite relevant to what is occurring at the school right now.

Perhaps I will do another separate blog on this at a later date.

But just do yourself a favour, if you are not familiar with it, please read about the need for physiological and safety requirements. I feel certain you will connect quite quickly with what a lot of the parents, including myself are going through right now. For those already familiar, my apologies if I sound as though I am teaching my grandmother to suck eggs.

14th October 2018 –

You can see from the timeline, a lot happened this weekend over a period of 24 hours and things were quickly becoming rather interesting.

The Saturday Times Magazine was published and there was an interview in there from Drew by a gentleman called Andrew Billen. Now Andrew Billen is no stranger to Harrop, as he attests to in his piece on Saturday’s publication. Andrew talks about how he visited the school last year having watched the series of Educating Manchester as he was curious to see for himself if the show was just sheer hype or was it a reality? He answers this question in saying that he came away from that visit having met a lot of pupils, staff, Drew etc. and arrived at the conclusion that Drew Povey and Harrop were a perfect match. I don’t think I need to embellish that any further really. Not least for the fact that he is not on his own in that statement. Over the years, and I tweeted about this only this weekend having read the article from Andrew, Harrop has seen many visitors for all sectors across UK business, visitors such as the Chief Constable of Greater Manchester, Damian Hinds (Secretary of State for Education), Barbara Keeley (Labour MP for Worsley), Organisations such as; Santander, Royal Mail, Jaguar Land Rover, TV personalities such as Larry Lamb and many, many more. All of whom have never had a bad word to say about Harrop and in fact each and everyone have praised the culture of what Harrop is about. They have given great feedback about how respectful the pupils are, how supportive and great the teachers are.

Now, you can fool some of the people some of the time but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time. The thing is, these are all people who have no direct connection with Harrop. They are not parents, they are not employed by the school and they are not in any way going to benefit from offering their take on how they see Harrop. So, in essence their observations count for a great deal.

I suppose, you could be forgiven for being sceptical about all of the above, you could, if you chose to, not believe that, it is just opinion and opinions can of course be tainted by offering nice biscuits and tea on the day, providing a nice lunch, only taking them in to classrooms that you know are going to perform for the visitors etc. Of course you can! However…

Along comes Channel 4 and they set up a mass of cameras throughout the school and they film every single minute of every day over not one, but two school years (the second year’s footage is due to be screened later this year), the camera does not lie. It threatens to show the GOOD, the BAD and the downright UGLY. And, boy did it do just that. Yes, there were incidents, of course there were. But they were managed. They were managed by a great leadership team and the cameras picked every single moment up through the whole 9 yards of what occurred with every incident. the camera does not lie! What the camera showed in it’s entire footage was a great school with some big challenges and that the community within the school TEAM HARROP overcame them. And they did that together due to the ethos and the culture that all of those people and more talked about in their feedback about the school.

My challenge to the school right now, TODAY, is to get these people back. Bring the very same people in who came in previously, the Secretary of State for education, the Chief Constable of GMP, the local MP’s, TV personalities, all of the reporters from local and national papers, get them all in. In fact, GET THE CHANNEL 4 CAMERAS BACK.

Do it! Please do it!!

Let everyone see for themselves what Harrop has become since this Council, (I don’t believe it was the Governors’ decision to suspend the four staff members and until I am proved otherwise, I will continue to beat that drum), suspended Drew Povey and his Leadership team. As one member of staff told me recently during a visit to school …

The Heart has been ripped out of this school, it really has

Another event that was quite prevalent this weekend, in fact it happened yesterday, so forgive me if the timeline is out on this one slightly, but I am only just reflecting on it today. On our Facebook Group, which by the way is private and is open to any parent, carer or indeed family member with a pupil at Harrop, we had a post thread that started towards the latter end of the week, Friday I believe. The post talks about a child who had contacted her Mum (it was the Mum who was posting this information to the page) to say that her lesson was being disrupted in such a way that she could not concentrate on her work. the Mum then went on the say in the post that her Daughter found it to be that bad that she audio recorded part of the lesson so she could show her Mum how bad it was. The Mum chose, quite rightly in my opinion to share the recording in the group. I believe this was off the back of the school insisting that our concerns were only hearsay and that they (the school) are only able to act on proof.

We (Harrop Parent Group) heard the recording and asked if they could get the recording to us so we can provide this to the council as evidence of disrupted lessons. We are aware of privacy laws, nobody can be identified in the recording by name and we had NO intention whatsoever of distributing that recording anywhere other than to the council.

Over the weekend one of our group then got an email from the Interim Depute Head stating that as parents have not given permission for the recording to take place and if the recording was distributed then there could be all manner of litigation come into play and it would be good to have a further discussion about this on Monday. Now, whilst we appreciate the “heads up” (pardon the pun) as stated above, the intention on our part, at least, was to only ever pass this recording on to the school at our next meeting planned at the end of October, start of November. If anyone else in the groups decides to share that recording as it has been posted by a parent other than us then we cannot be held accountable for that. The sceptic in me says that now we have the parents providing the “proof” the council has asked for, they are not happy and perhaps the proof will put Harrop on the map showing that our concerns are very valid.

However, taking the advice of the Interim Depute Head in the context that we need to be careful, we have issued a statement on the Facebook Group stating that should any parent receive any evidence from their child around audio or indeed video then it must NOT be shared in the group but we will arrange to collect said evidence from them in person, ask them to sign a statement handing the evidence over to our care and providing us with permission to provide this to the council on their behalf so they can see for themselves the reality of what our children are telling us.

I dare say, there will be a total ban on all mobile phones being brought in to school form Monday or the new term perhaps?!

Interestingly, a lot of parents are talking about the possible need for their child to start wearing body cams to school in order to offer them protection from the harm and threat they sometimes feel under. That suggestion as a potential need moving forward, from parents has not come from nowhere and has not been borne out of “hearsay” has it?

So, hopefully that gives you another insight as to where we are at, at present. I believe that the council have made a very silly prediction in that they believe the parents of pupils at Harrop to “be thick” or perhaps “couldn’t care less about the standard of schooling and education for their children” based on the fact that 69% of all pupils are on free school meals and therefore by default concerned parent will be in a minority and that most of them will not care a jot anyway. Well, let me assure you Salford Council, this is not going away. 60% of pupils at Harrop may be on free school meals but 100% of those pupils deserve a safe environment with which to learn in. YOU, along with the Governors have a duty of care to ensure that is in place. If you choose to ignore us and make assumptions that we will not fight for this then make them at your own peril because this is not going away any time soon.

I will leave you with a couple of screen shots taken from the Parent Group that shows the level of disengagement we have at the school during these present times.

 

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