SSCIL's Response to the Consultation Report

Campaign aims:
1. We want a community based, comprehensive, non-denominational, co-educational secondary school with a sixth form in central Lambeth
2. We want genuine local consultation on how this comes about.

4 July 2002
This summarizes SSCIL's response to the City Academy proposal Lambeth Education Directorate has drafted following an extensive public consultation funded by the DfES. A report on this consultation was published late last week. Lambeth councilors are being asked to vote on the proposal on 8th of July.

Purpose/Objective
SSCIL is a group of local parents who have campaigned for a new school that will serve central Lambeth, an area "bereft" of secondary schools, as noted in the Goddard Enquiry. We have successfully campaigned for genuine local consultation about the type of school wanted and needed, and this paper is presented to help ensure that findings from the consultation are reflected as completely as possible in Lambeth's Proposal for a City Academy.

Summary
The City Academy Consultation Report prepared by Jocelyn Barrow DBE and Dawn Hill makes clear recommendations based on broad public consultation. We commend the conclusions of the Report, and the fact that many of these are incorporated in the Proposal, which has changed in important ways to reflect the community's wishes.

Whilst many of the Consultation Report's recommendations are reflected in the Lambeth Education Directorate's Proposal to Establish a City Academy in Lambeth, some important recommendations regarding catchment, governance, and faith/ethos are not.

This summarizes the critical differences between what Lambeth LEA proposes and what the public has said is wanted and needed in hope that change to Lambeth's proposal can be made to more fully incorporate the public will. The new school is of passionate interest to many people in Lambeth, especially parents of young children, and it is vital to get it right.

Catchment Area
The Report says: "There was general agreement that the school should serve the local community, although a minority wanted the school to serve the entire Borough. There was vigorous debate on whether the schools should have a catchment area or a number of feeder schools. The majority of views in meetings favoured a feeder school or similar system. "The preferred option centered on working closely with nine or ten feeder schools... "This would encourage the building of links between the primary schools and the City Academy, making the transition to secondary school less traumatic."

The Proposal says: "The project team have...rejected the suggestion of named feeder schools. The concern...is that children would still be rejected even though they came from a named feeder school. It was felt that this would be distressing for parents and their children and that such an arrangement would build hopes and expectations unfairly."

We believe that the recommendation to follow a feeder school model should be followed, as the City Academy will take the only site available in the centre of the Borough. The location of the new CA on the Wandsworth border effectively excludes Brixton from the school's catchment area, if Lambeth's proposal is accepted. As Year 6 children in central Lambeth have no local secondary schools, and no other ones are planned, the LEA's concern about their distress and expectations is not convincing. Lambeth should more seriously pursue the feeder school option as the only one likely to ameliorate the secondary transfer crisis in the Borough, and particularly in the centre of the Borough. City Academies, as publicly funded independent schools, are under no legal requirement to reject a feeder school model.

Further, there will always have to be a range of admission criteria, and parents of children in the feeder schools will still choose within a range of secondary schools - single sex, specialist x or y, the school that an older sibling attends, a Christian faith school, a school in the independent sector, an 11-16 school etc. The issue of competition will only particularly arise if the City Academy appears to appeal to some of these groups as well as to those seeking a co-educational, non-denominational, 11-18 school.

This leads us to the issue of faith/ethos. A major concern with the Lambeth proposal is that the City Academy could appeal to parents in the centre of the borough who would otherwise send their children to one of the five current faith schools in Lambeth on the basis that the ethos at this more local school will also be similar to that desired.

Lambeth Governors' Forum (LGF) estimates that this could amount to as many as 50-60% of the planned intake of 180 pupils, and could then have a detrimental impact on the profile of pupils at perhaps 2 or even 3 of the other faith schools in Lambeth. Even the loss of 5-10 Band A children per year from some of these other schools could make a difference. Lambeth LEA and the Diocesan Boards should be concerned that the City Academy does not create 2 or 3 problem faith schools in the Borough. In anticipation of the counter-point that the same would apply to other schools if the City Academy attracted those who do not seek a Christian ethos, that is not evidenced by the data. The only non-denominational co-ed 11-18 school in Lambeth is typically 7 times over-subscribed, and it is this profile of school that children leave Lambeth and travel across London to try and find. The impact of them ceasing to so do would be spread across dozens of schools in other boroughs, not concentrated on 2 or 3 schools in Lambeth that already have challenges they are addressing.

The Report says: "The consultants felt some unease about the difficulty sponsors had in their presentations at meetings in describing in detail what they meant by "Christian ethos". It was however noted that this term was clearly not intended or perceived to carry any denominational or sectarian weight. ...many respondents felt that there were already a large number of faith schools in the borough, and did not wish the new City Academy to be de facto another faith school....None of the faith groups advocated that the City Academy should be a faith school or associated with any particular faith or denomination."

Again, we concur with the Report. We are also concerned that Appendix B submitted by the Church Schools Company as part of the Lambeth Proposal is a long way from the "light touch" Christian ethos promised in the consultation meetings by CSCo, and will lead parents to perceive the school as a faith school. We attach this appendix with the parts we believe should be removed (in bold italics) for the school to be true to the ethos conveyed in consultation, not a de facto faith school.

Governance
The Report says: "That the roles of the United Learning Trust (formed by the sponsoring Church Schools Company) and the Local Governing Body in decision-making should be clearly defined, and that they reflect as closely as possible the delegated responsibilities normally fulfilled in the governance of a Foundation School." The Proposal from Lambeth, in sections 4.17, 4.18, 4.22 and 4.24 leaves the roles too vaguely defined. Further, the prescribed members of the Local Governing Body (LGB) include a faith slant that was not supported in consultation. There is no clarity on how the non-prescribed members will be selected or who will select them, even though under the proposal they constitute a majority of the LGB. Section 4.24 leaves the selection of the Head, an important issue to the public, to the Trust-which may or may not choose to delegate this responsibility to the Selection Committee.

The Report's recommendation to clearly define the roles in decision-making should be followed, particularly with regard to the appointment of the Head and the structure of the LGB-both of extreme interest in the public consultation. It was clear that the vast majority of people would like to see these rights and responsibilities spelled out more clearly and the balance of power shifted toward the local body.

Given that the new City Academy is supposed to be non-denominational, not a faith school, the inclusion of a representative of the Diocese in the prescribed members of the LGB is inappropriate.

Conclusion: As shown again in the consultation report, people in Lambeth need and want a non-denominational school, attended by local children and run by a local governing body including a head teacher hired without reference to faith. Nearly everyone agrees with the desperate need for a new secondary school in the centre of the Borough, where the primary school communities that are so successful are completely and unnecessarily destroyed at secondary transfer. Whilst the Proposal as currently written reflects many community concerns, key open areas continue to be the extent to which the new school will be governed locally, and catchment area or admissions. Given the importance of this new school to the children of Lambeth it is vital to get it right.

If you know of any news to to with the campaign for a new secondary school let us know. Contact us at SSCIL