Responses to Crowded Out

Last week we printed a copy of a Guardian Education article on closing schools in Hackney. Interestingly, in the same week we found out that Laburnum Primary in Haggerston had been taken off special measures but was still to be closed. Below are responses to the article from the head of the Learning Trust and a governor of Stormont House School. Tomlinson spins a nice angle on the story but it’s revealing that a man who argues he wants to” raise the level of public debate” on education in Hackney should so blatantly disregard the concerns of parents, teachers, pupils and support staff at Laburnum and Kingsland by closing down both schools.

Closing Kingsland
I was concerned at a number of aspects of your article (Crowded out, June 17) concerning the closure of Kingsland school in Hackney by the Learning Trust.

I was astonished that nowhere did you state clearly the reason the Learning Trust took action to close Kingsland. In November 1999, Ofsted inspected the school and found it failed to provide a satisfactory standard of education. That has remained the situation throughout the last three and a half years. Consequently pupil numbers plummeted as parents and children declined places at the school. The Learning Trust is not prepared to have parents send their children to such a school.

It is relatively easy to suggest that the school should have been kept open another year until Mossbourne Academy opened. It is harder to identify a reasonable message we could have sent to parents whose children were to start at the school in its last year. “Please send your children to this failing school that we intend to close” is hardly a responsible position for the Learning Trust or any local education authority to have taken.

As you rightly note, for existing key stage 4 pupils we indicated we would make an arrangement with local further education colleges. This is exactly what we have done, as you again record. To call this chaos is an odd use of words. I recognise that leading articles linking chaos and Hackney have been common in the past. This, however, is no longer the case.

The Learning Trust has conducted all the business of closing Kingsland school in the proper public arenas. The proposal was quite legitimately challenged, and as a consequence was passed to the schools adjudicator. This independent public body supported the trust’s proposal to close Kingsland and the arrangements for the continuing education of those pupils still in the school.

We want to raise the level of public debate around education in Hackney and in this spirit we welcome criticism, even when for the sake of emphasis it parts company with reality.

Mike Tomlinson
Chair, the Learning Trust, Hackney

Will sense prevail?
As a school governor in Hackney for 17 years, I found your article did not tell the whole story surrounding the closure of Kingsland school.

In autumn 2001, governors of Stormont House school, a highly successful special school in Hackney, were asked by the then LEA to second our headteacher, Angela Murphy, to Kingsland school with the clear objective of turning round what was then a failing school.

However, less than halfway through her time there, the LEA (even before the Learning Trust took over) started consulting on the closure of Kingsland. It is a testament to the leadership shown by Angela Murphy that, notwithstanding closure proposals hanging over the school, Kingsland has now come off special measures within weeks of its closure.

Therefore Kingsland school is only dying because the Learning Trust was determined to kill it.
What is clear is that the lack of democratic accountability of the Learning Trust has allowed the situation to develop, with the council’s education scrutiny panel apparently powerless to intervene.
Must we wait until the Ofsted inspection this September for sense to prevail?

Andrew Bridgwater