At a time when we desperately need stability in our schools, the modernisation of our national curriculum and greater accountability to parents and communities, all of this is set to be ditched in the quest of giving away all our schools to private businesses to run.
The Green Party are committed to ending the wasteful and failed academy program, and taking all schools into local authority control – where they are accountable to the community and not large private organisations.
There is no evidence that becoming an academy boosts standards in our schools. In fact, some parts of the country where you find the lowest test results – such as the Isle of Wight – have had for years nearly every secondary school converted as an academy. If standards are not to be raised by this move, then what is the motivation for our government?
Only 5 days ago, the head of OFSTED, Michael Wilshaw, declared that he had ‘great concern’ about ‘serious weaknesses’ in the ability of multi-academy trusts to direct school improvement. Yet tomorrow, the Chancellor George Osborne will announce an expansion to the programme which will compel all schools to leave the accountability of the local authority and become an academy.
Since 2010, schools have been granted the ability to ‘opt in’ to convert to academy status. In addition, schools deemed to be ‘failing’ have been ordered to become academies. However, 40% of secondary schools and 80% of primary schools have made an active decision not to take on academy status.
Across the country, school managing bodies do not have any burning desire to become academies. “We will see a decline in the opportunities offered to pupils,” a local chair of Governors told me this evening. “A real lack of accountability, no cooperation between schools, teacher pay scales out of the window so we will have even higher paid “super heads” earning mega bucks – and less funds for good teachers and for the pupils in our care.”
On the Isle of Wight, parents failed to save a small primary school from closure at the end of 2015 – only 4 years since it was awarded academy status as part of a program to keep it open. Staff and pupils at Weston Academy Primary School (run by multi-academy trust AET) were given just 3 months’ notice of its closure, only days after they began the academic year.
AET dissolved the governing body, AET made the decision for closure – and there was no consultation nor discussions with parents or the local community. Academy trusts can close schools with minimal notice and reason. One parent at the school said today “If I even sniff an academy I’ll home school. I am surprised people still don’t realise that academies have no closure guidelines – and the repercussions of that.”
Forcing academisation will have financial consequences for our smallest primary schools and threaten their future viability. We should instead be concentrating on raising standards, retaining good teachers with improved work-life balance and creating happy and thriving learning environments for our young people. There is no evidence that academies do any of this. I will oppose every forced conversion and support every school in England who must challenge this damaging piece of legislation.