Monday, 23 May 2011

Academies: Selling our children's future

There is a campaign beginning in Ludgvan just outside Penzance in Cornwall against plans to turn the community primary school into an Academy. The government's ideological commitment to Academies have been discussed on this blog before. The Academy system is an attack on education in this country. It is an attempt to destroy a democratic, planned, state education system and replace it with a two tier, market driven collection of independent schools at the mercy of education companies driven by profit. Only 1,000 schools have applied to become Academies this year out of 20,000 primary and secondary schools, and as the financial bribes begin to fall, we can expect less to want to take this dangerous step.

Currently most schools work as part of the Local Authority. This is led by elected councillors. At the moment most schools are run by a head teacher working with a group of school governors, some of whom are appointed by the Local Authority, others are elected by parents or staff. Whatever its weaknesses, this system has many benefits not least the fact that governors and councillors are elected. Their decisions can be, and have been, challenged at elections.

Will there be more money for our children’s education if the school becomes an academy?
The government has confirmed that academy status should not give schools a financial advantage. The school will be allocated its share of the money that is currently held by the local authority to make provision across all schools for pupils with a whole range of special needs, pupil support, education welfare and school transport. Once the money is allocated to the school, it will have to provide those important services previously provided by the local authority. It may find, if, for example, it has a significant number of pupils with special needs, that it has insufficient funds to match the provision previously provided by the local authority. It is likely that we will be told that the school will get extra funding by becoming an academy. Any financial advantage will be for one year only as the government will be introducing a completely new funding formula for schools in 2012. And what about the costs of all these support services that were previously provided by the local authority and for which the academy will now be liable? And what about the safety net provided by the local authority, for example, in the event of a fire or a flood (as happens to too many schools each year). As things are, your local authority would find you new accommodation and sort things out – if your school is an academy you would be on your own in these circumstances.

Will becoming an academy mean that educational standards will be raised?
There is no evidence that being an academy school raises standards. Academy schools have no better record of educational achievement than any other type of school. Some have a far worse record. Academy schools do not have to abide by the terms and conditions agreements set up for teachers and teaching staff by the Local Authority. That means teachers may see their terms and conditions deteriorate and demoralised teachers may mean educational standards will be lowered.

Who will run the Academies?
Existing Academy chains, and Edubusinesses are lining up to take over our schools. Two examples: The biggest Academy chain in England is ULT. The government told them they could have no more Academies after Ofsted failed their 2 Academies in Sheffield. In 2002 Edison USA was caught in the stock market meltdown, with its shares plummeting from over $21 to under $1. The company solved this by selling off its books, computers, lab equipment and musical instruments! Edison are already running schools in England.

Any parents of children at this school are strongly advised to attend the meeting the school has organised. It is a chance to find out what it will mean for each child’s education and to ask questions. It is in the school hall this Wednesday (25 May) at 6:15pm.

Campaigning parents will be leafletting all the parents tomorrow and encouraging them to attend the meeting. If the governors do not back down as a result of this meeting a petition will be organised and possibly a public meeting with teachers and the NASUWT union.
For more on this campaign see Academies: an update.

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