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Friday 5 December 2014

Michael Gove – Pants On Fire

[Update at end of post]

The reign of Michael “Oiky” Gove at the Department for Education (DfE) may have ended, but the revelations of just what a complete shambles his supposedly Very Wonderful reforms bequeathed to the nation’s education system keep on coming. And with news of a supposed “superhead” not apparently being quite as super as was made out at the time, his honesty is again in question.
Yes, "Oiky", your honesty. Or lack of it

Oiky” penned an article in the Standardstill available on the Government website – in 2011 in which he praised the achievements of Patricia Sowter, who “took over her first school, Cuckoo Hall, when it was in special measures and risked closure because it was so bad. Now it is one of England’s best, doing far better than the national average”. And she was starting a Free School!

As Fraser Nelson obligingly told in the Spectator, “Gove is due to visit Woodpecker Hall, set up by Patricia Sowter, a successful headteacher in Enfield, east London. Frustrated at having to turn so many parents away from her old school, Ms Salter [sic] has set up a new one free from council control”. Even the deeply subversive Guardian was sitting up and taking notice.

Cuckoo Hall primary school in Edmonton, north London, is likely to be one of the first primary schools in the country to become an academy. Inspectors have rated the school ‘outstanding’, so it could achieve academy status as early as September. Patricia Sowter, its headteacher, says her main motivation for turning becoming an academy is the extra money the school will receive”.

However, and here we encounter a significantly sized however, all was not as it seems, and either “Oiky” did not do his due diligence, or Ms Sowter had conned him something rotten. Cuckoo Hall was not in special measures when she arrived; it had come out of that status three years earlier. Moreover, an Ofsted report the year before Ms Sowter arrived rated the school as “good”.

Why does this matter? Ah well. Ms Sowter, now “Executive headteacher” of Cuckoo Hall, which did indeed become an academy, her husband Phil, director of the trust running the school, and current headteacher Sharon Ahmet, have all been suspended following allegations of gross misconduct. The claims include exam result fixing and bullying. And there’s more.

Gove was not the only minister to visit Cuckoo Hall; Young Dave has also graced the school with his presence. But, as the Mirror observed, while “Mrs Sowter was given a CBE in 2011 for her work in pioneering the government’s push to encourage schools to become academies”, and Cuckoo Hall was rated “outstanding” before it became an academy, that had slipped to “good” earlier this year.

Perhaps the investigation will also ask Gove why his pants are yet again on fire.

[UPDATE 6 December 1000 hours: following my posting this item, the BBC picked up on the story and you can see Marc Ashdown's report HERE.

What is immediately concerning about the information he presents is the sudden and steep fall in the percentage of pupils at Cuckoo Hall passing their SATs - down from an excellent 86% in 2012 to a mediocre 54% only a year later.

Parents, understandably, just want to know what is going on. This also highlights the problems with taking schools out of local Government oversight - you only know there is a problem when this kind of situation arises.

Zelo Street will keep watching this story, so there will doubtless be more to follow]


Unknown said...

You should follow up on this story since I understand that all allegations have been withdrawn and the heads cleared. It seems rather sad that the allegations were so widely reported, but not the subsequent result.

Anonymous said...

From one unknown to another: "You're having a laugh, you understand that all allegations have been withdrawn..." Ha ha