To: “Head@hovepark.org.uk” <Head@hovepark.org.uk>, “firstname.lastname@example.org” <email@example.com>, “firstname.lastname@example.org” <email@example.com>, firstname.lastname@example.org
Dear Mike Nicholls, Hove Park School Chair of Governors and HPS Governing Body,
We have reached the end of the first week of consultations with parents at Hove Park School about academy conversion. During the week, Hands Off Hove Park has been informed by a number of sources that members of the senior leadership team are saying and indicating that a relatively low turn out to parent consultation meetings is ‘a good thing’ and indicates consent of parents to academy conversion.
Assuming that the information we have been given is correct and that the numbers are lower than expected, Hands Off Hove Park would like to point out a number of deficiencies with this analysis.
1. All but one of the meetings to date, which have been for the youngest children, have been held at a very inconvenient time for parents, coinciding with the daily commute and rush hour and meal times for most families as well as with the beginning of the exam timetable.
2. Families have not been given balanced information on the risks and implications of academy conversion, which as Hands Off a Hove Park has pointed out to the Governing Body are many and considerable. This means that they may not consider the meetings a priority over other commitments they might have, especially when it might mean leaving work early or dropping out of school activities or using valuable time set aside to support children with revision for GCSEs and A levels.
3. These problems are enhanced for one-parent families, those with a parent working away and those with under-fives
4. The biased literature that has been sent out about the conversion proposal actually reads like a done deal, saying ill-advisedly, for example, that there is a ‘moral imperative’ to convert. This means that a lot of parents believe the decision has already been made and they have no influence over it.
5. The failure of the school to provide a balanced panel is off-putting to parents wanting to hear a range of views.
6. As the invitation to consultation meetings has only been sent out by email, many parents don’t know they are is taking place. Such mass emails often end up in junk mail folders where they lay unchecked. Members of Hands Off Hove Park report that they frequently meet parents who haven’t received anything at all about the consultation meetings.
In most social and business research activity, a high response rate is considered essential as it reduces non-response bias and provides the strongest data on which to make a decision. Any research with a non-attendance (non-response) rate similar to those of the consultation meetings would be considered meaningless by any professional social or business research orgainisation. To make any statisitical inference from the meetings, extra effort would be required to reach those people who have not engaged.
We are surprised that a leadership team that prides itself on its business intelligence is using such a poorly conducted consultation to research transformational decision-making. We worry that this is the style of consultation and leadership that parents and children could expect under the proposed new academy.
As one parent has pointed out in a letter to the Independent – a more thorough consultation took place when the school was deciding on a new uniform.
Another aspect of the parent consultation meetings that concerns us is that parents are being given a piece of paper to indicate whether they are for or against the academy. However this is only being given to parents who attend the meetings and those leaving the meetings undecided do not know where to return the slip. Parents who haven’t been able to get to the meetings do not know there is such a slip.
We would ask that this part of the consultation process, which has been so poorly conducted, is in no way considered to be a ballot of parents.
We ask that you undertake a thorough review of this consultation process and seek to extend it to engage all parents.
We also repeat our request that the written questions we have submitted to the consultation are responded to with evidenced and substantiated answers as a matter of urgency. At the very least this will mean parents that haven’t been able to get to meetings can find out more.
Hands Off Hove Park expressed our concerns about the consultation process well in advance of the actual meetings and despite our requests, we had no clarification of how the process would take place. That remains the case.
We still don’t know how information about parents views is being collated and presented to the governors. We worry that without independent oversight and scrutiny, the bias from the leadership team, which is seeking conversion, could lead to a misrepresentation of parents’ views.
We would like to remind the Governing Body that Hands Off Hove Park had well over 150 people attend its own public meeting at the end of April, despite having no mailing list for parents. Clearly parents are interested and bothered about the implications of conversion.
We would say that what the parents attending our event appreciated most was the wide range of speakers and a proper chance to debate and engage with the issues.