Bemused by school governing body's Orwellian response

The report by the Chair of Governors of Fortismere not only fails to make the case for foundation status but continues to spin the facts (We are laying foundations for success, H&H Broadway July 5) . Firstly, it is not government policy that all state sch

The report by the Chair of Governors of Fortismere not only fails to make the case for foundation status but continues to spin the facts (We are laying foundations for success, H&H Broadway July 5) .

Firstly, it is not government policy that all state schools should become self-governing. It is that they should have the opportunity to do so, subject to consultation. The governing body has been Orwellian in its response to the consultation. The 200 respondents opposed, representing 70 per cent of all responses, has been transformed at a stroke of the keyboard into 5 per cent. Never mind that those also included the local schools that the governing body are so keen to maintain working relationships with. This is called 'enormous support'.

And it goes on. PFI is a problem and, it is claimed, foundation will make a difference. But since that opportunity won't arise for another 20 years, why make the change now? Protecting the land from Haringey Council is given as another reason. Interestingly, in a document that the governing body has refused to make public, Haringey stated very clearly that claims that money had not been handed to the school from building sales were simply wrong. And, in another letter, guaranteed to pay for a survey and transfer any money from sales to the school. That money will now have to come out of school funds.

There is a reluctant acknowledgement that Haringey will not change the admission system, but the move still has to take place to protect it from the risk of future political change. That somewhat begs the question as to what guarantees there are that future changes in control of the governing body won't lead to changes in admissions.


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Since any significant discussion by the governing body is held in secret, including all those on foundation status, we can have no idea of what they are considering. Unfortunately, despite being offered many chances to clarify their position on 6th form admissions under foundation, the governing body has refused to say they will not re-introduce entry restrictions to the 6th form.

So, back to Orwell, there are no plans for selection except for the 6th form. So students who previously had the opportunity to achieve A levels, and did so, will be denied those opportunities. Not a great contribution to social mobility but an easy way to coast up the league tables.

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It is difficult to be reassured about the governance of the school based on past performance. In parent governor elections last year, two stood on an avowedly anti-foundation position and received more votes that the four others combined.

Those two were then elected and three that lost were then co-opted on to the governing body. Of the rest of the governing body, none have faced any election on this issue.

There is a very simple way to gauge the level of support from parents. There is now a parent governor vacancy. Hold an election before any decision is taken, allow candidates to stand on clear positions both for and against foundation status and have an open debate followed by a secret ballot. It's called democracy.

Neil Martinson

Danvers Road, N8

Jane Farrell's article continues the Fortismere governing body's previous trend of inaccuracy and misrepresentation. Taking her points in turn:

Land and buildings: it was in fact the previous governing body which proposed a development of the school site which involved selling some land to raise funds for re-investment.

As part of this, the council agreed to swap the old sixth form building for 13 Tetherdown, making the balance of cash received available to the school.

This sum then sat idle in the council's coffers for several years as the school failed to progress any scheme.

As for PFI, foundation status will not help in any way because the contract is between the council and the PFI company, and can only be altered collectively with all eight schools involved.

Furthermore, foundation status will not secure any additional funds from the new Building Schools for the Future programme which has been secured for all secondary schools in Haringey.

Comprehensive admissions: it is absurd to suggest that the governors are proposing foundation status to stop the council changing the current comprehensive admissions system.

No such change has been proposed by the council. It was after all the governors who tried, unlawfully, to introduce selective education into the sixth form.

Rewarding staff: the governors currently have all the flexibility they need to retain and reward staff.

They were, in fact, perfectly able to pay the current head a golden hello of £40,000 from school funds which was deemed a poor use of public money by the council's director of children's services.

Parents are in favour: there is no evidence of ''enormous support'' for foundation status from parents.

The only evidence is the recent consultation exercise which showed 70 per cent opposition. If the governors are really confident of their case, they should arrange a ballot of all parents and students.

Jane Fehler

(Fortismere parent)

Cranley Gardens, N10

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