27 Mar 2016

Academy plans are wrong

Schools and parents face a chronic teacher shortage, a lack of school places ion some areas, chaos around curriculum changes and primary tests and an ongoing funding crisis. Yet instead of tackling those there comes a massive a top-down reorganisation of education....one not even mentioned in the Conservative manifesto.

In Gloucestershire, the county council still runs six of the 39 secondary schools and 206 of the 247 primary schools. The secondary schools are: Archway, Maidenhill, Lakers, Pittville, Barnwood Park, and Rednock Schools. However if these plans go-ahead all these schools will be run by Academy trusts, receiving their funding directly from the government.

Locally in response to the Government's announcement there has been a Green/Labour initiative to write a letter - many added their names to the letter below that has appeared in local papers along with a demonstration in Stroud - see for example SNJ report here. This is just the start of the campaign. Here is the letter:

We, the undersigned, are writing to express our profound concern at the Conservative Government’s plans to force all schools to become an academy and thereby abolish any local-government accountability in our schooling system. This measure threatens our democratic right to choose to send our children to local-government administered schools if we so wish. 

It threatens the education of our children in non-academy schools, as governors and teachers will now have to spend years on bureaucracy and red tape, instead of single-mindedly focussing on supporting all pupils to succeed. It threatens the very existence of our smallest schools as they won’t be able to meet the financial criteria of academy status and will be forced to close. It threatens the integrity of the entire state education system as we will end up with fragmentation, with no local oversight, and our taxation going to academy chains’ shareholder profit instead of into solving the teacher recruitment crisis. Is this the first step on the road to privatisation?

Our local MP Neil Carmichael is Chair of the Parliamentary Education Committee. We call upon him publicly to tell his constituents what his position is on this abuse of our democratic system for what appear to be ideological motives that have nothing to do with educational quality or our children’s well-being.

We also call upon all concerned citizens to write to the Prime Minister, the Education Secretary and your local MPs to express your total rejection of this outrageous attack on local democracy.

Richard House, Doina Cornell, John Marjoram; Skeena Rathor, Stroud

As we've seen in the latest news Nicky Morgan is recklessly ploughing ahead with this policy which Neil Carmichael has welcomed. She faced laughs and jeers at the Teachers Union conference. Many communities and schools have categorically said they do not want to convert to an academy; there is no evidence that academies are raising standards. Indeed lots to say they are not working...

The government’s academy programme seems to be about destroying parental involvement and local accountability. As Peter Wilby writes: School freedom he said: 'is nothing less than an outright lie'. Power will be shifted away from councillors, local authority governors and parent governors, and heads will have their autonomy removed. Instead, very well-paid chief executives will make the decisions for us all.

I cannot help fear that this is also about opening the door to privatisation. It is a top-down “reform,” just like we have seen in the NHS, and similarly being introduced at a time of significant other real challenges. This is not the way forward.

See Stroud Life here or Gazette here for signatures to our letter.

There's a poll online here (it's embedded in the middle of the report):

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