16 May 2016
We welcome the Secretary of State for Education’s announcement that she will not at present legislate to force all schools in England to become academies. We are pleased the Government has listened to the concerns raised by education unions, governors, MPs, councillors and parents.
The Government has, however, reiterated that it wants all schools to become academies and will force them to do so if they are in local authorities that it determines to be no longer ‘viable’ or to be ‘underperforming’.
This unnecessary and expensive reorganisation is being pursued at a time when all schools face real term cuts in pupil funding and are having to pay more of that funding back to the Treasury in increased National Insurance and pension contributions.
Schools need sufficient resources to deliver the educational excellence parents, governors, staff and politicians all want to see - but the funding freeze, increased costs and other inflationary pressures mean that many schools are facing financial strain. This is leading to numbers of support staff being cut, teachers not being replaced, class sizes being increased and courses being cut, all of which seriously undermine the achievement of educational excellence.
We believe that the mass academisation of schools, however it is pursued, would:
- End the role of local authorities as school improvement partners when the evidence demonstrates just how effective many of them are – with 86% of local authority maintained schools rated good or outstanding;
- Reduce school autonomy by requiring the majority of schools to join a multi-academy trust, without any say for governors, parents or staff, and allowing no route back to maintained school status;
- Bring about a revolution in the governance and management of schools by ending the local management of schools that has prevailed since 1988; this runs contrary to the Government’s stated intention of putting heads and teachers in control of schools; and
- Marginalise parents in the governance of schools by removing the requirement for elected parent places on the governing boards of academy trusts.
- Fragment still further access to local authority support services, such as support for disabled children and young people and those with special educational needs, and weaken local co-ordination of education provision. This is likely to have a particular impact on disadvantaged or vulnerable children and those with SEND; and
- Threaten fair admissions for all local children.
We call on the Government to:
- Not include a new Education Bill in the Queen’s Speech but instead engage in meaningful discussions with groups representing the education profession, local authorities, governors and parents; to address the pressing issues in education – including the funding crisis, serious shortage of teachers, head teachers, support staff, educational psychologists and others employed in children’s education as well as school place provision and the curriculum and assessment chaos.