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

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