Group of parents warns Education Secretary about ‘exemplar’ Banbury Academy

Banbury Academy
Banbury Academy

A group of 13 parents and stakeholders of Banbury Academy have written to the Secretary of State for Education, Nicky Morgan, to give their view of the practical reality when considering forcing other schools to become academies.

They offered Ms Morgan their view on Banbury Academy, formerly Banbury School, which was taken over as the first academy in the Aspirations Academies Trust (AAT) chain in 2012.

“Over the last two years, Banbury Academy’s GCSE results have declined sharply. Those getting 5 A*-C declined from 65 per cent in 2013 to 52 per cent in 2014 and 44 per cent in 2015,” they said in their letter.

“The AAT’s claim that it is improving education... was cited as justification for a 32 per cent pay increase for its CEO Steve Kenning in 2014. Mr Kenning and his wife Paula, who lead the AAT together, received over £400,000 in 2014-15,” they said.

“AAT has also paid over £210,000 in the last three years (£90k in the last year) to the profit-making company owned by the US-based chairman of the group, Dr Russ Quaglia... for ‘intellectual property and materials plus consultancy support’. Vanessa Miner, a marketing and business consultant received over £70,000 in consultancy fees for... ‘strategic advice’.”

The group told Ms Morgan that of £876,000 total ‘overhead’ costs in 2014-15, over £213,000 was allocated to Banbury Academy.

The AAT was censured last year by the Office of the Schools Adjudicator last summer for breaching the Admissions Code and restricting pupil numbers.

It also upheld concerns about literacy tests which were an attempt to manage the school’s intake the parents said.

Concerns have also been raised about exclusions, treatment of children with special needs and disabilities (SEND), the absence of qualified staff to support special needs and the redundancy of pastoral support staff.

“The school is undergoing further restructuring involving redundancy of more support staff,” said the parents.

“Parents are concerned the school will not have the capacity to deal with children with SEND and is also sending out a signal it won’t be able to deal with such children in future.”

The group has told the Education Secretary that parents’ views have changed since the school became an academy.

Initially mainly unaware of, or indifferent to, the school becoming an academy, they have become increasingly critical following decisions taken without discussion or community involvement, the group said.

They claim concerns raised have been routinely dismissed or often ignored completely.

Parents have raised concerns with several offical agencies but have found no effective reaction. These worries have gone to the AAT, Ofsted, the Regional Schools Commissioner, Education Funding Agency and the Secretart of State - all without adequate response.

“The AAT... has been held up by ministers as an exemplar of the type (of multi-academy trust) the government wants to see take over many more schools in the next four to six years. We would like to give you our perspective about how things have gone at Banbury Academy in the hope it may help to inform your judgment about plans for other schools,” the letter said.

“In considering whether to impose forced academisation on the 16-17,000 schools still LA-maintained and remove the requirement for effective parent involvement, we hope you will take account of what has happened in Banbury,” they wrote.