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Bonkers Blog July 2011

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21 July (Part 2) - Another money making scam? Parents beware!

Barrington Road Primary School Barrington Road Primary SchoolSince Tony Blair and his cronies began their systematic criminalisation of the population in 1997 countless new offences have been created which can land you in jail. One of them is being the parent of a child who secretly bunks off school. It must be difficult to judge how to control some of today’s youngsters and I am thankful my two reached adulthood before schools were brought down by red-tape, political correctness and health and safety. In my own day I was threatened with a visit from The School Board Man if I malingered in bed feigning illness, now his successor might be something akin to a private investigator hired by the school with (so they claim) the power to inflict massive fines.

One such firm of private investigators operating in Bexley is South Eastern Attendance Advisory Service Ltd. (SEAAS) based at 34 North Cray Road, Bexley, DA15 3LZ with three directors, Philip Turner, Denise Percival and Irene McClellan. All list their occupations as Attendance Officer. At least one of Bexley’s schools has signed itself up to the dubious services provided by SEAAS. Headmistress Mrs. Jacqui Keelan from Barrington Road Primary School has circulated parents with a letter saying they will be fined if their child’s attendance record is unsatisfactory. As a result of that contract parents can find themselves summoned to meetings and quizzed by SEASS. When specifically asked the company refused to comment on its Criminal Records Bureau and Data Protection Act status; their business practices seem questionable to say the least.

In summoning parents to meetings they communicate not on headed notepaper delivered by Royal Mail but with an amateurish undated scrap handed to children marked for their parents’ attention and bearing the joke postcode of DA15 0FF. This is made to look like DAYS OFF. Juvenile or what? There is no land line phone number as expected of any reputable company, only a mobile number and the PO. Box number is not one recognised by the Post Office - according to them the fee for it wasn’t paid so it doesn’t exist.

This company is given personal details of parents and children by a Bexley school and the parents are expected to drop everything and turn up to discuss their child’s education and attendance record with a private company. It’s almost incredible except that this is Bexley and unless there is a coincidence with the names there is a direct connection between the directors of SEAAS and Bexley council - or to be more precise, with Bexley council employees. A Denise Percival is coordinator of Bexley’s Fast Track, a Department of Education scheme aimed at prosecuting parents. A Philip Turner is a Court Officer at Bexley council. Presumably someone has spotted a money making opportunity and set up SEAAS to assist schools fine as many parents as possible. A sort of insider dealing operation.

Parents who received one of SEASS’s scrappy summons were placed under the threat that if they failed to co-operate with this private company under contract to headmistress Jacqui Keelan (not contracted by Bexley council) they would be guilty under an Education Act that they didn’t even spell correctly. Probably just an idle threat; can a private company legally attempt to enforce an Education Act? The parents attended anyway but refused to provide medical records to a private company that hasn’t provided evidence of their CRB status and wisely tape recorded the meeting. Philip Turner, SEAAS Director, wasn’t able to answer any of the parents’ questions but did concede that his arithmetic was at fault and the children concerned had not fallen below any attendance threshold which might give concern. He shouldn’t have sent his scrappy note in the first place and the parents have sent him a bill for wasting their time.

It is important to state that apart from the likelihood that SEASS is run by Bexley council employees acting on their own initiative Bexley council itself does not appear to be in any way at fault, indeed it is more likely that they are as concerned by developments as every Bexley parent of school age children should be. They too are puzzled by Mrs. Keelan’s decision to contract a private company to do work traditionally done by the Local Education Authority at no cost. According to Bexley’s education department Barrington Road Primary School is footing the bill out of its own budget. Now isn’t that an odd thing? I can think of a few reasons that might persuade Mrs. Keelan to do that but all of them would be immoral or dishonest, so presumably I am missing something. Maybe something will wriggle out of the woodwork later. In the meantime the parents so far affected suggest that everyone with children at Barrington Road, and any other school that starts talking of fining parents, should be alert for scrappy undated letters from South Eastern Attendance Advisory Service and treat them with the utmost suspicion.


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