GOVERNMENT EDUCATION minister Michael Gove is determined to push through the Tory agenda of putting ‘rocket-boosters’ under the academies programme. He has written to every school encouraging head teachers to go on the department for education (DFE) website to register interest in becoming an academy - schools that are publicly funded, but run independently of Local Authorities.
Under pressure from Freedom of Information requests, the DFE has been forced to publish the list of schools that have responded so far. While some of the 1500 or so schools listed are complaining that they simply visited the website to see what Gove had to say, many are definitely pursuing Academy status. Around 800 of the schools have been given an ‘outstanding’ grade by the schools’ inspectorate Ofsted. According to Gove, this entitles them to be fast-tracked out of their Local Authorities in a matter of just months.
Even if only a few hundred of these schools become Academies, this will already be a significant increase on the 200 or so previously set up under New Labour. Gove hopes that a ‘domino effect’ will see other schools jumping aboard to bring about a complete break-up of Local Authority schooling. It would create a privatised, selective system where cash-starved councils would be left to support the ‘sink schools’ left to support children with the greatest needs. It would also be used to rip apart national and local pay and conditions agreements that have been won by school staff.
It is an urgent task for local anti-academy campaigns to alert parents and staff at the wannabe academy schools - but also to warn all schools in every local authority of the disastrous implications of these changes.
It now seems unlikely that the government will get the Academies Bill through parliament before the summer holidays. However, that is no reason to sit back. Instead we must make the most out of any temporary delay and step up the campaign.
Some of the listed schools may not have strong trade union groups. Therefore campaigners opposed to academies need to be at school gates leafleting parents, students and staff. We have to explain that these plans are part of this Government’s agenda to privatise and cut public services and must be opposed.
Scandalously, the Academies Bill seeks to remove any element of public consultation and leaves the decision about becoming an Academy entirely in the hands of each school’s governing body. Staff and parents must demand, at the very least, that governors organise a proper consultation of the local community instead of rushing into a quick decision as Gove hopes. Campaigns must explain that schools belong to the community and governors have no right to give them away.
Each local campaign must be just part of a bold national campaign to defend comprehensive state education from the joint threats of cuts and privatisation. Public sector unions must urgently set a date for a joint national demonstration in the autumn as a preparation for united strike action to defend public services.