Swiss Cottage: why an Academy and not a community school?

One question was asked repeatedly to UCL s provost Malcolm Grant during the only public meeting about the new Swiss Cottage school that he saw fit to attend. Why does UCL want to sponsor an academy rather than a community school? Judging from his body la

One question was asked repeatedly to UCL's provost Malcolm Grant during the only public meeting about the new Swiss Cottage school that he saw fit to attend. Why does UCL want to sponsor an academy rather than a community school?

Judging from his body language, that question had never occurred to him before. The only comment he managed to offer was that no other kind of school had ever been mentioned to him.

There are at least two important differences between academies and community schools. First, academies are not subject to the body of education law that protect parents and pupils in community schools. In an academy, parents and pupils have fewer rights. Secondly, whereas governing bodies of community schools include representatives of all stakeholders (parents, staff, local authority and local community), the governing body of an academy is dominated by the sponsor's appointees in a way reminiscent of the political style of the old Soviet Union. Governing bodies are responsible for appointing the headteacher and for keeping track of his or her performance, so a dysfunctional governing body has potentially disastrous consequences for the life of a school.

UCL's Prof Grant and Camden's Tory/LibDem administration have provided us with plenty of evidence that they are scared of openness and of public debate:


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1. They withdrew details of their secret negotiations in the Spring while holding what they at the time described as an open consultation.

2. They have rejected calls for an open competition between various kinds of schools, so that the best proposal could win.

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3. They have filibustered the full council meeting on Monday 10 by talking waffle in order to waste time and reach the end of the meeting without having to discuss the academy proposals in public.

4. They are proposing a school with a Soviet-style governing body to avoid any scrutiny of the future headteacher's performance.

Michael Gorbachov managed to undermine the system of command-and-control in his native Russia. May he come to the Camden Town Hall and to University College London to spread some glasnost and perestroika among our local Brezhnevs and Podgornys.

Luca Salice

Chair of governors

Torriano Junior School

Torriano Avenue, NW5

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