Why we oppose academies & free schools

FIVE IMPORTANT FACTS ABOUT ACADEMIES

1. No new money. The government is clear that becoming an academy should not bring about any financial advantage for a school. Academies get the same funding per pupil as any other school.The only difference is they receive money direct from the government to buy in a range of services no longer provided by the Local Authority, such as support for students with Special Educational Needs.

2. No evidence of improved educational standards. There is absolutely no evidence that if a school converts to an academy it will raise the level of educational achievement by students.

3. No Local Authority safety net. Academies take responsibility for a range of liabilities ranging from pensions to buildings maintenance. And if something goes wrong, for example a flood or a fire, they can no longer turn to the Local Authority for help.

4. Experienced staff may leave. Attempts to change how and when staff work or to break with nationally agreed terms and conditions could be demoralising and affect the school’s success.

5. Academies are an attack on democracy. The democratically-elected Local Authority no longer has a say in the running of an academy. It is run by a charitable company called an academy trust. The evidence shows academies have fewer parent governors and staff representatives. And if a parent disagrees with a decision and cannot resolve the matter with the academy, they can no longer turn to the Local Authority. Effectively there is no local avenue of complaint.

What does the Academies Act 2010 mean for state education?

The Academies Act is a savage attack on the education system 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.

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:

  • It allows planning for school demand according to population developments,
  •  It allows for co-ordinated teacher training and development, Special Educational Needs, Early Years teaching, and much more,
  • It means there is co-operation between schools over pupil admissions and exclusions,
  • Governors and councillors are elected. Their decisions can be, and have been, challenged at elections.

Michael Gove wants to rip this up.

Currently schools belong to the whole community. The Academies Act means that schools can become Academies simply by a vote of the governors – with little consultation with parents, teachers, support staff or the local community. Why should such a small group of people be allowed to decide the future of our schools?

Academies are not democratic. They are not accountable to the Local Authority, so they are not accountable to the public. Their governors are appointed, not elected. Academies are not covered by Freedom of Information legislation.

Staff Terms and Conditions. Every Academy can set their own terms and conditions. This proposal will see the end of national negotiations, with headteachers and governors setting pay and conditions school by school.

Is there extra money? The only extra money available for schools that opt to become academies will be taken from money the local authority holds centrally for support services. Each new academy will get its share of this money and the central fund will be reduced accordingly.The Academy would then have to buy in the services currently supplied by the Local Authority.

Improving Standards? This will introduce brutal competition into the education system. The Tories believe that this will drive up standards. The same thing was done in Sweden in the 1990s. Per Thulberg, director general of the Swedish National Agency for Education, says “This competition between schools that was one of the reasons for introducing the new schools has not led to better results.”.

One of the most respected international bodies that measures student performance is TIMMS – Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study. In 2007 TIMMS reported on trends in average scores from 1995 to 2007. Its conclusions make interesting reading.

Science                             Maths

England       +8%                England         +16%

Sweden      -42%              Sweden        -48%

Do Academies get better Grades? 

Gove claimed that “Over a third of academies with GCSE results in 2009 have seen an increase of more than 15 percentage points”.

He forgets to mention that of the 74 Academies which have entered pupils for GCSE’s for 2 or more years, a third have seen their results fall.

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

What are “Free” Schools and Academies:
Both  “Free” Schools and Academies sign a Funding Agreement with the Government.  The local authority has no role to play.  Consultation about both, under the Academies Act 2010, has been limited.  The difference between the two is the way in which each is created.
“Free Schools”
A “Free” school is supposed to be created in response to parental demand.  Consideration is supposed to be given to the effect such a school would have on existing schools.  Provision for this was made in the Academies Act 2010.  Once a “free” school is created it has the same status as an academy.
Academies
There are 2 types of academy.
Sponsored:   The ones established under the old Government were designed to support schools in challenging circumstances.  Typically they were described as “failing” schools but this was not the case – some were good schools and at least one was outstanding (until it became an academy!).  These academies were given a start up funding package for 3 years and would have a sponsor, who was supposed to put up some money but in practice rarely did.  Schools which fall below the 30% (changing to 35%) 5 A*-C including E/M may still be forced to become academies.  No provision has beenmade for the high percentage of academies which fall below that benchmark, are failed by Ofsted or in which the exam results have dropped.
Convertor:  Under the current Government any school which is deemed to be outstanding can become an academy.  As a result of the low take up, this was  altered to good with outstanding features.  The new style academies are the result of a majority of the governing body deciding to convert after minimal and undefined consultation.  The school converting must set up an Academy Trust composed of at least 3 governors.  The Trust appoints the governors of the school and the Funding Agreement is the legal basis for the academy.  There is no need for there to be a sponsor.
All Academies
All Academies receive funding directly from the Government and choose whether to buy back local authority services, whether to give a contract to a commercial company or whether to employ additional staff to carry out certain tasks.
This has a knock on effect on other schools in the area.  There will be a tipping point at which, if enough schools opt out of local authority oversight, cuts will have to be made in other schools and the service they get will be poorer.

All Academies employ staff directly and set their own terms and conditions of employment.  Land and buildings are normally transferred to the Academy Trust, although exception is made for some, eg church schools, where the ownership does not change hands.

What you can do

If a school in your area / your children’s school / the school you work in / announce that they are going to become an Academy.

● Contact the school and demand a meeting to discuss the proposal.

● Start a petition.

● Call a Public Meeting – contact us if you need help in doing this, we can also help supply

speakers.

● Demand a ballot. The school does not belong to the head teacher or the governors, it belongs to all the parents and the whole community.

● Write to the local press.

● Ask local politicians, school governors, head teachers, trade unions, celebrities to sign a petition.

● Let the Anti Academies Alliance and Hands Off Notts Schools know about your campaign. We can help.

School Staff

● Contact your union.

● Call a union meeting to discuss the proposal.

One thought on “Why we oppose academies & free schools

  1. Hi great site
    we also having huge problem in our area in derbyshire ilkeston
    with merger of 2 schools being forced upon us by Ormiston enterprise academy,seems like the only reason o.t is interested is the 7.4 millon ready to be spent from the school they are wanting to close and merge with another school
    Iam also getting an action group together what can you help with if possible like speaker at meeting
    thks for any help
    paul.c.brett

    http://www.thisisderbyshire.co.uk/help-stop-merger-schools-say-let-parents/story-17187063-detail/story.html

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