Thoughts, feelings and fears …

Wow!  Talk about a whole barrage of emotions, if ever there was a time that I was going through a raft of them it is right now.

Please remember this image, I will refer back to this at the footer of this blog.

I want to take this opportunity to share with you some of my concerns and fears as to where this calamity is heading.

I also want to share with you the 8 questions I have posed to Salford Council under the Freedom of Information act so as to perhaps help you understand the basis of my concerns.

Why am I doing this?

Well it is simple, I am at the point of fear.  I have a fear that, and please understand that this is purely my own thoughts based on a little bit of digging on the internet, reading freely available information that is open to anyone in relation to Greater Manchester Learning Trust and its Trust Members as well as what has been written about Parrs Wood High and how that is panning out .  I have also made it my business to read up on many of the events and stories posted and again, what is freely available to anyone and everyone in news reports across the North West both pre and post the unfathomable events of the 13th July when Drew and three of his team members were dramatically suspended.

So firstly, my concerns.  Lets look at the top level catalogue of events to date:

  • Drew Povey was appointed head in 2010
  • Drew Povey brings great success to Harrop by placing a team structure that removes highly paid “super staff” and brings calm and tranquillity by taking the school form Ofsted rated as “worst in the country” to Good at the last inspection prior to July 2018 events
  • Drew Povey is successful, but in being successful he is not afraid to speak out about the debt that has been accrued at the school, the debt that he, and his team have managed to reduce by over half from £3.5m to £1.5M (circa – I am awaiting confirmation from the council as to actual financial detail – requested under the FOI act on 4th September 2018)
  • Drew Povey invites Chanel 4 in to take a look at the school and film the school as a fly on the wall documentary in order to demonstrate the great things that have occurred and how the children are benefiting.  I believe, and again it is only my humble opinion, that Salford Council would not have been happy with this decision, as equally they would not have been happy at any time that Drew was talking freely about the debt the school had accrued prior to him taking up role as head but that he is working diligently to reduce
  • Throughout his tenure as Head, Drew has adopted a culture within school whereby he takes on and welcomes children who have been expelled from other schools.  The school also has a very strong and supportive policy to “take children with special needs”
    • Note: at this point I believe that the action taken by Harrop is totally out of proportion to the situation but I think there is more to this than meets the eye (more of that to come)
  • Salford Council attempted to get Harrop through Drew to join a Trust known as Salford Academy Trust.  Again, reading between the lines and in my opinion, I believe this went “against the grain” and some people were not happy with Drew’s lack of desire, for good reason I understand to join.
  • That same Trust collapsed in June 2018 following six years of trading around concerns over its ability to improve the four schools within it
  • Drew wrote a book “Educating Drew” and proceeds, not sure how much but I believe it may have been 100% of them went back into the school to help clear the debts
  • Drew gave various talks around the UK and again monies accrued from these talks went into the school, I believe to the value of £100,000
  • In 2006 just 19% of the pupils gained five GCSE passes including maths and English.  Since then results have soared to 42.7% in 2014 and 40% in 2015. In 2016 many schools dipped in this period due to a change in the syllabus and Harrop returned GCSE results of 30% and then started to strengthen again is 2017 to 33.1%
  • Roll on to July 2018, the 13th to be precise, one week prior to end of school term.  Announcement made that Drew and three others are suspended from Harrop for the reasons of “off rolling”
  • Various other news stories break by the MEN and other agencies around the situation.  Parents, including myself become quite concerned and frustrated around what the future holds for the school now that the leader is not in post and start asking questions
  • Concerns from parents lead to a petition being started, which was then hand delivered both to the school and also to council offices and contained over 1300 names.
  • Various parents took to Twitter and other social media to raise their despair at the silence of Salford Council and vent their frustrations in a calm and collected way regarding being kept in the dark
  • Through the summer break, very little was being stated, in fact virtually no information was provided by the council.
  • Governors and teachers were approached by parents who in turn were told, “sorry given the circumstances we are not able to comment, which was expected and understood given that there was an ongoing suspension and possible disciplinary matter to be had.
  • Mid to late August news broke that an interim head and depute was being drafted in by Salford Council.  Again, parents asked for information and completely blanked at such requests.
  • Parents shared their concerns that some of them had pupils in the school with special needs such as autism and that it was vitally important that as parents they catered for the needs of their children to ensure that they were conditioned for such a big change in their schooling and that new teachers would be in place and some faces would be totally new to them.  Despite reasonable requests being made and on good grounds, nobody from Salford Council engaged with the parents
  • On 3rd September an announcement went up on Harrop Fold’s website announcing who the new interim Head and Depute head were to be (more on that shortly)
  • Today, at the time of starting this blog it is 5th September, all children in position in the school, I believe, talking to my own Daughter who as you know started year 7 this week, have been addressed at assembly by the interim head and things appear to be continuing as normal, which for me as a parent first and foremost is a good thing and certainly it is most reassuring

Concerns based on the above observations and news clips and one or two other aspects are this …

Whilst I have been quite open and somewhat transparent in my views to date, all of which you can catch up on in this series of blogs and on my Twitter feed, I am now quickly arriving at the point where I seem to be having my true fears realised by the actions that are coming to light and what I am seeing and hearing unfold right before us.

I have stated previously that it is on record in various locations and in numerous reports written that Damian Owen “fully intends to bring a number of other schools into the control of GMLT”.  I also believe that the action taken by the council in the suspension of Drew Povey and other staff is a complete over-reaction and I fear that there is more to it than meets the eye. 

When I weigh up all of the good that Drew Povey has brought to Harrop, the culture he has built, aided by his team, as assembled by him, the monies he has put back in to the school unlike some trusts, whom, if freely available reports are to go by, have a tendency to take money out and away from the needs of the pupils, I think I can be forgiven for thinking that something just DOES NOT add up!

Salford Council bring in Damian Owen, a “Super Head” from another school across the other side of Manchester to head up Harrop Fold on an interim basis.  This brings with it questions from me that I would  invite Salford to answer. 

  • Why choose Damian Owen?   Any head teacher could have been chosen, why one from a trust outside of Salford?
  • What are GMLT getting out of their support to Harrop?
  • What has been promised to Damien Owen at the end of this – a full time job perhaps? In which case, has Drew Povey’s fate already been sealed?
  • What does the GMLT get out of this, what are they getting in return for seconding their “Super Head” to Salford Council to support Harrop Fold?
  • Has a deal been struck that the school will come under their control?
  • Who is paying the wages of both the “Super Head” and “Super Deputy Head”?  Is it Salford Council or Harrop Fold?  If it is the council then great – win/win for all!  Or is it?  Are you going to add this money to the debt already being carried by Harrop?  If it is Harrop who are footing the bill, then have they not got enough debt to worry about without the council taking the decision to go outside their organisation to find a head that will support the school whilst investigations are ongoing?

OFSTED – Another fear I have is;

  • Has OFSTED been made aware of the situation?  I am pretty sure they have been.
  • Have plans now been put in place to have an inspection carried out?  If so, what are the chances that this inspection will return a result of “Special Measures” simply due to the situation it is in?

If the school is put in to special measures, will this then lead to Harrop Fold being pushed into the trust that is GMLT?  Is this does happen, and I am not saying it will as I do not know for certain, it is only a gut feeling/fear at present, then is that potentialyl what the plan was all along?  Drew Povey, the outspoken one is removed from post, paving the way for a trust to come along and step in, which GMLT just happen to have stated publicly is their intention.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with that whatsoever and I wish them absolutely every ounce of success, I just don’t like the taste it is leaving in my mouth and as a parent, I believe I have a right to challenge that.

More importantly – a question, not for Salford Council but more so for OFSTED if I may? 

  • If you are inspecting the school in the near future.  How can you carry out a fair and just inspection if the people who are best placed to provide you with answers are not available in school to give you those answers? 
  • How are you going to navigate that situation please?  if you arrive at a conclusion during inspection without the suspended staff there, then would the outcome be relevant and would it be in the best interests of the pupils, parents, carers and indeed the staff who are at the end of a suspension process here?

Questions I have posed to Salford Council under the FOI act are:-

1. How much longer do you envisage the investigation into Drew Povey and three other staff whilst under suspension will take?

2. Can you please advise me who is paying the salaries for the two interim staff currently placed into Harrop Fold?  Is this being paid by a)Harrop fold School Budget, b) Salford city Council Budget, c) Other 3rd party budget and if so whom is paying on behalf of Harrop or the council?

3. Can you please provide me with full recorded details of business accounts for Harrop Fold School for the last 3 financial year periods?

4. Can you please provide me with full details of Harrop Fold School’s debt accrued at it’s current standing and how that has been reduced and by what means Since Mr Drew Povey took up post as Head teacher?

5. Can you please provide me with full details as to how the debt was accrued by Harrop Fold from it first going in to debt to the current date?

6. Can you please provide me with full details of any other schools in Salford under your management that have been investigated for Off Rolling concerns?

7. Can you please provide me with full details of any disciplinary action that has been taken against any teaching or management staff as a direct result of any investigation into the matter of Off Rolling and please confirm to me what position did the staff members hold and were they suspended from post during the investigation?

8. Can you please confirm in detail if any staff within any school under Salford council have been reinstated following an investigation in to Off Rolling?

Now, I am fully aware that some people may not fully support or indeed agree or understand what I am trying to highlight here and I get that – I really do.  Some may even consider me to be a potential troublemaker.  And, that is fine, I also totally get that believe it or not.  Because to some people, I will be just that, I will be a “troublemaker” a “pain in the arse” that they “just wish would go away”.  But here’s the deal…

I have a vested interest in this situation, I have a Daughter at this school.  A Daughter who needs, wants and deserves an education providing to her for the next 5 years.  Then, when she leaves this school in 2023 my youngest Daughter will be joining the very same school and as a parent I OWE it to both of them to do what is best by them.  I have a morale and parental responsibility to stand up and YES, fight if necessary for their education.  I don’t wnat to be sat here in 2, weeks, 2 months, 2 years or 20 years and look back saying, “if only I had done something”. 

That aside, and as well as my two precious Daughters I also hold another two things very dear to me  and that is Values and Beliefs, as I have blogged about previously.  I cannot and will not drop my standards when it comes to MY values and beliefs for anyone.  And that includes anyone who perhaps thinks I am a troublemaker, because I am not.  In fact if you do think I am a troublemaker then please step forward and tell me so, because that is what fuels my fire, if you believe me to be and if you tell me I am a troublemaker then that means that I am doing my job as a questioning, challenging parent.  I am getting under your skin because I am probing, prodding and challenging.  So long as I am doing it with respect, courtesy and professionalism, which I always try to do then I will continue to do it.

I am happy to debate with you on the subject.  I am happy to converse in a civilised way with you on the subject.  But please do not hide behind fake Facebook accounts or Twitter accounts.  Please do not become a keyboard warrior.  We can all do that.  We can all fire off emails and tweets and posts in order to get a reaction.  Instead, choose to have some integrity and discuss it in an open, honest and mature adult way.  And lets open discussions and agree to continue discussing until we reach a synergy where we can all be happy and we all give our pride and joy, our children, what they want need and deserve – an EDUCATION they and we can all be proud of!

Please allow me to take you back to the letter I shared yesterday.  This one;

Interim-Leadership-Arrangements

I urge you to read through this and dig deep into the way it has been worded.  Now, taking into account that different people will read into a note/message/letter and all take something different away from it, I just want to share with you what I took from it.

The message I got here was simple:

“The previous head and other staff are under investigation by the governors” – I don’t believe that to be the case for various reasons, I believe they are being investigated by the council and NOT the governors. 

“We are bringing in a Super Head”. – My understanding of this, and you will draw your own conclusions I am sure, suggests that they (the Council or Governors or whomever wrote the note) believes publicly there was nothing super about Drew Povey, even though he has turned the school around, reduced the debt by £1.5m by donating proceeds from his work and supported children who have been expelled from other schools as well as supported children with special needs. 

The letter goes on to state that they “can reassure us that our school procedures are being followed as quickly as possible.” –  Well, you can’t REassure us if you didn’t assure us in the first place surely, can you?

There is a whole paragraph explaining Damian Owen’s background that reads:

“Mr Owen is currently the executive principal of the Greater Manchester Learning Trust which oversees Parrs Wood High School in Didsbury, Manchester. Mr Owen has more than 25 years’ experience working in a range of schools. Prior to his current position, he was the principal of the Manchester Health Academy in Wythenshawe which he took from serious weaknesses to being judged as good by Ofsted within 18 months. Mr Owen holds the National Professional Qualification for Headship and has completed a range of accredited headship and executive headship development.”

My take on this is that he whole piece there suggest that his background is paramount to his requirement of the council for him to be there and that he has been drafted in to resolve an issue around Harrop Fold having “serious weaknesses”.  It also goes on to talk about credentials held by Mr Owen, suggesting that these credentials are a crucial requirement to the needs of Harrop at this given time; 

“National Professional Qualification for Headship and a range of accredited headship and executive headship development” – My understanding and further questioning to this statement in the letter would be; is there an issue with any of these areas in Harrop Fold at this moment in time?  Has Drew Povey’s leadership gone so far off the rails that it needs a different approach?  

I don’t think, I don’t believe there to an issue, I don’t think that Damian Owen, and believe me I have the utmost respect for Mr Owen as a person so long as his intentions are honourable and not part of a master plan, can bring anything more to Harrop than what is already being done.  Don’t take my word for it, go and speak to people, go and watch the countless number of videos online where Drew Povey addresses a number of organisations around leadership.  Go and look at the financials of Harrop school to see that the debt has been part addressed and more work on this was planned.

I am sorry, but something just doesn’t sit right in all of this!

Now, before I close on this thread, granted, it has been a long one this time around.  I want to take you back to the picture I posted above.  You will notice perhaps that I only posted one image tonight.  This is the image I took of a zoomed in part of a letter that my Daughter brought home from Harrop today.  As you can see from that image there is a date on it and a name along with a signature. The date is September 2018, the name is Drew Povey and the signature also is indeed Drew Povey’s signature.  Now those amongst you who have been following the story will arrive at a realisation almost as quickly as I did, only you probably will not spit your mouthful of tea all over your dining room table as I did!, that Drew was suspended on July 13th 2018 and this date stamp with his name was some 2 months post that event.  Now, let me leave you one final note to say that; the more astute amongst you will realise that in the paragraph above the signature, it talks about bullying and that bullying will be “actively discouraged”.  Does anyone spot the irony? …

Facts:

  • Head suspended in July 2018
  • Letter written and dated in September 2018 (2 months after suspension started and yet to be reinstated, let alone, not allowed anywhere near the school)
  • Bullying?  How about Constructive Dismissal?

I will leave it there folks and bid you a very good night’s sleep.  @SaflordCouncil, hand on heart, are you sleeping at night?

 

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