The case against Academies

As part of the recent budget the Government made clear it wants all schools to become academies by 2022. This includes primary schools. This is a real threat to education across the Country.

Funding  

There is no extra money for academies. There is a grant for the legal costs of transfer. Academies get some funding that the Local Authority used to spend on services to schools. But academies still have to buy equivalent services, often paying more for them.

Academy chains are responsible to their shareholders or trustees – not local Councillors.

There is no more ‘freedom’ for academies

Academies stop being part of the local family of schools under the Local Authority. They become directly controlled by central government through a ‘funding agreement’. They have freedom to vary the curriculum, pay and conditions and the school day.

Academies do not have to employ qualified teachers or follow other regulations.

Conversion to an Academy status is a one way process. When schools (as some always will) fail the Council will not be able to support them as they do now.

The Local Authority can no longer provide services

Local Authorities (LAs) have seen severe cuts and this has reduced the services available. But they continue to have statutory responsibilities for children.

A change in status will alter the nature of the partnership – the relationship with the Council will alter, and the Department for Education will in effect manage all the schools in the Borough.

The key issue is accountability – the Council has statutory obligations to oversee the standard of education. The Council is a democratic organisation and if the local community have issues they can approach Councillors and if necessary vote them out at elections.

Academies are no longer accountable to the Secretary of State but to unelected regional commissioners.  There are five questions on democratic accountability

  Local Council Commissioners
what power do you have;

 

Oversight of school standards Oversight of school standards
where did you get it;

 

Statutory Statutory
in whose interests do you exercise it; Local Authority Department for Education
to whom are you accountable; Local Council Secretary of State
How can we get rid of you?

 

Council elections You can’t!

Conclusions

  • There is no evidence of improved educational achievement in academies
  • There are no significant long term financial advantages to becoming an academy
  • Schools have the freedom they need to operate effectively under current arrangements
  • Schools have worked together to raise standards across the Borough. It is unclear how this relationship will continue if the Schools becomes academies
  • Schools would gain the freedom to alter the terms and conditions for staff and potentially entry requirements; while the current governing body may have no wish to alter these, it cannot bind it’s successors – this is seen as a significant long term concern by each of the unions concerned (NUT, NASUWT,UNITE, Unison, GMB). All are opposed to academy status.
  • The academy process reduces democratic accountability.
  • Schools are  an asset for the local community and a key part of the Barking and Dagenham “family”. By becoming an academy this relationship will change – we cannot be certain this will be an improvement.
  • Academies are the exact opposite of the devolution of power from central government to the local community. The Sectary of State will discharge accountability via unelected regional commissioners who only he or she can remove.

Standards have risen significantly under the current arrangements. There is no evidence that moving to academies will continue this trend.

The Dagenham and Rainham Labour Party has opposed the move to academy status at local schools and will continue to do so.

Written and submitted by local Labour Party member

Regeneration not Gentrification

My name is Margaret Mullane and I am a Councillor in Village Ward Dagenham. I am going to talk today about the importance of Regeneration of flatted Estates, as opposed to selling public land to Property Developers.

Amongst the many crises which face our country under this government, one stands out as the most pressing. The evidence can be found in those sleeping on the streets or young children crammed into temporary accommodation. I believe the biggest crisis we face, without a shadow of a doubt, is the lack of affordable housing. What do we consider affordable in these times of ideologically driven cuts? What do we consider affordable when people are choosing between heating or eating?  It seems we have an elephant in the room, a case that too many are wary of making and that is the crying need for Council housing.

I have seen the devastation that Tory Austerity has caused, so for me it’s an ideological case that needs to be fought by the left. Cash strapped Councils look to their land in their Boroughs, and with rising property prices see an answer to their problems. Sell the land to Property developers; they might be able to extract some so called affordable housing if the Developers are feeling generous. But often these are properties that are not affordable to buy or rent. The land is then gone, and if that isn’t tragic enough, the communities that live in the area cannot afford to live there.

I am going to say something  potentially unpopular now… elected Councillors need to be braver, bolder, and stand up to elected Council Officers, Chief Executives, and Regeneration Departments. These people have not been elected by the local communities; Councillors have and they are best placed to represent them. It is in fact their duty to do so – their duty.

In the ward I represent, an Estate was to be regenerated. Now at that time, had we sold the Land it would have gone for at least a million but we would have lost the Council properties we are now building and our local community would have disappeared, replaced by those able to privately rent at a sky high prices. That land now, at a conservative guess, is worth five million but Phase One of the homes for local people will be ready this year. We could have filled the Estate a thousand times over. Make no mistake about it.

We have had to fight to get council properties there. Without casting aspersions some officers have a Conservative outlook, and see nothing wrong in replacing Council properties with private properties, part-buy part-rent, they have no ideological objection but here’s the difference; we should and we do. People over profit every time. The people who voted for us

We must not make an offer to working class communities of regeneration, that doesn’t include them. People often ask why many people don’t vote any-more? Why are people considering UKIP? There is an obvious connection here… If a flat to rent costs £1300.00 to rent what part of that is affordable? There is genuine alienation occurring. As parents walk to schools and community leisure facilities, they see new estates being built but know they or their family will never live there. And yet we wonder why they feel alienated.

Elected Councillors must recognise this and when Council officers or a Chief Executive proposes an idea that will alienate a community and is frankly reducing equality and social mobility, the councillors must stand up and be counted. Don’t fall in love with slogans and language that’s covering up what the offer is…

Profits before people. Estate renewal often uses language such as “growth opportunity”,right vision” or “major transformation”. My rule is to ask in all cases… for whom?  NOT for the people I am elected to serve and I will always put those people before profits.

Regeneration not Gentrification.

Contact your elected Councillors and tell them we want Council Housing.

This is a speech given by Councillor Margaret Mullane at a recent Unite training event.