WALTON GIRLS’ HIGH SCHOOL SHOULD REMAIN A GIRLS’ SCHOOL
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On the week commencing 13 November 2017, the Multi Academy Trust (called DALP) and the school submitted a proposal (Ref. ENQ-240894-L5W8C1) to change Walton Girls’ High School into a mixed-sex school (coeducational). We are very concerned about this.
To become mixed-sex Walton’s will no longer be unique and it will lose significant strength. There is a lot of worry that this proposal is being forced through no matter what.
DALP is not honouring their core primary value, on their website it says: “Our core focus is the accomplishment and development of each individual student. We believe that this is best achieved through maintaining and developing each academy’s unique identity and individual characteristics”.
DALP ARE NOT MAINTAINING UNIQUE IDENTITY OF WALTON’S SCHOOL. THIS IS NOT EVEN ‘DEVELOPING’ THIS IS A FULL-SCALE REDEVELOPMENT.
This petition is for: John Edwards, Regional Schools Commissioner for East Midlands and the Humber who advises the Secretary of State for Education (Justine Greening).
If you also wish to write (quoting Ref. ENQ-240894-L5W8C1), his address is: John Edwards, Academies Regional Delivery Group, East Midlands and the Humber, Level 6, St Paul’s Place, 125 Norfolk Street, Sheffield, S1 2FJ. Tel: 0114 2742288; email: EMH.RSC@education.gov.uk
Reasons Why Walton’s Must Remain a Girls’ School.
The economic argument presented by the school about wanting to attain their full Pupil Admission Number (PAN) is short-sighted and weak. The school seems to be on track to becoming ‘outstanding’ at the next Ofsted inspection and this will almost certainly increase future applications of girls to Walton’s as their first choice anyway. Together with Grantham’s forecasted rise in population these factors mitigate their PAN argument. Walton’s should be concentrating its efforts on maintaining and improving our girls’ school as a girls’ school. One doesn’t improve one’s reputation as an apple-seller by becoming an apple and pears seller, nor should the school be expected to do so.
It is quite likely that the very disruption and inevitable change in the day-to-day life of the school will be changed beyond recognition by the admission of boys. Mixed school are inevitably very different places from single-sex schools. This is most likely to have an effect on the next OFSTED inspection – by such a fundamental change they risk stalling or reversing the school’s improving OFSTED rating.
Whilst it may be suggested that opening the school to boys will increase its potential PAN, there is no guarantee that its popularity amongst girls’ parents will not decline, especially if standards stall or decline because of the change to co-education, and the ultimate result may be that very little if any financial gain is achieved in the long run.
The school says that they have a duty to improve the education of those who do not attend our school – whether they are girls or boys – this is wrong. It may be a concern of the DALP and Lincs L.A. that there are insufficient good places for boys at its existing schools. Walton’s duty is to our school, all that it is and stands for, and they should resist any attempt by the MAT (DALP) to use our school to further their broader aims (that risks our school’s detriment).
There may be something of a conflict of interest and duty between the governing body of our school and DALP. Their duty as governors should primarily be to our school, and the wider interests of DALP is of secondary concern. Moreover, their duty as governors overrides any perceived duty to the wider educational establishment, whether the DALP or beyond.
If, and only if, it can be demonstrably shown that our school will benefit from becoming co-educational, i.e. the pupils currently enrolled, then the proposals deserve consideration. However, the onus fairly and squarely lies on those advocating the change to show that our school will benefit from the change. That some broader aim of the MAT, such as giving greater choice for boys’ parents, may be satisfied is not enough, nor should it be.
Consultation Process - Areas of Concern
The ‘consultation process’ presented is not consultation but is a Public Relations Exercise. The Academy’s presentation of this is highly prejudiced and the consultation process seems to be designed to get the result they want. In short this has all the hallmarks of trying to achieve a done-deal. Evidence for this is:
- Number of boys attending the open evening. As the school is still an all-girls school and the coed decision was still in consultation, why was this allowed? I don't think they should be advertising/marketing the school during the consultation process. This simply reinforces the idea that the decision is already made and the school is just ticking the boxes.
- School Website: If you visit the school website, the opening screen is overtly biased with the included quotations all in favour of the proposal. This may unduly influence any reader who will want to form their own independent opinion based on facts alone rather than on the opinions of others. Also, there is no specific area on the website (a forum) to discuss things openly.
- Withholding Information: During an open consultation meeting (10-10-2017), the Academy and MAT confirmed that parents / carers can write directly to the DofE. It was recommended that it would be beneficial for the Academy to let everybody know about this via the website and to give the necessary contact details – this has not happened. Also during this meeting, they said that you will let everyone know immediately that the application has been submitted and all the documents will be available on the school website – again this has not happened.
- Poor Communication: Originally, we were given ‘parent-unfriendly-times’ for drop-in sessions and the formal presentation. The change of time for the Formal Presentation (21st Sep). was not put on the website - only the old times were there. Also there was no formal presentation – only questions and answers session.
- Governors: Did they have enough time to question, consult, comment, and advise? They had an Extra-Ordinary General Meeting on the evening of 4th September and notification of the intended proposal went public the following day!
- Stakeholder democracy is being ignored. During an open parental presentation (21-09-2017) D.Clinton (DALP, acting CEO) was asked: "If the website questionnaire shows that a majority or significant proportion have ticked the “not in favour of becoming coeducational” – what will do to ensure this democratic opinion is respected and what will you do to help to ensure that Walton remains as a girls’ school?" Clinton replied to the effect, that if a majority or significant proportion were not in favour of becoming coeducational, she would not help the Academy Stakeholders to ensure that Walton remains as a girls’ school. It is reprehensible that none of the panel (LAB Chair & Vice Chair, Principle & Deputy) sitting at the front stepped in to challenge the fact that the stakeholders’ democratic opinion will be effectively ignored by DALP (whether for or against the coeducational proposal).
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