Pimlico School Anti-Academy Protest

hg10 590On my way home tonight, passing Pimlico School, I saw a couple of policemen inside the gates. I prickled, thinking poor them, it’s so cold and they’ve got to go in there and find someone who’s disappeared over the fence or something.

It turned out there was something less dramatic but just as interesting and exciting going on. A group of ex-governors are protesting against the demolition of the school and its transformation into an Academy. They were helped by some anti-grafitti artists who used a high-pressure hose to clean off the words “Anti Academy School” on the front wall.

I went and filled their hot-water bottles for them – it’s bloody cold out there and then came back for a chat. They were keen for me to climb over, but the combination of my inflexible legs, the anti-climb paint and my general scaredy-catness meant that I conducted my interview from the other side of locked gates. One of the protestors, Hank, very kindly rigged up an alternative ladder combo to help me, but I gratefully declined.

I spoke to Anthea Masey about what they were doing there. The interview petered out as we were interrupted by a year 10 pupil from the school who was passing but didn’t want to be seen on camera but had a lot to say in praise of the school as it is.

I have no opinion on this issue either way – I personally think the building’s ugly. I can imagine how uncomfortable the classrooms are when the sun shines. I know nothing of the academic record or merits of the case for the current regime, Westminster Council or the protestors, but I’m happy to lend a hand to people who are passionate enough to spend a night under the stars on a freezing February monkey-ball-freezing March night in order to have a say on what they believe in.

Much is written about generational divides, mostly about frightened older people disturbed by young hoodies. Tonight I witnessed a different one where the spirit of protest lives on in those over 50 while 14-year-olds think making a stand like this is pointless and stupid.

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13 thoughts on “Pimlico School Anti-Academy Protest”

  1. Your scaredy catness radically improved the interview. ~Great job – better than telly. With every word she utters our opinions shift, evolve, strengthen. I love the way you stuck on your subject. Brill.

  2. Mr Adlads, I bow to your superior knowledge of the calendar. I was too easily tempted by the simple alliteration of freezing and February. My apologies.

    Mr Booth, bless you for your kind words – I do kinda wish I’d had an assistant with me holding the camera, it would have been worth it to have footage of me trying to clamber over the railings :)

  3. Ofsted don’t take the decision to place a school under special measures lightly. Likewise governors are only dismissed when they have proven themselves to be incompetent and unable to address shortcomings that would have been highlighted by both Ofsted and the Local Education Authority.

    Furthermore whilst old school buildings may appear “iconic” and quaint all too often the cost of maintaining a crumbling infrastructure becomes significant and a new school is a practical alternative.

    The formation of an Academy provides the parents and children of this failing school with a fresh start. The existing staff with the exception of the headteacher and deputy head will be guaranteed a place in the new Academy. This is mandatory under existing government legislation.

    The staff will have new teaching facilities and equipment and this should be seen as an opportunity to be embraced rather than resisted.

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  5. Farouq,

    Ofsted, we believe put the school in special measures because it gave control to Westminster City Council, who have long made it plain they want to hand it over to one of their cronies – Venture Capital and Tory Party donor, John Nash. But perhaps you are a tad too trusting of authority to believe that such things are possible in dear old England.

    The new building, paid for out of our taxes, will be handed over to Mr Nash. In the outgoing governing body there were 7 parent governors and 3 local councillors. If it becomes an academy, there may be one of each. How’s that for local democracy and parental involvement.

    You are equally misinformed about the rights of staff in the new academy should it come about. Working conditions are generally worse in academies so perhaps you can understand why staff (and indeed parents and pupils) are a little less enthusiastic about academies or indeed the motivation of Westminster City Council who, in support of low council tax, have neglected the building in the years since they took it over from the Inner London Education Authority in the reign of Lady Margaret (Thatcher) and Dame Shirley (Porter) she of the 10p cemetries sale and allocating council houses to Conservative voters.

  6. Farouq,

    Do not believe everything you read in the press.

    There have been dirty tricks and semantics employed in Westminster’s drive to turn Pimlico Shool into an Academy.

    In the non-statutory consultation, over 70% voted for the school to keep its current status. Only 4% voted for an Academy. At the cabinet meeting which followed, we were informed by Westminster Council, that the majority view could be delivered by making Pimlico into a school that was ‘community in ethos if not designation’ which is a contradiction in terms, This could be achieved by Academy status.

    Two signatures are required when looking to change to Academy status; one from the governing board, one from the local authority. In Pimlico’s case, it was the same person, Steve Farnsworth Director of Schools and Learning, and the chair of the Interim Executive Board, imposed when our governors were strongarmed into dissolving themselves.

    Incidentally, and very conveniently, Steve Farnsworth has just resigned his position.

    Pimlico currently has a very exceptional Music Course, for which it is allowed to select up to 10% of the school population, on musical aptitude. If it becomes an Academy, Westminster have dictated to the proposed incoming sponsor, that 10% selection will no longer be allowed.

    Westminster/IEB pepetrated a lie that there would be no more funding at all for the music course after April this year, before the deadline for representations that could be made about the proposed closure of the school and change of status in September. This I believe slightly altered the nature of some parents’ responses.

    The Department fot Children Schools and Families have also employed their own dirty tricks. There was an undertaking by the council, that existing students on the music course, would have their provision upheld and paid for. The DCSF are, meanwhile, suggesting that provisional support for the existing students to complete their music studies could be made, but ONLY if the school becomes an academy.

    In the last consultation, it was stated that the main reason Westminster was wanting academy status for the school was to ensure the school’s admission criteria; non-denominational comprehensive admissions. Yet is is proposing to give Quinton Kynaston School an unprecedented £2 million endowment fund, in order to secure the same admissions criteria.

    The current school building, an iconic one symbolic of a more aspirational education than the current government’s new build proposal, could, according to emminent architects, be completely refurbished and brought up to 21st century specifications, and at a lower cost than a total rebuild. The newbuilding has been severely compromised by the pennypinching of Westminster’s refusal to decant the school population.
    I quote from one local westminster resident’s representation regarding planning permission for the new school “The tortuousness in approach of a new school being built around the existing while still in use, brings with it cost penalties on several fronts, as well as major design restrictions.”

    He is not alone in this view. The school will no longer have a swimming pool (in fact it has already been demolished even before the agreement was signed releasing the money to the contractors to start the rebuild) and will not be replaced. The new build will have fewer facilities to serve its current highly rated specialism of visual and performing arts. it will not even have its own library. It will have to share this, even during school hours, with the public.

    The new school building has been deemed ‘not fit for purpose’ by CABE the government watchdog. Even those wanting to see the current building demolished are unhappy with some of the unsuitable and unworkable features of the proposed new build. I have read all the representations made before planning permission was granted, so I know what I am talking about. I’m not sure that you do.

    The proposal to demolish and rebuild the school with the entire school community still on site in a ‘funtioning’ school,’ at no cost to our children’s education simply beggars belief. The Battersea Crane Disaster Action Group have condemned this proposal too as being too dangerous and have joined with the Pimlico School Association.

    As for the proposed new school; simply equipping a school with tons of new computers, does not equate to improving education. Selecting the Academy option allows the school to operate outside of Education Law, allows it to opt out of Teachers’ and Support Staffs’ Pay and Working Conditions for new staff joining the school. Meanwhile the control of the school is handed over to the sponsor, just because he is a successful business man and can put £2 million into an endowment fund, from which the school benefits £100,000. The rest of the running costs are supplied by the DCSF, and thus tax payers’ money. The site and new school will be handed over to him on a 125 year lease. Does any of this sound fair or reasonable?

    Incidentally, the Director of Westminster’s Building Schools for the Future programme is also leaving in April.

    All the parents really wanted, was for the necessary support to be given to help those areas needing to be turned around. The entire school is NOT failing. Some students are not being as well served as they should or could be. However, over 70% of 6th formers achieved A-C A level grades. 50% achieved 5 or more A*-C GCSE grades in 2007, the school’s best ever results despite being under special measures.

    What Pimlico is guilty of, is being too honest. The previous head (some would say foolishly) refused to play the games that Academies are so good at, namely increasing the number of vocational qualifications, helping to ensure an apparent rise in exam results. There is a 12 fold increase in GVNQ qualifications being taken in Academies. 1 GVNQ Intermediate is worth 4 A*-C GCSE grades.
    GVNQ’s in IT and Applied Science, are particularly prevalent. The curriculum at some Academies has suffered as a result. Fewer of the ‘more able’ children study Foreign Languages, History and Geography, and Visual and Performing Arets, compared to other schools in the maintained sector. (These statistics come from a recently published MP’s Committee of Enquiry into Academies.)

    Meanwhile, there are some FE Colleges, who will not accept GVNQ’s as suitable qualifications for entry requirements, unless they are at least Merits or Distinctions, and then only recognise ! GVNQ as being worth 1 GCSE subject. A GVNQ Intermediate qualification is seen by many as being equivalent to an E grade at GCSE.

    Would we really be serving our children well by insisting that even the more able should study for GVNQ’s instead of GCSE’s in some subject areas? Not ALL Academies adhere to this policy, I know, but it should not be down to pot luck if you happen to live near one which is more reasonable. Every child has a right to an education which opens up their world view, and not one which caters for a narrower vision of supplying businesses with work fodder.

    So Faruq, I would be interested to know if you still agree that we should just roll over and think the new proposed academiy is really such a fine idea after all. Pimlico School still has many quality features and ideals worth fighting for.

  7. At least u don’t have to go to the school now.
    to be honest its more annoying then before not due to the students or the teachers but the head teacher Mr Collins and his staff he brought into the school they’ve decided to enforce dress code for sixth form and decided on vertical forms, whats more annoying is that no matter how many students and others approached him he still says the same thing in which people “supposably” agree with this idea not once have I heard someone say its a good idea except either they don’t care or the teachers were forced to say its a good idea.

    Furthermore he is planning on making the sixth form tutor the lower years in which he uses the words volunteering but as a student there not once have I heard it was optional so therefore its forcing us to do it and the only way it could be classified as volunteering is that we don’t get paid.

    But to the point of school uniform or how collins likes to put it for the sixth form “dress code” in which it is not for the boys considering its black trousers black shoes and a shirt so you might aswell say a uniform is that he says the reason for this is to be fair to the lower years because they have to wear uniform but to be honest life is not fair, you can’t have have the reason for a rule because its unfair to the lower year then you might aswell say its unfair that you get to watch 16+ movies its the same principle and whats worse is that the verticle form system will exclude year 11s because their GCSEs are “more” important so naturally I’m just going to assume that my AS aren’t a priority.

    So I’m going to do everything I can to stop the academy from doing whatever they want without even listening to the people the school was built for THE STUDENTS!

    Even if it does mean having to protest constantly during my lesson.

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