Thursday, March 22, 2012

Stoke by Nayland Free School: 'kick up the backside' for coasting neighbouring schools with inexcusable poor performance.

As you may have read on this Blog free school proposers have been insistent that existing schools should distribute their promotional material. As you may recall the Thurston pyramid schools refused to do this but some kind of an agreement was brokered by the County Council in the Stoke by Nayland area that has meant that schools there have agreed to do this.

A person called Margaret Read recently emailed a selection of local schools with an invitation for parents to attend an event organised by the Seckford Foundation at Stoke by Nayland Gold Club. There was a flyer attached with the Seckford Logo and their catch phrase Your child, your choice.

These emails were sent from a personal Yahoo mail account and copied to Porfolio Holder for Education Graham Newman, apparently in an attempt to make sure the schools did as they were told. Read even asks the schools to confirm they have sent the messages out.

Margaret Read then goes on to email Graham Newman. She says:
We are fully aware of this tiny group called COMPASS and the political characters involved in its creation and running. Overall, COMPASS' influence has been pathetic and its not worth giving it any credibility. We are fully aware that you are doing an excellent but extremely difficult job in these testing times. Quintessentially, your heart is in the right place when it comes to the education of the children of Suffolk and without any doubt, we fully appreciate all the help that you have provided to facilitate the possibility of a choice of local rural high school at SbN for generations to come. As you know, Suffolk secondary school performance overall is poor, but I am confident that your very brave changes will have a huge positive impact in the next few years.

The demand for SbN High is truly there although there may have been issues in which parents may have not been fully aware due to alleged certain awkward circumstances with existing schools. But please continue to provide all necessary assistance to the Seckford Foundation in order that this application is made to the DfE. I am sure SbN Free School will be one of highest performing schools in Suffolk and the gem of the Seckford Foundation Freeschools. SbN Freeschool will also help to 'kick up the backside' coasting neighbouring schools with inexcusable poor performance.

I'm sorry to copy you into these emails but its hoped that by doing so will persuade these Gt Cornard pyramid headteachers to send out the information via parentmail so that parents can make an informed decision rather than being kept in the dark.
Take care, keep up the good work & thank you so much
The COMPASS group she refers so disparagingly to are another parent group but they oppose the free school. They recently produced an excellent response to the DfE on the free school proposal and helped in the campaign that saw the original free school bid from Stoke by Nayland rejected.

Ms Read doesn't mince her words about local secondary schools suggesting the free school will "help to 'kick up the backside' coasting neighbouring schools with inexcusable poor performance". Strangely this was not mentioned in her email to local schools asking them to distribute the letter.

As the Seckford Foundation are the proposers of the Stoke by Nayland School I asked them for a comment about Ms Read's opinions as stated in the letter. Graham Watson, Director of the Seckford Foundation send this curious response:

Graham Watson
Dear Mr Hargrave 

We do not know Margaret Read or what, if any, interest group she represents. She may be, like you, someone who has no locus standi beyond having an interest in the subject of free schools. Please note that we do not intend to engage in any further correspondence with you but will continue to monitor your blog in case you publish any defamatory comments in the future.

Should we be approved to pre opening stage you will have an opportunity to raise any points you wish as part of any public consultation process.

Yours sincerely
Graham Watson
So according to Graham Watson the Seckford Foundation know nothing of Ms Read. They appear strangely unconcerned that she has been corresponding with the Heads of local schools promoting an event they organised and sending a flyer with their logo and contact details on.

Cllr Graham Newman however clearly does know who she is and replies:
Thanks for your continued support—better coming from me than you.

And also please disregard the comment made by a COMPASS member at the Stoke by Nayland Golf Club meeting regarding my view of the proposal. It is not true, and I've told her that face to face. They will refer you to a SCC letter of August 2010 in which the "sufficiency" statement was made, although of course "sufficiency" can stifle, and does not necessarily facilitate "choice"!

Kind regards

Graham N
I did email Margaret Read at the weekend asking for a comment on her email message but when I tried to email her again today the email address appeared to have been deleted....

This is all very strange. But in any case I can now welcome the Seckford Foundation who are now "monitoring" my Blog! Seckford are very welcome to join in the discussion by using the "comments" feature below if they would like to.

I have now published a response to Graham Watson's letter "our children, our choice"

Tomorrow I look at the thorny issue of school transport, the real enabler of  choice in rural areas - look out for "free school shorts" on my Blog

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