Politics at the root of Mexbro’ Co-op school

Sir,

I write to comment on your article on the proposed merger into an “academy” of Mexborough School with two other under-achieving schools, Sir Thomas Wharton and Balby Carr.

The “public” consultative meeting on this issue was indeed a sham.

It was, in fact, supposed to be a joint meeting between the public from the areas of all the three schools. As far as I am aware little or no publicity reached the interested public of these other schools either.

While I wouldn’t directly blame the headteachers of these three schools for the failure to properly inform the public, they are in a position of leadership and could have influenced the process.

Who did call the meeting? The consultation booklet setting out the proposals has no author and is not even dated. I assume it was the Mayor’s Cabinet, but we don’t know where the documents originated from.

As far as I am aware, the suspended Mexborough School governors themselves were never formally invited.

I now find one of the Mexborough Labour councillors did not receive documentation on the proposals on these vitally important changes.

It is proposed that the three schools form a Trust which includes other partners. A representative from the three schools and the Co-operative movement attended, but there was no representative from any of the other proposed partners, nor from Doncaster Council at the meeting.

The most controversial of the proposed partners is probably the inclusion of the French multi-national construction company Vinci.

Vinci are in a Private Finance Initiative (PFI) arrangement with two of the schools, including Mexborough.

In other words, Vinci Construction effectively own and control the school buildings while the council pays them fees over a period of 25 years.

Many would argue that the inclusion of Vinci in the Trust partnership amounts to a conflict of interest particularly as there is a financial gain from their present involvement with Mexborough and Sir Thomas Wharton schools.

Questions asked but not answered at the meeting were:

* Who continues to pay the PFI fees to Vinci – presently paid out by Doncaster Council?

* Where will the continued debt lay? Will it move to the proposed Trust who will be responsible for the land and assets transferred from the Doncaster Council or will it remain with the council itself – who carry the debt but, presumably, never take control of the school buildings?

* If the School Trust carries the debt, are the Governors of the schools concerned aware of this additional burden upon their finances?

These proposals are supposed to be designed to increase educational achievement across the schools.

There is no overall objective evidence that academy schools improve educational attainment; in fact many have got worse.

There was no attempt at the meeting to outline how educational achievement might improve under this “academy” Trust, nor did the documents attempt to discuss how, once the Trust is outside Local Authority control, these proposals would improve things.

Local Government provides the services and professional expertise, which the proposed Trust school would have to buy in at great expense.

There is no educational reason why this Trust proposal – with schools forming partnerships to help each other improve – couldn’t stay within inside Local Authority control

Many schools have improved in such an arrangement and have been successful whilst remaining under Local Authority auspices.

This is simply politically and ideologically driven by the Conservative-LibDem Coalition in attempt to break up state education, increase privatisation and weaken local government and its role in the community.

People of Mexborough should be concerned about what might happen to our school under these proposals and I hope they will raise concerns with their elected representative and through the consultation process which should continue.

W Lawrence,

Mexborough