Most SEA members will be aware of the government’s announcement that all schools are to become academies by 2022.
They have now published a White Paper entitled “Educational Excellence Everywhere” which sets out the proposals in more detail. It can be found at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/educational-excellence-everywhere
SEA has consistently opposed the academy programme and will continue to do so. Some of the reasons that take this view are:
• academisation removes the accountability of schools to their local communities. It places an unacceptable amount of power in the hands of ministers and their officials. The 1944 settlement deliberately ensured that decision making was shared between schools, local authorities and government. This balance is being destroyed.
• academies have been shown to be less effective overall than maintained schools. The case against academies on grounds of effectiveness is summarised by Henry Stewart at http://www.localschoolsnetwork.org.uk/2016/03/forcing-schools-to-become-academies-will-mean-more-inadequate-schools-and-worse-results.
• forcing schools into multi-academy trusts gives the control of schools to private organisations of all kinds. Public assets have been handed over to private trusts with no proper safeguards or accountability. They have been roundly criticised by Michael Wilshaw who pointed out the extravagant salaries paid to trust executives as well as their ineffectiveness.
• the government has been shown to be incapable of managing effectively even the existing academies. House of Commons committees have consistently pointed out how poor the DfE’s systems are. The lead agency for academies (the Education Funding Agency) has been described as perhaps “the most incompetent body in government” (Chris Cook, Newsnight)
• multi academy trusts actually reduce the autonomy of the schools within the trust. The trust controls how much money each school gets, holds money back for its own purposes, appoints staff and often determines the curriculum policy of the schools in the trust. The White Paper takes further the process of getting rid of individual school governing bodies and in particular the role of parents on governing bodies.
• Academy status entrenches self-interest as the prevailing ethos in the school system. Academies commonly obstruct local collaboration between schools. We know many of them abuse their powers over admissions to try to gain an advantage over other schools and seek to avoid their responsibility for children with additional needs.
We would urge SEA members to do what they can to resist these proposals. At the very least it will be important to win the argument even if the planned bill goes through.
All members can help with this. Examples of what could be done include:
• Signing the national petition at https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/124702
• Lobbying MP’s of all parties through letters and at surgeries.
• Letters to the national and local press
• Using the information above to press resolutions at party branches and GC’s and through trade unions.
• Making this an issue in local election campaigns
• Join up with other local campaigns.
There is a real chance that this will be widely seen as a step too far. The debates over the Education and Adoption Act showed that the lazy assumption that academies are always the answer is beginning to crack. We need to try and shift the received wisdom of the Westminster media so they understand how damaging these proposals will be.
It is of course likely that the planned bill will go through. SEA, along with everyone with a concern for public education, will need to think hard about how best to mitigate the damage in the short term and about what we think a future government should do to restore a public education service.
This will be a main feature of the SEA Annual Conference on Saturday June 25th