Well, last week was a week and a half wasn’t it? …..

Well, that was a strange week I must say.  And, it is getting a little stranger I believe, I don’t think it is going to stop getting stranger either….

Last week ended with the Chair of Governors at Harrop Fold resigning on Friday.  I am not sure how the events unfolded but I was made aware late on Friday and then the story was published in the Manchester Evening News by @NealKeelingMEN A number of people were tweeting about the story ….

News Story

I personally have a number of questions off the back of this decision.  Questions such as; where does this leave the Governor Panel?  Has Mrs Boyson stood down as the Chair or has she left the panel altogether?  In reference to my request to visit the school over two days as per the letter below;  does this “closed door” response still stand, or can it be revisited?

It seems the decision of the Chair to stand down has sparked further questions being asked by many others.  Questions of the council around who exactly is pulling the strings here.  A number of people (according to statements on Twitter) believe that the Chair may have resigned because many parents, as well as a number of teachers and other professionals within education believe that it is the council who have called for the investigation leading to Drew Povey and three other staff having been suspended.  This is something I have maintained as my own personal thoughts from the start and nothing has happened so far to make me change my mind.  However, I am always willing to be proven wrong if this is not the case.

A couple of people, too few to worry about really, have stated, again on Twitter, that the reason for the Chair to step down is due to pressure that the Parent Group have created in asking so many questions and pointing the finger at the Governing Panel for not acting quickly enough, not challenging where and when challenges were believed to be required.  Have we put pressure on the Chair and the Governing Panel?  Yes, I believe we have.  Should we have put pressure on them?  Yes, I believe we should have!  Do we regret the situation these challenges MAY have created with the Chair having stepped down?  No.  And here is why …

I have thought since the start of this that something is not right.  I have shared those thoughts with you on here and also on Twitter and Facebook, I have also spoken out about it in the media..  I believe that something is amiss.  The longer time goes on, the more I believe something is not right.  I am sorry that the Chair has taken the decision to walk away/step down, whichever the case may be, but I am sure she has her reasons.  I am hopeful she does not feel that we have put undue pressure on her that has directly led to her decision but I still stand by the same values that I have been vocal about since this situation unfolded on Friday July 13th 2018.  In fact they are the same values I have had way before it started.  The values that are the ones that have been instilled in me from a very early age by my parents.  You see, in my book you either have true values that you stand by or you simply just do not have any values.  You can’t choose whether to have them or not depending on who is involved – can you?  My values include integrity and the need to be standing up for what is right regardless of who may get upset.  Let’s not beat about the bush here.  The Governing Panel have a duty to the pupils and the parents to ensure that the right platform is in place for children to learn, and that platform is there to enable them to learn without fear of being bullied or attacked.  They are there to ensure that the pupils are not bringing knives or drugs in to school, they are there to ensure that every pupil arrives safe, learns safe and goes home safe.  And, if that ever gets compromised in any way shape or form then they should be the ones that are standing up and challenging regardless of where the challenges need to be pointed, whether that be at the Head (in this case Interim Head), the school, the council or indeed each other as fellow Governors.

I don’t know all of the Governors, I have only ever met two of them, one at the meeting between the school, council and Governors, and Councillor Critchley, whom I have met on two occasions, the Parent Meeting we held on the 27th September and again at the Open Night at Harrop Fold recently.  I have no issue whatsoever with any of the Governors and both I and the Parent Group support the Governors completely, SO LONG as they are prepared to fight for what we are fighting for, which is the safety of our children and also for getting the school back to where it once was so that each child comes into school and is able to learn without disruption and without fear of being bullied, beaten or even worse.  They need to be fighting to support parents, so that parents like I and the 159 other parents who are on our Facebook Group are able to go about our daily business, be it at work or otherwise, knowing that our kids are safe in school, learning what they need to be without fear that they are at harm or likely to come to harm.  If the Governors are not in full support of that then I think the outcome is simple, walk away, move aside and allow someone to support what we are fighting for. 

The sceptic within me now comes out again at this point and I start wondering whether the Governors are somewhat stifled in their thoughts, their approach, perhaps they want to say something but are afraid to for fear of repercussion.  A lot has been talked about on Twitter recently about educational failings, about people being shut up and stopped from speaking out for fear of being put in front of the higher authorities such as the DfE or the TRA perhaps the Governors are in the same boat, perhaps there is something not quite right within Harrop Fold that is leading the Governors to not fight for the pupils and parents alike?  Perhaps this is the reason that the Chair of Governors has stepped down, stepped away from the school?  Maybe, maybe not, we may never know.  I just hope that people have the same values as the ones I speak of and if the above thoughts and somewhat sceptic concerns are significant then perhaps people are willing to speak up and be counted.  Let’s hope they do so before something serious happens and there is a special case to answer to within the school because nobody is listening, because we are told time and time again that what we are saying is all hearsay and not factual.

That is the part that gets me the most, the fact that we KNOW things are not right in the school.  We have teachers leaving or going off sick, we have pupils crying and pleading with parents to keep them off school, not just because of the bullying and fighting but also because of the fact they are NOT learning.  They can’t learn because the environment they have been PLUNGED into is not fit for purpose.  We have had parents write to us and tell us that they have taken their child out and put them in to St Ambrose Barlow or in to Walkden High.  This is real, this is happening right now under the noses of the Council and the Governors.  I have personally written to the Governing Panel, Deputy Head and the Council and asked them can I come in and see for myself how a school day unfolds, see for myself if it is as they say only “Hearsay” or is indeed as we say and is “Factual”.

My email to the school, Council and Governors sent on 14th October 2018

Dear Claire and Harrop Fold Governing Panel,

Firstly, I have to say that as a school you do make it extremely difficult for the parents to have access to reach out to the Governing Panel.  In fact unless access is done through the school email address, which quite frankly, response from that email address is one of the issues we have as the parent group,  this is nigh on impossible.  Thank goodness for Google eh!?  There are no contact details on the site for contact or access to Governors and I have had to trawl the internet in search of the Chair’s email address, which is in itself a concern and one that does not promote fair and just transparency or fundamental support at any time, let alone when we have such pressing matters to contend with.  Perhaps, as a point of feedback, this is something you could take away as an action point to address?

I could not find any other Governor contact details and quite honestly I gave up as a result, as I have far better things to be doing with my time. The cynic in me would suggest that is the purpose of such exclusion of parents?!

The main reason for my contact to you is to ask that given the events that are unfolding at Harrop at present and the apparent understanding from some (Teachers, Interim Head, Interim Depute Head, Cathy Starbuck) within the school and council that our perception of the school in its current unsafe situation is merely “Hearsay”, which I not only find an insult, but also find it to be wholly unhelpful to anyone but yourselves, I would like to take this opportunity as a parent to request access to the school to undertake a walk around and attend some lessons across two school days beginning next term and to take place w/c 29th October.

The basis of this request is that, I believe there to be safeguarding issues within the school with disruption to classes, pupils attacking other pupils and lessons being stopped due to unruly behaviour that is going unchecked by teachers.

I believe I have a right as a parent to request this and I would very much appreciate it if you can see your way to accommodating this at the time I have requested?

I appreciate that this request will in itself bring a question of safeguarding for yourself but let me assure you, I am not looking to be left unescorted in the building and I am sure me sitting within a lesson being delivered by a Teacher will cover off any concerns you may have.

So, just to be clear, I am requesting the following be arranged please:-

  *   2 full days in school during the week of 29th October (Can I suggest Monday 29th and Wednesday 31st October please)
  *   Access to areas within the school so I can observe where pupils attend lessons and other activities such as form time and assemblies
  *   Access to the COGS teaching area to observe lessons in that environment

Can I please ask you to confirm your agreement to this request by 21st October so I can make necessary arrangements to attend?

Kind regards

The response from the Harrop Fold email address and sent on behalf of Chair of Governors sent on 17th October 2018

Message sent on behalf of Anne Boyson, Chair of Governors

 Dear Paul

Thank you for getting on touch.

Can I reassure you that all parental concerns are taken very seriously by staff, governors and Local Authority (LA) officers. I would urge all parents to report any concerns you have directly to the school so they can be thoroughly looked into and appropriate action can be taken.  This is in line with the school’s complaints policy (a copy can be downloaded from the school website) and the school will endeavour to address any concerns you raise as fully as possible.  If, however, you were ever to be unhappy with the response you receive from the school, you can raise it with the Headteacher or me as Chair of Governors (as appropriate) as outlined in the policy.

The governing board (GB) is also always contactable via the school email address.  Please mark your email For The Attention of the GB and it will be passed through to us. Governors personal email addresses are not provided and this is usual practice.  This is to protect governors’ privacy and also because individual governors are not in a position to respond to parents directly, as this has to be done via the GB and it’s procedures.

I am sorry but it is not possible to accommodate your request to visit the school. There are clear policies and procedures on how lessons are observed in schools and these are agreed with staff and trade unions.  Any visitor to the school would need to be escorted at all times around the building due to safeguarding and this is not possible. One of the important roles of the GB is to monitor standards of teaching and behaviour in lessons and across the school, so please be assured we have listened to your concerns and they will help inform our discussions with the senior leaders at the school.

Kind regards

Now, call me a cynic but the problem I have here is the email came from the “shared” school email address and not from anyone’s individual work email address.  The issue I have with this is it could have come from anyone at all who has access to that email address.  Perhaps;  Cathy Starbuck, Lisa Stone, John Merry, a Teacher, Office Manager, School Secretary, Interim Head, Interim Deputy Head, perhaps any one of the 12 or so current serving Governors listed on the Harrop Fold Website.  That is where my cynicism is, it could have been anyone portraying to be the Chair.

Whoever wrote it, they clearly do not want to allow me, nor the Parent Group to go into the school and see for ourselves what is occurring.  I am reading from the response above that “The computer says NO, what is the question” is the order of the day.  Which, is quite ironic really given that we have been told on more than one occasion and by more than one person within the Council and/or Harrop that “your concerns and issues raised are HEARSAY and NOT FACTUAL”.  Yet, when I approach the powers that be, and ask for the opportunity to see for myself that our concerns are unfounded and that stories are “being embellished” I have the door well and truly slammed in my face.  Again, my cynicism comes to the fore once again.  If you have nothing to hide then why not pacify me, why not engage with me by enabling me to come into school and have YOU prove to ME and all other parents who have concerns about “The Zoo that used to Harrop Fold High School” is NOT taking a tumble further into the dark old days of years gone by? 

I would love nothing more than to be proven wrong and guess what, I would be all over Twitter and on this very blog stating how completely and utterly wrong I and all other parents have been about Harrop in its current state.  I would be singing from the roof tops about how I went into school over two days and found everything to be fine and dandy and that any concerns by us are ill-founded and give credit where credit is due and acknowledge all of the great work that the Interim Leaders are undertaking and that we can all now get on with our lives.  

Interestingly, two of the four Parent Group Representatives were in the school last week for two totally independent requirements and both witnessed absolutely terrible behaviour whilst there.  A member of my family was also in the school and witnessed similar unruly behaviour.  Behaviour such as; pupils screaming vulgarities at each other AND at teachers, pupils on the landing throwing paper airplanes onto the floor below, doors being kicked.  A teacher telling pupils “please do not go that way, go this way please”  Only to be totally ignored and said teacher to then turn around, walk away and be heard saying, “oh well, just do the total opposite of what I have stated, what do I care”.

This is a school that is on its knees.  This is a school that has lost its bearings on the journey to success.  In fact this is a school where the wheels appear to have come off, not one wheel that can be fixed by getting the spare out of the boot.  No! This is a vehicle, where all of the wheels have come completely off and it has hit rock bottom.  It needs a Leadership AA truck to come along, jack it up, fit new wheels and get it moving along again on that journey of education for all!  In fact, it doesn’t need a new set of wheels.  Because, there are four perfectly good wheels that have been mothballed.  Shoved in a garage somewhere, gathering dust, deflated, waiting to be put back in service again.  Will it ever happen?  That I am not sure about in all honesty.  This car crash seems to be going from bad to worse.  I state again that I am growing increasingly concerned over the whole handling of this situation.  The investigation, the way behaviours in school are being dealt with, or not being dealt with as it would appear.  Whether the Interim Head and Deputy Head have what it takes to get things back on track.  For me, I don’t think they do have what it takes.  One minute we get letters home to parents signed by the Interim Head, which is fine, that is what he is of course, but he states in his letter that he “has a vision for Harrop” and that he wants to share that vision.  How can an Interim have a vision if he is only Interim, if he is merely “caretaking” the place whilst an investigation is ongoing?  For me, the fact the Interim Head has a “vision” implies that the decision that Drew Povey was never coming back was made a long time ago and that the Interim Head writing this implies that he was aware of that decision! We then get letters sent home having been signed by the suspended Head, Drew Povey, which in itself is absolutely crass but not surprising in all honesty!  Then we get an invite to attend an Open Night for parents, parents of children who are still in primary school and are looking to choose their High School, the brochure has a picture of Drew Povey (suspended head) and a welcome note from and signed by him stating why parents should choose Harrop.  To me, that is false advertising.  I CHOSE Harrop for my Daughter purely for the Team Harrop ethics headed up by Drew Povey and his senior team, some of which are no longer in the school.  Yet, as a new prospective parent wanting their child to join Harrop they were passing the school off as having that same Head there who has instilled and created that GREATNESS about Harrop.  That in itself is WRONG, it is so wrong on many, many levels!   Then we get a letter home, again addressed to parents stating facts about Social Media and how Harrop School should be respected.  Respected?  I’ll tell you what respect is – perhaps you should consider not sending out a letter that is signed by a Teacher that is currently off school on sick leave.  That is what should be respected.  All of this, I personally believe should and quite possibly may be in time to come, be put in front of a tribunal court if events turn that way.  As I say, I have many questions over the handling of this situation and I don’t think a great deal of thought has gone in to much of it if I am honest.  Just my personal take on matters of course.  People’s livelihoods are being played with here and in a very amateurish way.  

I just think a lot of things need to be looked at in great detail to see what has gone wrong, where it has gone wrong and perhaps more importantly how it can be prevented in the future.  A true Learning Opportunity.

Someone needs to put the brakes on, they really do!