Monday, January 31, 2011

St Michael and All Angels Academy – the truth behind its closure

For some reason, the Chairman of Governors of St Michael and All Angels Academy, Canon Peter Clark, has seen fit to humiliate and publicly denigrate his former deputy headteacher Katharine Birbalsingh (via the Mail on Sunday), pointing the finger well and truly in her direction as being responsible for the closure of this Church of England school in the London Borough of Southwark.

She is maintaining a dignified silence.

Apparently, the academy has suddenly been declared ‘non-viable’ after applications ‘fell dramatically in the wake of Ms Birbalsingh’s remarks’. Canon Clark is of the view that her speech at the Conservative Party conference dealt a fatal blow to the school. He said: “The publicity that she generated was very unhelpful, which certainly didn’t help in terms of pupil recruitment.”

He added that an inspection of the school held shortly before Christmas had shown that ‘nothing that she said was right’.

Canon Clark makes it sound as though Ms Birbalsingh was referring directly and specifically to St Michael and All Angels in her speech, which she most certainly was not: she had only been there for a few weeks. As she says, her speech ‘prompted three articles the following day saying the school system was broken’. These were not remotely concerned with her school. Just as the furore was dying down, the part-time Executive Headteacher, ‘Dr’ Irene Bishop, instructed Ms Birbalsingh to leave the premises immediately and to ‘work from home’.

As Ms Birbalsingh says, ‘the press went insane’.

When Canon Clark personalises Mr Birbalsingh’s criticisms of the education system with his crass assertion of ‘nothing that she said was right’, it becomes evident that he knows very little about the situation in the school of which he is Chairman of Governors, let alone the wider education system. Indeed, he appears to have nothing to qualify him to be a school governor.

It is not only that a ‘senior Whitehall source’ has dismissed Canon Clark’s assessment that Ms Birbalsingh had caused the school’s closure as ‘complete c**p’. This person is quoted as saying: ‘It was going down the plughole anyway.’

A few questions for Canon Clark:

If the Department for Education is of the view that your school was ‘going down the plughole anyway’, why have you sought to pin the blame upon Ms Birbalsingh in the national media?

Does it give you some sort of perverse pleasure to scapegoat the innocent, shoot the messenger or kick someone when they’re already down?

Is it not a fact that the school of which you are presently Chairman of Governors has suffered chronically from inept leadership, weak management and deficient governance?

Ah, but to admit that would implicate you, would it not, Canon Clark?

And when, barely a month into her employment, ‘Dr’ Irene Bishop, chose to suspend Ms Birbalsingh, did she not do it with your full support, Canon Clark?

‘Dr’ Bishop is, of course, the inept, part-time headteacher you appointed to address the school’s profound problems. Why did she not follow the school’s written procedures in suspending Ms Birbalsingh, Canon Clark?

Are you not aware that such high-handed contempt for the school’s written procedures amounts to discrimination, breach of contract and trust, and even constitutes prima facie harassment?

Yet you insist: ‘She was not suspended. She resigned.’

It is a cause of great sorrow indeed when a man of the cloth is so ‘economical with the truth’ and keen to redact matters of historical record in order to conceal the truth that he brings not only himself into disrepute, but also impugns the integrity of the school, the purity of the Church and the sanctity of the name of Jesus.

Those who teach in the most deprived areas of our inner cities have a vocation every bit as sacred as that pursued by Canon Clark. To minister to the poor, nurture the hopeless and inspire the downcast is what Katharine Birbalsingh did best. Every day in some of these schools is like walking into a bear pit, crawling over hot coals and sticking pins in your eyes. Those teachers who are prepared to suffer for their calling ought to be nurtured, encouraged, appreciated and loved by their headteacher and governing body.

Not bullied, intimidated, humiliated, misrepresented and slandered.

It is not clear if this Mail interview was a moment of madness on the part of Canon Clark, or evidence of a more permanent breakdown, an inability to cope with his own failures or some sort of mid-life crisis.

His Grace did very politely ask the Executive Headteacher and Governing Body to respond to a number of questions some months ago.

They did not do so.

His Grace did very politely request that they refrain from slander, misrepresentation and news manipulation where Ms Birbalsingh is concerned.

They have chosen to ignore that request.

It is with regret, therefore, that His Grace has no choice but to put the truth into the public sphere.

Canon Peter Clarke is either a fool or he is inept; he is either naïve or he is a liar.

Perhaps he is all four.

The decision to close this academy has not recently been taken: that decision preceded Ms Birbalsingh’s employment. This is why Canon Clark appointed only an acting, temporary, part-time Executive Headteacher. And ‘Dr’ Irene Bishop knew of these plans all along.

Is that not a fact, Canon Clark?

The Diocese would have preferred to close the school and sell the land, but the title deeds did not permit such a course of action. And so a new school with co-sponsorship was the only route left to you.

Is that not a fact, Canon Clark?

For some reason, the impression is being given that the number of applications to the school has plummeted to just 16. But that was the 2010 figure, before Ms Birbalsingh even joined the school. Falling roll has been an issue for the past three years: from 72, to 30, to 16. The academy appear to be using historic data to justify a course of action against Ms Birbalsingh.

Is that not a fact, Canon Clark?

The Sixth Form was closed down just two years ago, again due to falling numbers and the fact that the curriculum was not appropriate for very many students. This preceded Ms Birbalsingh’s employment.

Is that not a fact, Canon Clark?

The Ofsted inspection of March 2010 was damning, but they actually wanted to go further and place the academy in special measures. It was only as a result of serious haranguing by the previous principal, Mrs Sue Graham, that it was placed into category ‘4’, which is wholly inadequate and ‘poor’.

Is Canon Clark not aware that Mrs Sue Graham was not only a weak headteacher, but a bully and a liar?

Is Canon Clark not aware that Very Rev Dr Michael Ipgrave, his predecessor as Chairman of Governors, also failed to address the school’s chronic concerns?

Is Canon Clark not aware that Ms Birbalsingh is not the first member of staff to attempt to bring a grievance against the headteacher of this school?

Is he not aware that Ms Birbalsingh is by no means the first one to fall victim to the school’s refusal to follow its own written procedures, which are designed to ensure fairness and justice?

Is he not aware that there has been a catastrophic breakdown in trust between the staff and leadership, which preceded Ms Birbalsingh’s employment?

Is he not aware that some members of staff have alleged racism by the headteacher, and have pursued their own tribunal claims?

Is he not aware that a phenomenal 106 members of staff have left this academy over recent years, and that black and minority ethnic teachers have been appalled at their treatment?

Is he not aware of a letter, dated May 2010 (again, before Ms Birbalsingh was employed), from the school’s four union representatives to the Chairman of Governors, which includes the following:
Leadership and management style
The Principal's management style does not inspire or motivate. It is not an inclusive style. The staff here are keen to be involved but everything is imposed without consultation. Where there are policies and procedures these are changed at a whim without staff involvement.

In some important areas there are no policies e.g. the Pay Policy despite being requested.

106 staff members have left since the academy opened began and of these, 44% were from the old school and 56% were recruited by the Principal herself. Many of the staff from the predecessor school had been there for a good many years and seen many changes, including going through, and coming out of, Special Measures (1999 – 2000). It should also be noted that hardly any staff have left because of reasons of promotion.

Recruitment and retention is a massive concern with huge knock-on effects for the whole school community. Sometimes people just leave with no notice and it is rare for someone’s leaving to be celebrated by the school community in an assembly or the like. In several cases, staff members have still not officially been informed that colleagues are no longer a part of the staff, years down the line. We have attached a list of staff that have left over the three years since Mrs Graham has been in charge. It is interesting to consider that many staff who have left are of black and ethnic minority origin – those who have left are disproportionately from ethnic groups. There is currently only one BME member of the SMT. The staff as a whole spend too much of their time worried about their prospects and job security and this does not help move the school on.
Unfortunately, it would appear that executive, part-time, temporary headteacher ‘Dr’ Irene Bishop simply meted out more of the same, though no-one is alleging racism.

Perhaps Canon Clark might care to reconsider what he has said about Ms Birbalsingh, who was employed to try to sort this mess out. His Grace has quite a few documents he will put into the public domain unless a clarification and apology to Ms Birbalsingh are forthcoming.

These documents will come out every day this week unless Canon Clark responds.

That apology may be emailed directly to His Grace (email address in the top right corner of this blog).

His Grace looks forward to hearing from you, Canon Clark.

If you are not able to offer an apology, your resignation will suffice.

For the truth is rather more important than your petty displays of vacuous and discredited authority.


Blogger English Pensioner said...

This man does not sound very Christian to me.
How does churchman become a "Canon" - I got the impression that it was a sort of long service award, like knighthoods and honours for to civil servants who have done their job without "rocking the boat". Sounds as if its the same with the church!

31 January 2011 at 10:19  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is there no-one higher up in the Church who can investigate this? It is shocking. Your Grace should surely make the documents public?

31 January 2011 at 10:21  
Anonymous graham wood said...

Dear Cranmer.
Do you have a private E mail address? If you have and prefer not to disclose it, then I fully understand respect that. (I cannot see this on your site page)

I ask because I want to draw your attention to the presence and programme of a Quango entitled
Training & Development Agency For Schools'
This quango purports to represent respectable educational ideals, but in many ways is a front for introducing homosexual teaching into our schools and the corruption of young minds.
Do have a look at their site and the comment by a fine organisation on this called 'Christian Concern'

If you have time and inclination to draw this to the attention of your readership you will raise the profile of this important issue.
Graham Wood

31 January 2011 at 10:47  
Blogger Archbishop Cranmer said...

Mr Graham Wood,

Please read 'About Cranmer' and hyperlink towards the end.

31 January 2011 at 10:50  
Anonymous Polittiscribe said...

These documents will come out every day this week unless Canon Clark responds sounds too like a threat for my liking. In the interests of natural justice - and I quite accept that the Canon gave little enough to Ms Birbalsingh - if you have evidence of wrong doing this should be published and Canon Clark given an opportunity - within your blog - to publicly answer any questions that might arise.

31 January 2011 at 10:55  
Blogger Archbishop Cranmer said...

Mr/Miss/Mrs/Ms Polittiscribe,

With enormours respect, every communication sent by His Grace has been ignored. You have no awareness at all of the efforts expended behind the scenes.

It is Canon Clark who has chosen to resurrect this in the national media. He could, of course, have responded 'no comment'.

There are sufficient questions in this post to keep Canon Clark busy.

His Grace will publish whatever response he receives.

31 January 2011 at 11:04  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


His Grace makes it very clear he has given the school and its leaders every opportunity to respond and they chose not to, except in the article yesterday in the Daily Mail. I look forward to seeing these documents and only hope His Grace can bring them to the attention of the wider world.

31 January 2011 at 11:11  
Anonymous +Dewi Menevia said...

Amen, YG, so be it.

Has not the Southwark Diocesan Board of Education taken the requisit action to deal with the situation at SMAAAA?

31 January 2011 at 11:13  
Anonymous Caedmon's Cat said...

...and here was me thinking that the purpose of a canon - along with other holders of office within the visible church - was to feed the flock of God, which He purchased with His own blood. Instead we have yet another example of the ravening wolves that St Paul warned the Ephesians about. At least, if not by nature, then certainly by conduct...
The cause of Christ is not served by such political machinations - and it never can be. I hope that the diocese will take the issue in hand as Bishop +Dewi Menevia has asked. But I'm not holding my breath.

31 January 2011 at 11:32  
Blogger Gnostic said...

Canon Clark ought to be fired...


31 January 2011 at 11:45  
Anonymous JayBee said...

Mr Musa Olaiwon was quoted in the Mail on Sunday yesterday as saying:-
'As a parent I am extremely bitter about the closure.........'

Now would that be the Musa Olaiwon who happens to be a governor at the school?

The same Musa Olaiwon mentioned in the Daily Mail on 10th October?
School governor Musa Olaiwon said: ‘I am astonished and I can only think that she has a hidden agenda. It’s not a violent school.’

Read more:

31 January 2011 at 12:40  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Difficult to tell about the governor as the school seems to not give any details about its governors and, of course, has not had a functioning website for many months. If you're free this evening then you might want to attend the meeting described here

31 January 2011 at 13:00  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just called the school. It took a long time and a lot of being passed around but they finally agreed that their website doesn't work and explained that it was in the hands of a 3rd party. It won't ever work again now due to the "restructuring" of the school. I asked who I could speak to and was told that I needed to speak to Tara Pope who is the PA to Dr Irene Bishop 0207 7014166 Ext 126. I was not permitted to speak to the "Dr" herself and told that Ms. Pope was on lunch. I was further told that that it was not possible to give me the contact details for any of the governors and that Ms. Pope was the person with whom I needed to speak.

31 January 2011 at 13:48  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Southwark Children and Families Trust's 2010 self evaluation report ( contains a damning indictment of the school. It had performed so poorly that Southwark Council were forced to intervene repeatedly (including just three months after it opened in 2007 due to over 40 exclusions in November alone. 2009 results were disappointing (particularly the 6th Form) and the Council advised the Government that they considered the school could fail an inspection - as proved by the Notice to Improve. They then received "over two dozen 999 calls relating to the behaviours of students going to and leaving the academy in the period up to Christmas 2009". After the poor report in April 2010, the Council intervened, yet again, to provide a permanent solution.

But the biggest hole in the story is that the school is not closing as such - it is going to reopen in 2013 once it has been demolished and rebuilt by the Church of England and ARK. This redevelopment hasn't just been sprung on the school either. It's actually being funded by Building Schools for the Future - the project was so far along in the summer that it survived the cut. Indeed you can go on the Southwark Council website (or just read the link above) and find mention of it on their BSF programme going back to September 2009. To enable the site to be redeveloped, Years 7 and 8 are being moved to another schools in the area, while the GCSE years remain on site to finish their GCSEs (there being no Sixth Form for them to go to at the moment). It is clear that the permanent solution sought by Southwark Council will "include a significant reduction in scale and change in character".

31 January 2011 at 14:26  
Anonymous Oswin said...

Gnostic @ 11:45 - grrr I wanted to say that!

31 January 2011 at 15:08  
Anonymous David A said...

Gnostic 11:45
Oswin 15:08

Let me get this straight:
There is a failing school that employs a loose canon (who might or might not tend to be "ecumenical with the truth"); a Bishop and now a Pope! All we need now to bang heads together is an Archbishop.


31 January 2011 at 16:01  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oswin @ 15.08

Yeah , me to ; but will anyone have the balls to do it ? .

31 January 2011 at 16:02  
Anonymous C O JONES said...

Anonymous 15:08

It seems to me that Ms Birbalsingh could have no truer friend fighting for her than His Grace. If I were ever in a spot, as Ms Birbalsingh finds herself in, I would deem it an honour to have His Grace on my side.

Your Grace: your blog is like a light in the darkness. It is always inspiring and thought-provoking. You are an inspiration, Sir. Please keep up the good work.

I think His Grace has more than enough "balls" (as you put it, Anon) to go round.

Ah well. It's the 11th hour, 31st January, and I have to render unto Caesar all that is Caesar's. (I have to pay my taxes online.)

C O JONES. Look you.

31 January 2011 at 16:33  
Anonymous martin sewell said...

Although they had nothing directly to do with the problem, ought not the Conservative Party and its Ministers to be actively involved to ensure that their guest speaker receives justice?

They were happy enough to have her opinions/support at their Conference. Surely there ought to be a supportive chorus to defend Ms B?

31 January 2011 at 16:42  
Blogger OldSouth said...

OldSouth has always found that sunlight is the best disinfectant.

Publish away, Your Grace. OS suspects you may embolden others with their own C of E horror stories to do likewise.

It's long overdue.

31 January 2011 at 17:12  
Anonymous Atlas shrugged said...

Your Grace, are you saying that their would seem to be a top down establishment conspiracy to prevent any discussion within this entire country, that may eventually lead to an improvement in educational standards of even the smallest degree?

If you are, then I agree with you.

For the evidence, over the last 50 years of my life, would strongly appear to be conclusive in this regard.

Educating the young, is easy, and can be reasonably cheep to do, if that is what you are actually trying achieve. With the massive advantages of modern technologies it should be even easier, as well as relatively cheeper.

Yet standards have fallen, or stood largely still for many decades.

If I needed a certain book at my school, chances were it either never existed in the first place, had already been stolen, or was eternally out on loan. Now days all the information a child or young student could ever possibly need is on the web, at either little, or no cost at all.

I often ask myself, if schools as we know them, especially full time ones are still an essential requirement these days, as most of my children's education happens at home anyway.

But then my wife works from home, whereas now days most educated women are required to be in full time employment. This due in the main to simple need, needless greed, debt slavery, or in many cases all 3.

Our own establishment PLANNED it this way, it did not happen due to some inevitable consequence of the passing of time.


Our Corporatist FASCIST or if you prefer, Fabian Socialist establishment is not going to give up the fight of preventing our children from becoming educated, and therefore capable of proper critical thinking, easily, if ever.

The TRUTH is the establishment want to carry on ruling over YOU, and future generations.

They do not therefore want you to think, or indeed live any kind of free and fully conscious lives, if they can possibly help it. They just want you to exist, until they don't need you or your children to be doing anything of the kind. At which point......

We get the type of education our own establishment ordered, and forces the like of you and me to pay for.

If it therefore did not get what it ordered, it would not carry on making us pay for it. The fact is that the establishment has had delivered to us, exactly what it asked for.

Which is a state or otherwise education system, not in the slightest bit worthy of the name.

31 January 2011 at 18:31  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Me thinks that previous headteacher a Mrs Susan Graham should have a lot to say.
Perhaps you could contact her and start to search for the truth

31 January 2011 at 19:03  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A few facts to enlighten:-

Before it was an academy SMAAA was 'a good and improving school'. The Inclusion department was given an 'outstanding during the same OFSTED inspecton for its care of the students. The students loved their school and referred to it as their 'family'. The staff loved it too and were extremely dedicated. The school became an academy as it was believed that this was the only way to have a rebuild. It was falling apart materially and every other bid had failed.

No school is anything without a good head. There should be a public enquiry into the events subsequent to SMAAA's inception, then and only then will the truth be out.

31 January 2011 at 20:04  
Anonymous Atlas shrugged said...

I would very much like for at least some of you people to read the following very carefully. I am sure that virtually none of you will agree with any of it, however it may plant a seed of enlightened thinking, I can only hope.

Please try your utter best not to think in terms of left or right, socialism, or some other type of socialism promoted by what is very dishonestly named The Conservative Party, or even more dishonestly named, Liberal Democrat Party.

Please try to understand as best as you can that there has long existed powers in this world that sit way above such lowly things as political ideology, diffusive religion, and most especially even higher above common humanity in general.

These people know of only one religion, and one way of doing things.

The former being, for want of a more descriptive term Mystery Babylon, the later being THEIR WAY, which has long since been extremely secretly,and patiently.

These people are of the Far Right, Far Left, and middle. This, as they long since brought all of them into being, and have been guiding or more often exploiting the world by their use, or manipulation ever since.

There has never been a class struggle, because the ruling class are Communists, Socialists, Fascists, Royalists, Imperialists, and Occultists, all at the same time.

What THEY have NEVER been is honest, easy to pin down, and certainly not Atheist.

They would describe themselves as much as being real Christians as they would real Jews, Muslims, or Pagans. For ultimately they see no notable difference between them, whether be there any, or not.

There you go, plenty of seeds, and food for thought, let us see how well you all get on with really thinking for a change.

For if you can not, or will not even try to make sense of the above, you will never make useful sense of much else that happens in this country or indeed on this entire planet. Which includes this countries education policies as much as it does virtually everything else.

31 January 2011 at 20:29  
Anonymous Indigo said...

The decision to close this academy has not recently been taken: that decision preceded Ms Birbalsingh’s employment.

My jaw dropped when I got to this bit in your post. And a bit further, reading Anonymous' findings. The C of E telling pork pies - they really have lost it. How depressing.

31 January 2011 at 20:29  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When Archbishop Michael Ramsey Technology College was a 'good and improving school', many parents opted to send their children there for a good education.
In the time leading to the Academy 3 headteachers lead the school over 3 years. Some lead better than others. Under SMAAA the original executive HT appointment was a complete distaster. By then parents were already showing concern as numbers started to decline, however nobody saw the sad demise that was lead by that executive headteacher.
Whilst I despise the comments and self seeking publicity of Ms Birbalsingh, decisions to close must have been taken way before her 'short' appointment. I feel she has been used as a scapegoat.
The only person able to answer the questions is Susan Graham.

31 January 2011 at 20:48  
Blogger Span Ows said...

YG, this is simply amazing; if true Clark should go and never, ever take such a position again...retire, leave the Church, leave the country, something.

31 January 2011 at 22:17  
Anonymous Petronius said...

God Bless You, Your Grace, for having the fortitude to stand up and defend Ms Birbalsingh (a most courageous woman, herself, I might add) against the lies and vitriol being thrown at her.

It hardly needs stating that you should now expect the very same lies and political vitriol to be thrown at you from all corners, when (or if) you publish these documents. So be prepared for it (as I'm sure you already are).

It's about time that someone stood up and spoke out against the institutionalised Leftist thinking in so many areas of our life. Ms Birbalsingh is just such a person: She has shown herself to be a brave, courageous and thorougly decent woman. We need someone like Ms Birbalsingh not only in the state education sector, but also in the NHS, immigration control, the prison service, the police, the judiciary, and the civil service.

And when such brave people DO pluck up the courage to speak out, they will need the support of people such as you, Your Grace, to defend them...And you, in turn, in the very act of defending them, will need the support of people like us, your communicants, to encourage you.
So, be thou encouraged!

1 February 2011 at 02:09  
Blogger Graham Davis said...

Well said Cranmer

1 February 2011 at 09:03  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is almost unbelievable. I have been reading yg's comments and Anonymous 1300's additional detail and thinking about whose side "Dr." Bishop and the frightful little creep would be on were they today Egyptians in Egypt. As someone else has suggested already, there should be a government enquiry into this chain of events, not to punish "Dr." Bishop et. al, but to send a very clear signal to the many others that this kind of moral turpitude from leaders is wrong, to explain why it is wrong, and to encourage those of us who have been fighting against this evil for years. A royal commission would not be too much.


1 February 2011 at 10:17  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just a thought!!...What was the financial position of SMAAA when the principal left after 3 years? Was the budget well managed by her and the governors?

1 February 2011 at 13:53  
Anonymous kwame said...

i want to the school, it was shit as fuck, well they did send me to a pru, then let me back again after a year and a half then let me back then kicked out half my year

13 February 2011 at 13:51  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

certainly i did suspect all this load of covered trouble, but feel extremely sorry for those students who were working really hard to obtain the best exam results,also want to thanks those great teachers who provide excellent support to my children.

7 March 2011 at 18:37  

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