Monday, June 16, 2014

The Battle of Hove Park

What on earth has been happening at Hove Park School? It appears the head teacher of the popular school in Hove and its governors want it to become an academy. A great number of the parents, the local education authority, local council and many of the students don't.

The head teacher is a guy called Derek Trimmer who says on its website that the school's priorities are "to Raise Academic Standards and to Narrow the Gap in experience and attainment of all Hove Park Students" [sic].

The Hands Off Hove Park School campaign - slogan: "say NO to academy status for Hove Park School - says that "academising" the school would not help pupils' learning and that it would lose access to a wide range of local authority services from which it has benefited in recent years.

A campaign spokesman says: "We are dismayed with the way the school is conducting moves towards this proposal, without an open, transparent and democratic consultation.

"We are campaigning to convince Hove Park governors their proposal will be detrimental to the school, its pupils and local communities and should be rejected outright.

"We are against the dismantling of state education across the country and are involved in the wider campaign to ensure all children now, and for generations to come, have access to excellent education in local comprehensive community schools with fair and equal admissions policies."

Brighton and Hove Council is also concerned. In early June a meeting of Children & Young People's Committee voted in favour for a ballot of the school's parents on whether it should become an academy. 

This is something that the head and the governing body had been trying to avoid.

Academies are, according to the Government's own website, "publicly funded independent schools". 

This in itself sounds oxymoronic. Could you imagine Eton or Harrow being publicly funded? If a school is genuinely independent, why should the taxpayer have to contribute? If it is publicly funded, how can it be independent?

Academies "don’t have to follow the national curriculum and can set their own term times" and they "get money direct from the Government, not the local council".

The Government explanation goes on: "Some academies have sponsors such as businesses. . . Sponsors are responsible for improving the performance of their schools." 

None of this sounds to me like a particularly good idea. 

What's the point of having a national curriculum if some publicly funded schools can opt out?

You may run a cracking pallet business, but how does qualify you to drive performance in schools?

It is interesting to note that Mr Trimmer - a so-called superhead who has also become "executive head" of a nearby primary school - has been criticised for going on a work trip to Saudi Arabia.

In a press release, the campaign says it has written to the chair of the governors to ask why members of the senior leadership team, with other staff members, are making trips to exotic locations like Saudi Arabia and China during term time.

Nice work if you can get it!

The campaign says: "The school has failed to respond to a Freedom of Information request [about this] over a month ago."

It would appear senior staff have been to Saudi, China, Germany and Denmark and the trips are believed to "relate to the school's iPad roll-out and involve the multi-national computer company Apple."

Stranger and stranger. Mr Trimmer made a big deal in the local press in Brighton about every kid in his school getting an iPad.

Then, it was reported online, that the parents would have to pay for them!

I have also heard talk of headteachers' pay, and governors' rewards, going through the roof when schools become academies.

Surely, that could not have anything to do with it?

It strikes me the Conservatives have made much of the localism agenda. Writing in The Guardian in 2009, David Cameron argued: "Tony Benn once spoke about wanting a fundamental shift of power and wealth to working people. I too want that fundamental shift - to local people and local institutions." He added that the Conservative Party wanted "nothing less than radical decentralisation, to reach every corner of the country".

How does taking local schools such as Hove Park out of the hands of local people and local education authorities and making them directly accountable to central government fit in with localism? 

Whatever the arguments for and agin academies, what has happened at Hove Park School has not been democratic.

Three of the parent-governor places on the governing body have not even been filled. Elections are only being held now on the orders of the local education authority.

If you want to find out more about this perplexing and troubling issue, check out Hands Off Hove Park petition website, or the blog. For what the controversial head has said and done, Google "Derek Trimmer".

My friend Natasha Steel, a mum at the School and leading Hands Off campaigner, tells me there will be a march and picnic on 5 July, starting on the lawns opposite the King Alfred Leisure Centre car park in Hove.

Her spouse, stand-up Mark Steel, and my old chum Shappi Khorsandi will provide the comedic entertainment later in a rally at Hove Park, where Brighton MP Caroline Lucas will be speaking.

It should be an interesting event.


I am enjoying Brazil 2014 - the third World Cup since I have been writing this blog.

Of the 11 matches so far, there have not been no draws, and around 35 goals have been scored - an average of just over three per game.

England has played well. . . but not well enough.

They would be fortunate to get through the group stage and I would be amazed if they got further than the quarter finals.

The Dutch have played brilliantly and Brazil look very strong.

I loved watching little Costa Rica beat Uruguay 3 -1, and Switzerland winning against Ecuador in the final minute of stoppage time. The Swiss never gave up trying.

Generally, I don't even particularly enjoy or watch football (apart from when the Mighty Rooks are at the Dripping Pan, of course).

Real football fans must be seventh heaven.


Our beloved cat Mr Cheeky is making a good recovery after his misfortune with a motor vehicle.

Vet Helen at New Priory animal hospital was absolutely brilliant with the little chap.

She was on the night-shift when he went in and kept us apprised of his progress by phone. Much appreciated!

Nurse Tori was also really good when I picked up Mr Cheeky some 24 hours later. Mr Cheeky seemed a changed cat.

Unfortunately, he needs an operation for a hernia injury sustained in his accident. I took him into Acorn vet's where they are also really good.

In the car, Houdini-like, Mr Cheeky somehow managed to get out of his basket and I had to do an emergency stop to catch him again.

I am picking him up after his op later.

Fingers crossed.


I was sad about Rik Mayall's death.

I used to interview him occasionally when he was playing Alan B'stard, and knew one of his writers, Maurice Gran.

Rik was a tremendous performer - a natural comedian.

Recently I watched a DVD of Believe Nothing, in which he played Quadruple Professor Adonis Cnut, co-starring with Michael Maloney and Emily Bruni.

Only one series, of six episodes, was made before it was axed by ITV in 2002.

It is absolutely hilarious. Check it out!


I have received a hardy annual: the letter from the Allotment Society reminding me to weed my plot at Earwig Corner rather more assiduously.

For once I do not have an excuse for not doing more.

In fact, in my current situation, gardening seems entirely appropriate.

I have planted a triangle of crops: onions, shallots, garlic, potatoes, horseradish.

Flowers of various hues and breed are seeded around the outside.

Now I am creating a herb garden with a recycled groyne from Shoreham as a feature.

But the weeds keep coming.

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