Response to Secretary of State for Education’s comments on Birmingham schools
Cllr Brigid Jones, cabinet member for children and family services,Â said: “Birmingham City Council has been calling for some time now for the Department for Education to accept the failings in both the department and its academies, and publish a plan to address them, as we have with ours.
“I am pleased to see this Secretary of State now doing so. Parents of children in academies, which answer directly to the DfE, need confidence that failings in those academies will be taken as seriously by the DfE as we have taken the failings in ours.
“On that note, however, I must again express my disappointment that the Department for Educationâ€™s recent review of its own actions was undertaken internally. Birmingham City Council submitted itself some time ago to extensive independent external review on this issue, and to command the confidence of parents I believe the DfE should have done the same.
“A huge amount of work has been done at Birmingham City Council since the allegations first arose. While there is still more work to be done it is important to stress that the small number of governors involved in the initial allegations have been long since removed. We have taken swift and firm action in tackling issues in our maintained schools where necessary. Our progress continues to be monitored and driven by a fortnightly meeting which includes the Chief Executive,Â Leader of the Council, and our Education Commissioner.
“We have already strengthened our governor appointments and training process and have launched a new whistleblowing policy across the council that should give people greater confidence in our ability to respond to future concerns, from both staff and the public. This covers all schools, including academies and free schools, and has a monitoring mechanism to ensure all complaints are followed through.
“We continue to be committed to developing the Birmingham Education Partnership and have invested in additional capacity to support this. We are working hard to build a new relationship with schools and a new way of doing business and welcome the extension to Sir Mike Tomlinsonâ€™s appointment and the role he is playing in brokering this.
“Regarding Saltley school, we had recognised the problems there before the allegations broke; indeed we first applied to install an interim executive board well before these allegations first broke. Following DfE permission to do this we have provided effective challenge and support to the schoolâ€™s leaders. The IEB has a good oversight of the schoolâ€™s work and regularly and robustly check the progress that is being made against the areas for improvement. The work of Washwood Heath in supporting the school has been invaluable.
“All our children must have access to a broad, balanced and progressive education which will prepare them for life as citizens a diverse city and society. We believe it is important that the need for a national debate as to what constitutes this isn’t lost amid a scramble to shore up structures.”