In March 2006 the DfES announced plans to turn Rhodesway School into an Academy. Such was the cloak of secrecy thrown over the deal that neither staff at the school nor local politicians knew that this was planned until it appeared in a Government press release.
Out of the blue, the story broke that Rhodesway would be handed over to an organisation called the British Edu Trust run by Lord Bhatia.
Lord Bhatia is a retired City of London financier. He was made a life peer by this Government. He has no previous involvement with Bradford and no direct involvement in education.
The British Edu Trust did not exist at the time of the announcement. Despite strenuous efforts to get it up and running since then, it has still not achieved its registration as a charity.
Needless to say, the hype was seen through straight away by the teaching staff who quickly held demonstrations, contacted local politicians and formed an inter-union Stop the Academy Campaign Group.
Threat to Education
Today, you would be hard pressed to find a single member of staff in support of the Academy because, in addition to the obvious threat to their job security and conditions of service, they have serious worries about the threat to the quality of education their school provides.
Rhodesway is no longer in special measures and the dramatic progress which it has made would clearly be put at risk by handing the school over to a group with no proven track record in education.
Other schools which have already become Academies have not been able to match the improvement Rhodesway has made.
It is also a secondary school with a mixed ethnic population, a feature which most people believe to be a positive thing, and this could easily be threatened by the proposed change of status.
Formal consultation has now begun on whether the school should close and be replaced by a Lord Bhatia-run Academy in 2008. Politicians on Bradford Council appear to have allowed the proposal to reach this stage.
The way in which Academies are established and run is not characterised by too much concern for democrary, and a lack of democratic procedures in Rhodesway’s case has no doubt contributed to the alienation of the staff.
There are organisations working behind the scenes to keep the Academy juggernaut rolling, and some are not above making scandalous personal attacks on teachers who oppose them, and we are talking here about public attacks in anonymously distributed material.
The staff at Rhodesway deserve the support of all of us in fighting to defend the service they provide to their pupils and their own conditions of service.
Please send any messages of support to the NUT reps, Chris Cheetham and Denis White at Rhodesway School, Oaks Lane, Allerton, Bradford, BD15 7RU