This article is being constantly updated as we receive more information.
Harris Academy in Peckham seems to be failing its students once again. Not for the first time the academy is in the news for its poor attitude towards its students and is seeing an ever-growing presence of distrust towards its recent actions. Students have been protesting against the withdrawal of their subjects without any consultation.
I spoke to one student (Year 11) at the Academy who wished to remain anonymous for fear of retribution from the school. She said:
“At the beginning of the year, a new principal and head of year joined the school. Prior to this, the current year 10s, year 9s last academic year, were offered vocational subjects such as computer science, hair and beauty, motor mechanics etc, however, at christmas the head announced that any students in year 10 studying one of the subjects would have to drop it. Even if they had began [sic] coursework. Students that protested, were placed in isolation and one student was insulted on their english and told to focus on that rather than wanting their subjects back. I must mention, the removal of these subjects, was done without parental consent. As months have gone on, the teaching quality has began [sic] to worsen. Teachers neglected by management and given huge classes due to the lack of staff. The head of school left at easter, and a new one came. The behaviour system has also changed and became pretty much ineffective. Recently, it was announced more subjects were being dropped due to lack of staff. And so the union attended our academy to express the fact that what the school was doing was incorrect. A couple days after, the whole school protested. The schools response, to exclude any student they saw within the videos. They did not address the situation. I must mention though, teachers are very supportive of students (majority) however the management of the school is the problem. Ever since Rebecca Hickey and her group of colleagues step foot into our school, it has turned upside down. The students have lost respect and the school no longer has a nice atmosphere.”
The school’s Executive Principal Rebecca Hickey had informed staff of plans to close the sixth-form school saying that it was “currently not financially viable in light of the current financial climate”. It seems that year 12 students on A-level courses are being signposted and supported in finding places at different Harris sixth forms for the next academic year, but those taking vocational courses are being left on their own to look for suitable places. Courses such as Hair and Beauty, Motor Maintenance and ICT are being cancelled from the school following pressure from the National Education Union.
Hickey wrote to parents earlier in May saying “The current motor vehicle maintenance and hair and beauty courses could close as colleges and other providers now offer very good apprenticeship routes for students wishing to train in these areas. We would support and help our students to make successful applications.” She adds in the letter, that “there is no longer IT at GCSE because it doesn’t exist nationally any more.” However there is evidence to suggest contrary. OCR exam board’s Cambridge Technicals in IT does exist as an alternate course for 16-18 year olds. The letter ends with “The changes we are making are to improve the chance that our students will achieve academic success; but we will make any changes with sensitivity and care. In particular, no student’s current programme of study will be disrupted.”
Students have been reacting and protesting at their vocational courses being scrapped, ICT teaching being scaled back all part way through the school year.
Students have been filmed chanting “we want our subjects back” on a Snapchat video that was uploaded onto YouTube earlier yesterday (embedded above). The video titled “we will not stop till we’re listened too [sic] Protect then [sic]” shows the students at the South London comprehensive protesting the cutbacks to their subjects. Some students had joined the school to do particular courses which have now been withdrawn. Curriculum that had been set at the start of the year has been discontinued leaving parents and teachers alike worried for their students’ education.
It seems that teachers were also kept out of any consultation. Only a month prior, in April, Hickey had emailed staff saying “In light of the falling roll at Harris Academy Peckham, and a careful review of the current provision, we have had to make some challenging decisions. We will be closing the 6thform provision from September 2018 – this will only be on a temporary basis, but [it] is currently not financially viable in light of the current economic climate. In addition, we will be entering a period of consultation regarding restructure of some areas of support staff provision. This is to re-structure student welfare provision primarily. Staff who are affected by these changes have attended a meeting today and will now go through the HR process of consultation.
I ask you to NOT inform students at this stage. We need to manage this process carefully as our priority is to re-locate our current Year 12 students and ensure that all Year 11s have a 6th form place for September.”
Many of the parents are afraid to come forward for fear of their children being chastised by the school. The head teacher and deputy head teacher held a ‘consultation’ says Cheryl on a local radio talk show but the consultation was not one where the parents could speak or voice their concerns, rather the authorities at the Academy were talking at them.
The cancelling of vocational courses and the lack of support available to students that were taking them, feels like it may have a racist undertone to it. In the school, it seems that it is primarily black students who were taking the vocational courses. As one tweeter noted, the removal of these courses is ‘essentially telling these black kids they want them to leave with no skills’.
The fact they've just removed vocational courses from Harris academy @ Peckham is essentially telling these black kids they want them to leave with no skills.
Knowing full well these are kids who never got the support to take on A-levels.
— tai kamiya (@NoirDia) May 31, 2018
YO IMMA SAY THIS FROM EXPERIENCE AS I WORKED IN A HARRIS ACADEMY, HARRIS FEDERATION DO NOT CARE ABOUT STUDENTS OF ANY RACE ESPECIALLY BLACK CHILDREN!!! THEY ONLY CARE ABOUT SAVING MONEY AND LOOKING GOOD. TRASHIEST SCHOOLS THERE ARE. https://t.co/hjhDoqRr58
— BLACK LIVES MATTER (@DeCM__) May 31, 2018
If you are a student or teacher at Harris Academy in Peckham and would like to talk to us about whats been going on at the school, please get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org. All comments and conversations will be kept anonymous.