Feb 21 2015

Council Fails to Listen, Again, Over Welldon Park Schools’ Amalgamation

welldon_park_logoResidents in South Harrow can feel let down, again, by the council failing to listen to Governors at both Welldon Park Infant and Junior Schools.

As has been published here before, the council wanted to amalgamate – to save money – both the Infant school and Junior school, following the retirement of the Headteachers at both schools. Governors at the schools looked at the advantages and disadvantages of doing so, sought independent expert guidance, and came to the conclusion that overall, an amalgamation would not be in the best interests of children. Most of the benefits seen elsewhere in amalgamation of two schools simply didn’t apply in this case:

  • In a traditional amalgamation, both schools would be on the same site, and there would be efficiencies in a single entrance, single admin team, shared repro facilities, combined staff areas, etc. At Welldon Park, where the schools are separate by a road, two gates, and about a ten-minute walk, these efficiences simply don’t apply.
  • In a traditional amalgamation, children would have the opportunity to mix, through shared facilities, shared playspace, and the ability to merge learning facilities. In this case, the schools would remain as single educational facilities under one headteacher – a head who would have to spread his or her time across two separate sites.

[pullquote align=”left|center|right” textalign=”left|center|right” width=”30%”]No wonder Cllr Davine felt able to stab residents in the back with barely a whiff of conscience.[/pullquote]But, you’d think that the local councillors, who were elected to serve the residents in South Harrow, would actually be on the side of the schools, governors and parents, right? Not so. Councillors Margaret Davine, Jerry Miles and Primesh Patel have remained silent. In fact, Cllr Davine actually voted to ignore the views of those who had elected her, and agreed that an amalgamation was best. But that makes sense, of course: were she to cross swords with the party, her handsomely-paid allowance – set to increase by 2.2% shortly – would be whipped away, and she’d face relegation to the back benches. No wonder she felt able to stab residents in the back with barely a whiff of conscience.

Likewise, Cllr Miles, who has enjoyed several positions as committee chair, would be under the same pressure to toe the party line. And again, he has been remarkably silent on matters.

Only Cllr Patel, relatively new as a councillor, may have had the balls to say anything, but alas, he too bowed to the inadvertent party-pressure, and kept silent.

So, the Labour-run cabinet voted to move ahead with this. Is there a plan B? Well, yes, there’s a possibility of a ‘Call In’ – essentially, to see if an independent committee recommend that cabinet reconsider the decision – but it really doesn’t matter what a Call In recommends: the cabinet is 100% Labour, and so nothing will change. The only remote possibility is that the counil will see sense, and U-turns are not a common sight these days.

So, let’s predict the outcome: the acting head of the Junior school, who has been running it for the last couple of years, faces competition from an outsider. There will be pressure from the council to appoint a head who has experience of a larger, all-through school, and the acting head, despite being well-liked by children, staff and parents alike, will lose out to an (probably) older, (probably) more experienced – and (probably) unknown – head. He’ll thus be relegated to a Deputy Head role, and will seek a new job, as head, elsewhere.

The acting head of the Infant school, who has been in the role for just a few months, will also be relegated back to a Deputy position. Despite probably not being in the running for headship of an enlarged school, an extended period of acting head would give her good experience; that experience is likely to end after just two terms, and she too, will seek a role elsewhere.

Staff at both schools will leave, as is often the case when a head moves on. And a new ‘executive head’ (to use a phrase) will need to find a new deputy in fairly short order, plus a couple of assistant heads. All will probably be new to the school, all will require assistance from the council, and governors, to review CVs and to interview. This distraction will impact childrens’ learning. Add in the loss of £150k per year – despite vague promises of some ‘split site funding formula’ from the council, which results in a ‘cost neutral’ end game, says the council, and the end result will probably turn into a failing school. But that doesn’t matter: the council will have got it’s own way, right?

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