Sunday, September 09, 2007
Whilst I’ve been away the Heartsease Academy saga has moved on. The Norwich City Council Scrutiny Committee met on July 31st and came out in opposition to the plans.
Millionaire second hand car dealer turned Pentecostalist preacher Graham Dacre wanted to turn Heartsease School into an Academy. Dacre was formerly involved with Proclaimers International but split away to form his own church, he then linked up with Mount Zion Family Life Centre to establish Norwich Family Life Church.
Pentecostalists are infamous for their ‘prosperity preaching’, the notion that it is harder for a rich man to get to heaven than it is for a camel to get through the eye of a needle somehow doesn’t apply here. Most Pentecostalist preachers openly flaunt their mansions, limousines and expensive life styles – God has chosen to reward them.
The standard Pentecostalist beliefs are that God created the world 6,000 years ago, abortion is ‘evil’ and homosexuality can be ‘cured’. Despite challenging Graham Dacre on the Network Norwich message boards he never did reply…
The bid to turn Heartsease School into an Academy also involved the Church of England Norwich Diocese, but let’s just say there was a certain imbalance in the funding arrangements. Graham Dacre’s Lind Trust was going to invest £1.95 million and the Norwich Diocese just £50,000.
At a well-attended consultation meeting at the school the only speakers in favour of the Academy were… Graham Dacre and the Bishop of Norwich. Parents were particularly concerned that Graham Dacre would have a majority on the new governing body with only one elected parent and local authority representative.
With the Liberals and Green Party opposing the scheme pressure was mounting on the Labour Party. One MP Ian Gibson campaigned against the Academy whereas former Education Secretary Charles Clarke was in favour of handing the school over to the creationists.
The resolution from the Norwich Scrutiny Committee is a fairly good summary of reasons to oppose Academies because
• of the lack of democratic accountability
• the inordinate amount of control that would be given to sponsors in relation to the level of investment.
• although the stated intention is to maintain existing policies and procedures in respect of admissions, curriculum, inclusiveness etc., there can be no guarantee that these will continue in the future.
• of the possible adverse impact on the neighbouring schools [the new Academy would have had 1,000 pupils instead of 400].
• it was not appropriate to consider one school in isolation in the context of education provision for the whole city, particularly in view of its future as a Unitary Authority.
• Heartsease High School is an improving school and there is no reason why, with investment not necessarily at the level in the academy proposal, the school can’t continue that improvement journey.
The vote by the Scrutiny Committee is a significant blow, however, the proposals will now go to the new Children, Schools and Families minister Ed Balls. Central government riding roughshod over local opinion? Don’t worry we’ve seen it all before.
As for wacky religious groups trying to run state schools – there’s more! The Exclusive Brethren who refuse to use any electronic devices (the work of the devil) are preparing an academy bid. I’ll try to keep everyone posted.