Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Gove: Tudor grange changes "not discrimination"

EDUCATION secretary Michael Gove has insisted Tudor Grange Academy is not discriminating against non-faith pupils over changes to its admissions policy.

Click the headline or link below to read the rest of this story.


He told Solihull MP Lorely Burt the school is meeting national admissions rules by giving priority to Tudor Grange Primary Academy, St James pupils over catchment area children.

This will apply when the school is oversubscribed only from September 2014.

Yet it has angered some parents as the Shirley primary school is affiliated with the Church of England. Plans to also favour St Alphege Primary School were dropped.

Tudor Grange can make the changes as it now has academy status, giving it independence from Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council, which opposed the admissions changes.

Its academy trust – a group of schools – includes St James.

Liberal Democrat Mrs Burt said in the Commons on Monday: “Tudor Grange is a good non-faith-based secondary school in my constituency, but the governors have angered many parents in the school’s catchment area by attempting to introduce a faith school as a feeder school, whose children would take precedence for admittance over children in the local authority catchment area.

“Will my right hon. Friend advise me on whether this would constitute indirect discrimination under the Equality Act 2010?”

Conservative Mr Gove said: “I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising that issue. I know Tudor Grange and its outstanding head teacher, Jennifer Bexon-Smith.

“She is committed to helping children in difficult circumstances and is sponsoring an academy in Worcester, I think, so I cannot believe that she would take a decision that would discriminate against children in need of high-quality state education.


“The admissions code is clear about these matters, and I look forward to talking with my hon. Friend to make sure the public are reassured.”
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34 comments:

  1. Simply goes to prove how out of touch Gove is and also the Governors of Tudor Grange. Past governors of the school would be horrified at the changes planned.

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  2. What utter meaningless claptrap. "Past Governors" It is now that matters, the present governors have voted for the current plans. "Past MP's would be horrified" that women could vote. The trouble was there wasn't enough of them!! The Solihull MP is useless. She will hop on any agenda to get a sound bite.

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  3. Too right. The MP doesn't even seem to know Tudor Grange is rated as an outstanding school which at least Mr Gove seems to have a grasp of. He also knows names and of the schools work in Worcester. A good knowledge of detail at the very least. Seems he is just a little bit more in touch than Ms Burt.

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  4. It is irrevelvant what Gove has to say about this matter. The case had been taken to the Office of the Schools Adjudicator which will make a leglly binding decision.

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  5. You are absolutely right. However, it was Ms "whichever way the wind blows" who started this discussion with her inaccurate question! And she is the local MP!

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  6. Why is it inaccurate? This is all about indirect discrimination and Tudor Grange's inability to factor that into their consultation. The school may well be outstanding. The same cant be said for the leadership.

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  7. Read the Ofsted reports. Leadership and governance Outstanding. I suspect this is simply about opinion and about whether you agree with them or not. It is possible to disagree fundamentally but still respect people. The Chair of Governors has been there for well over 20 years and the head for over 10 as head and 20 as deputy and head. Looks to me as if they've got one or two things right.

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    1. That's what I used to think, but sadly the more I've looked into this debacle the more unprofessional behaviour I've seen. I'm saddened and concerned by the way the leadership team have acted, but I'm still supportive of the teachers who I think do a great job.

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    2. The last TG Ofsted was several years ago when it achieved 'outstanding' - well done. They earn a reprieve from future inspections as a reward as long as the results are up to scratch, so it's quite possible for all sorts of things to go awry in the interim. No Chair of governors should remain in post for 20 years - it's ridiculous! It will breed all the wrong behaviours and create an autocracy. Why has no-one else stepped up to do a turn? Wrong, wrong, wrong.

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  8. The question raised by Lorley Burt was not inaccurate. Gove does not state that the arrangements comply with the code, but that he does not believe that someone he rates as outstanding would decide to make discriminatory arrangements. It's not quite the same thing, unless he believes that Tudor Grange are totally infallible, which would be daft. From time to time we all make mistakes, but what is problematic here is that they seem unwilling to admit to and mistakes they have made, so how can they learn from them. Take for example the decision to remove St Alphege from the arrangements. They say that this was to ensure more spaces were available for those living in catchment, but this does not make sense. By their own reckoning this would only liberate 5 or 6 additional places so not much improvement for those living in catchment area. They could have still included St Alphege with a lower priority than those living in catchment area and therefore have achieved their stated aim of reflecting links to the school but without compromising catchment places. The only logical conclusion why they removed St Alphege is that they realised it was contrary to the Equality Act (which it would have been). Given that we know Tudor Grange were not well versed on the Equality Act, oddly believing it only applied within catchment, I can't share Gove's faith that they would never discriminate.

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  9. Long comment that misses the very simple point. The question was inaccurate because of her inaccurate description of the school. She should have known better!


    Must walk the dogs now and think of more mundane but infinitely more interesting matters!

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    1. LB referred to TGA as a good school in general terms rather than using the ofsted rating of outstanding. Big deal! It did not change the nature of her question. Tudor Grange proposed discriminatory admissions arrangements that would have breached the Equality act and caused a lot of resentment among parents. That's a more significant mistake in my book.

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    2. Really wish I had your wisdom. You know what is in the MP's head when she asks a question. You state a breech of the law as absolute fact. Wow!

      I am a parent of a Tudor Grange pupil and I can honestly say no one has mentioned breeches of the equality act at all. One or two voiced concerns about the catchment area but those fears have been allayed. Do you actually believe that lots of normal people are genuinely annoyed about possible breeches of the equality act? Smell the coffee while you take a reality pill.

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    3. I guess we move in different circles. Lots of people I know are genuinely annoyed about breeches of the Equality Act. I can't understand who would not want their school to comply with their legal duties, like the Public Sector Equality Duties which Tudor Grange appear to have ignored entirely. They are there for a reason.

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    4. I have a funny that those who are members of NSS or BHA haven't got upset about their childrens schools not having a daily act of worship, which is a legal duty in every school in the country? You are right legal duties are there for a reason!!!

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    5. Not quite the same impact though. If the equality act is breeched then people are discriminated against in a way that leaves them unfairly at a disadvantage. If there is no daily act of worship in schools I'm not sure who is harmed or how. Those who are religious are not prevented from collective or private worship outside school, those who are not religious won't suffer from the lack of collective worship. There seems no risk to social cohesion or lack of ethical teaching from a lack of collective worship at Tudor Grange because it seems their RE teaching is quite good. I think it is quite reasonable for campaign groups to prioritise their efforts where harm is more evident.
      Anyway I will rephrase my earlier comment. If LB had said "Tudor grange is a school rated by Ofsted as Good." then you would be quite right in reporting her comment as erroneous. However as she did not mention Ofsted ratings at all it is far more probable that she was referring to TGA in general terms. In a previous comment it is stated as absolute fact that LB's question was inaccurate and ,as the author of that comment must ALSO be unable to read LB's mind, perhaps it would be better to say that the author of that comment has no idea whether LB knows the correct Ofsted rating but merely, rather unkindly, assumes that she does not. In the same way that the headline of this thread Gove : Tudor Grange changes "not discrimination" appears to be a somewhat deliberate misinterpretation of what was actually said. I think it is fair to state the breech of the equality act as factual though, because there is so little room for doubt on that one. The law is not hard to understand, the breech is quite clear and this is supported by several people I know in the legal profession, the parallels with the Surrey county council case are clear, Tudor Grange themselves have , despite repeated requests, provided no counter argument to the assertion that their consultation proposals contravened the Equality Act in their responses to the OSA (which I have read) and their own actions in relation to St Alphege appear to confirm that they were concerned about the EA implications. However, if you can provide me with the a good legal argument why the original proposals would not have contravened the equality act I will willingly retract my statement with full apologies. This lack of consideration for equality issues when the proposals were put forward appears in direct contravention of PSED and hence a breach of the schools admissions code.

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    6. I agree with your sentiments Anon 22 July, but please everyone the word is 'breach', not 'breech'!

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    7. The original proposals are yesterday's news. The final decision of the governors is different. There statement is clear. They wanted to prioritise St James and the catchment area. This was a decision made as a result of the consultation, it's exact purpose!

      With the removal of faith criteria at St James and the fact that criteria have never been applied previously forms at the very least a clear basis for saying that The Equality Act will not and has not been breached. For discrimination to be possible someone has to be discriminated against. If in the future someone brought a case for discrimination under the proposed arrangements as they stand what secicifally would their legal argument be?

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    8. Religion is a protected characteristic under section 10 Equality Act 2010. Religion means any religion and a reference to religion includes a reference to a lack of religion.

      St James operates a 'Christian ethos' and whilst it is exempt from the rules on religious discrimination due to its religious character (under Schedule 11 paragraph 5), it is certainly arguable that TGA is in breach of Section 85(1(a) in the arrangements it makes for deciding who is offered admission as a pupil. This is because it is giving preferential admission to pupils from St James. The indirect discrimination is in relation to the way St James provides education for its pupils (see Section 85(2)(a)) for pupils who have non-Christian religious beliefs or no religious beliefs.

      It appears to me that either TGA St James has to abandon its religious character and become a secular feeder school for the senior school (although other primary schools might also be a breach of the Schools Admissions Code as being 'unreasonable') or TGA must not give priority to TGA St James pupils for entry to the senior school.

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    9. "arguable" is entirely different to fact or definite. I repeat, how would anybody be able to say they had been discriminated against as they have not been and will not be excuded on grounds that have anything to do with religion??

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    10. The original proposals are not yesterday's news. They show that the leadership were either quite happy to promote proposals that were discriminatory or had not thought about it properly. They seem to have been less than honest as to why st alphege was removed and have made no apology for an error that caused distress to those parts of the community that oppose religious discrimination. This is still relevant today as parents remain concerned about how decisions are being made and the degree of influence that the diocese seems to have over a school with no faith designation. I'd like to see more honesty and professionalism and less secrecy and bias within the leadership team.

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    11. Oh please get off your very high horse. They had a consultation and amended a proposal. What is this apology nonsense? To accuse people of dishonesty, secrecy and bias is, to be quite frank, disgraceful. I challenge you to put that in writing to the Academy and supply your name and address and the name(s) of the individuals you are accusing. If I was them I would seriously consider suing you for libel.

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    12. I'd be far more impressed if, rather than dismissing my opinions as disgraceful, you could provide some evidence or counter argument that shows them to be wrong. I've outlined my reasoning why I think Tudor Grange's given reason for removing St Alphege does not appear to be correct. The moment I am supplied with a better explanation as to why Tudor Grange removed St Alphege entirely rather than simply reducing it to a lower priority than catchment area then I will make amends for the error of my ways. I've also suggested I will retract my view on the Equality Act compliance of the original proposals including St Alphege if someone can suggest the sound legal arguments why that would be the case. I'm still waiting for that too. Now, let's talk about libel. Fear not, these issues and many, many more HAVE been put DIRECTLY to Tudor Grange (some of them several times over!). I think the problem Tudor Grange would have in terms of a libel case would not be tracing those that have made remarks they dislike, but rather that they failed to provide responses to dispel those negative views when the issues were raised with them directly. If you can prove a disparaging statement is not true in a libel court then why would you not proffer that same evidence/argument when asked to months earlier?

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    13. In a libel case the onus is not on the person who is being libelled to prove something the onus is on the person who wrote it!! You, in writing, have accused people of being dishonest, while you may disagree with TGA that is a step too far in my opinion. This is down to basic human respect. So what is your proof for specific dishonesty, that is the legal test. For someone who spouts about the law you seem to be off the pace with some basic concepts.

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  10. So what's this about the head having left suddenly and a man taking over?

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  11. There was an advert for a Headteacher at Tudor Grange Solihull some time ago. Don't know the detail but I would guess the current head is moving into a more Executive role with responsibility for overseeing all the schools in the Multi Academy Trust with each school having it's own Headteacher. This is a very common model for Academy Trusts and was inevitable as the Trust grows.

    I think it highly unlikely that the "head has left suddenly" and highly probable that a man got the job that was advertised openly. Sometimes two plus two does equal four!!!! Alas no conspiracies, secrets or rumours on this one. What a shame!

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    1. Jenny Bexon-Smith is now the executive principal over all three academies. She hasn't moved on and neither would I picking up £120k per annum. The new Head has been appointed, comes from 'up north' and is very strong on SEN (which bodes well as Tudor Grange's previous n SEN is quite awful). It's a shame no-ones been told more - including the pupils. Why the big secret or just another example of Tudor Grange's inability to communicate?

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    2. I do agree about the lack of communication from TGA. When my son started at the school about ten years ago, we used to have regular TG News sent home and pupil post every week. Then they moved to using the web site for communication but that has virtually ceased. I just get odd snippets from my daughter (who is still in the school) about what is going on.

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    3. The going rate for that job is more than £120k. Look up Outwood Grange Trust accounts or Greenwood Dale Trust and you will find much bigger salaries for Executive roles. If she wanted to move on she could easily earn a lot more very quickly, I am sure there will have been a number of offers from the well known recruitment companies.

      More to the point these people take on some of the poorest schools in the country and turn them round. Look at the school in Worcester and how young people's life chances are being turned round. Instead of jealous griping we should be grateful that these people take risks and get things done! Worcestershire County Council spent hundreds of thousands trying to turn Elgar School round and failed miserably. The people that lead this crucial work in poor communities deserve every single penny they earn. I am more inclined to say "thank you and well done!". How she has managed the role so far is incredible. With a head appointed at TGA Solihull I suspect that more schools will join this Trust quickly.

      As far as the special needs comment is concerned it is ridiculous. Look at the Ofsted dashboard and look at the schools performance in every area it is exceptional. The British disease of deriding success is clearly thriving in Solihull!

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    4. I have researched this site and the number of hits. There are about 10 per day. Therefore this is a discussion between a very small number of people (probably well into single figures). This proves what a small issue this is in Solihull apart from a very small band of secular fundamentalists and TGA enthusiasts. It explains why I as a parent do not hear any other parents (and I speak to lots ) discussing, or wanting to discuss these issues. Having realised I am part of a minute very sad minority this will be my last post. It is time to walk the dogs again and get a new life. A weight off my mind!

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  12. so what was the outcome of the age change.turning this into a infant/junior school? has that been concluded yet?

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  13. The grapevine is suggesting that Tudor Grange have heard from the Office of the Schools Adjudicator and the objections have NOT been upheld. The rumours are that the adjudicator has ruled in favour of Tudor Grange on all points of objection. Apparently they have requested/suggested some changes to their sixth form arrangements but these were not part of the objection. If this is true and I suspect it is, I for one am delighted.

    The secular lobby should note that it is often the case that those who talk the most and talk the loudest say the least!!!

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  14. The above is true. The decision has been published on the School Adjudicators web site. Well don to the leadership of TGA for standing firm despite some of the spiteful and simply obnoxious comments during this process.

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  15. Having read this report the outcome is very clear. Yes there are some minor criticisms on "process issues". However, with regards to the basic fundamentals of these issues the Adjudicator has come down very clearly on the side of Tudor Grange Academy. This will also have been cleared with legal advisers.

    The leadership of TGA have been totally vindicated by this report. One can only hope those with an axe to grind with TGA have a good look at themselves in the mirror and reflect on some of the the things they have said. The "secular fundamentalists" should also reflect. The Church often talks of it's commitment to those with faith and no faith. I have seen nothing in this debate that shows the secular lobby having any tolerance or respect for those with faith.

    The leadership of TGA have shown impressive calm and dignity throughout this process. Well done indeed. If I were them I would be tempted to feel a little smug. Some will think they have put a ring through the nose of the objectors and walked them to exactly where they wanted to be. But that would be an uncharitable, even an unchristian way of looking at it.

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