Durand Academy Part 3 : Libel With A Vengeance

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Durand Academy Boarding School The Vision

“Now I’ve visited other urban academies where discipline has driven up results. It’s not what’s radical about Durand. Once Martin got the structure right in the classroom, he started work on the physical structure. He sold off the playgrounds.
‘We still have playgrounds. But yeah, I built flats on some of them. And a swimming pool. And a
flood lit pitch.’
This is how he built his dream. To be a developer of dreams he became a developer of property. He started, on school land,a thriving accomodation business and a swanky gym that is shared between students and the fee-paying public. This is what has paid for two beautiful swimming pools (all children from age of four upwards get an hour’s instruction a week); the loveliest most well-appointed classrooms; and extra teachers to halve class sizes in lower streams.”
– Helen Rumbelow (Political Journalist for the ‘Times’)

A brand new middle school building, smaller class sizes, increased teacher support, and property developments that have helped to fund the next stage of the Durand Academy’s development. Without a doubt Sir Greg Martin deserves all the praise heaped upon him by both the parents, Mr Clegg and Michael Gove. True, there has been an NQT drop out rate of 40% (in the past), conflicts with Lambeth Council (the libel action was suspended in 2010 after the Auditor offered an unreserved apology for his e-mails),and even conflict with disgruntled NQTs (and their parents), but all of that according to Ofsted is in the past. And Mr Martin is now free to proceed unimpeded with the next stage in his plans, a state funded boarding school. Oh there may be shivers running down the spines of those educationalists who believe that the whole point of Public Sector Schools, is that they impart a quality education, whilst in no way resembling elitist (divisive?) independent schools. But that is because their ideas are firmly fixed in a past where doors could be left unlocked when you went shopping, and policemen roamed London streets armed only with truncheons.
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What could be more ‘innovative’ than a state funded boarding school run by a cutting edge academy for urban kids from one of London’s most deprived boroughs? Bussed in each Sunday evening, they’d be immersed in a tranquil, thoroughly academic atmosphere, in which a cultured, culture of learning would be assiduously encouraged. And all of those external influences for which Lambeth is apparently famous (drugs, guns, knife crime) excluded, freed from the socio-economic shackles of Lambeth, these children would realise their potential more fully than might be the case were they to be educated at one of the twelve secondary schools Lambeth Council is able to provide. Say, for example, Dunraven High School (rated outstanding by OFSTED, GCSE pass rate in 2012 – 73%) or
La Retraite RC Girl’s School ( rated outstanding by OFSTED, GCSE pass rate in 2012 – 74%) or perhaps even the London Nautical School, which shares the same GCSE pass rate as Park Campus, Lambeth’s Secondary Pupil Referral Unit (55%, the national average is actually 58.2%).

The percentage pass rates of Lambeth Schools are in the main, above the national average and would compare very favourably with the performance of schools in say, West Sussex, the neighbourhood in which Mr Martin intends to build his new school, with the help of £17m worth of taxpayer’s money as approved by the Department for Education.
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Now, although the Durand Academy project has been lauded by some ‘as a wonderfully ambitious attempt to give children from one of the most deprived parts of London an Eton-style education’ others have been less enthused.

In June, the National Audit Office criticised the Department for Education for committing £17m of the taxpayer’s money to the project without sufficiently assessing the risks. Margaret Hodge, MP for Barking & Havering and Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, also wrote a letter expressing her concerns to the parish council. They in turn made it clear that though the project was well-intentioned, they found it hard to understand why the Department for Education, should elect to build a brand new secondary school for Lambeth school children in West Sussex, when there were 9 secondary schools in Lambeth
(with a pass rate of between 60-70%), capable of providing a ‘Good’ or ‘Outstanding’ education for the self same students.
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On this occasion both the National Audit Office and Margaret Hodge were fortunate. Mr Martin elected to reprimand them both by way of a written letter expressing his disappointment at their lack of enthusiasm and setting out his proposals,reminding them both that the school had already self-funded itself to the tune of £8m. What Mr Martin failed to explain in his letter was why he felt the need to set up a secondary boarding school when there appears to be so little wrong with the quality of secondary education in Lambeth(according to OFSTED).
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Perhaps the answer lies with Mr Gove, who has frequently stated that his intention is to produce an education system that will not only equip students to excel at university, but will also provide the next generation of skilled workers.
With that in mind one wonders what he and his department are doing to ensure those 41.7% of students who don’t excel academically, are able to receive the kind of vocational training that will equip them to take their place as skilled workers in the modern world.

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Durand Academy Part 2 : Libel Harder

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A barrister’s review of the Carter Ruck Textbook On Libel & Privacy An NQTs first port of call

Lord Adonis once said that,
‘Innovation is a prime purpose of free school academies, and has been since the launch of the academies programme’

And which common place person would dare to disagree with him? There is, after all, a reason why this former Minister of State for Education earned his peerage. Just as surely as there is a reason why Mr Greg Martin, having taken his school from moral failure to outstanding brilliance, was awarded his knighthood.

Can I just pause for a minute to thank the headmasters of the following Lambeth primary schools for also having a hand alongside their teachers in the improvement of their schools? Let me see, there’s Clapham Manor Primary (rated as outstanding),Henry Cavendish Primary (outstanding), oh, and Allen Edwards Primary (also rated as outstanding). Then there’s Glenbrook Primary (rated as good), these are all good schools, none of whose Heads appears to have been awarded with a peerage as yet, though in the future who can say? The quality of education in Lambeth’s primary schools is such that teachers are falling over themselves to teach there;one rarely hears of young teachers serving out only two months of their time, and then going to law in order to air their grievances, unless of course that school happens to be the Durand Academy. The teacher concerned found herself forced to consult with her union, and then had to take her case (which she had won), to an Employment Tribunal. Whereupon she then had to apply for a County Court Order, in order to force the school to pay her the sum which had been awarded to her by the Employment Tribunal.
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Had I been a fresh faced university graduate this amount of unpleasantness would have put me off teaching for life. But worse was to come, the poor NQT found herself dragged before the General Teaching Council in October 2008, at the bequest of the school who accused her of professional misconduct, in that they alleged she had failed to work out her full notice. Miss Newall may have had right on her side but the Durand Academy had Carter Ruck Solicitors, which makes the outcome all the more remarkable, for the charges against her were thrown out, and the General Teaching Council went on to say this,
“We heard much evidence about the management of Durand School in this hearing which concerns us, in particular regarding the way induction and school teacher’s pay and conditions were managed. It is not our function to deal with such issues but we note our concern”.
Interestingly Lambeth Council had prior to this expressed concerns to the school, with regards to the drop out rate of its NQTs. Lambeth overall had a drop out rate of 1%, this contrasted starkly with the Durand Academy, who between 2001 and 2006 recruited 101 NQTs, 39 of whom failed to complete their induction year, a drop out rate of about 40%.
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A line might have been drawn under the matter as regards Miss Newall, were it not for her father who enraged at his daughters treatment, had made a number of allegations which, alas, he could not prove. Again the Durand Primary & Middle School instructed Messrs Carter Ruck and Mr Newall found himself obliged to render the school’s headmaster an apology, and in the words of Carter Ruck Solicitors’
‘All costs that could be recouped, given Mr Newell’s financial situation, were paid to Durand [Academy]’
The Durand Academy has admitted to incurring £387,00 in legal costs as a result of pursuing legal proceedings against Miss Newall and her father. But that is as nothing when one contemplates how much was spent on issuing legal proceedings against Lambeth Council and its auditor (I’ll touch on that some other time).
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The Carter Ruck ‘Chill’