News broke this afternoon that Wednesday's budget will include a proposal to turn ALL schools into academies. In effect, this would mean the privatisation of all the schools that have remained as maintained schools - still over three-quarters of the total - and the destruction of any democratic accountability through elected local authorities.
|Marching - and winning - against academies in Lewisham in 2015|
The Government cannot seriously expect anyone to believe that this is being done for good educational reasons. No, the evidence grows stronger every year that academisation is, at best, no magic solution for school improvement.
At worst, it leaves schools at the mercy of unaccountable organisations who are willing to remove pupils to boost league table scores and to allow those in charge to pay themselves inflated salaries from budgets that should be spent on children's education, particularly at the expense of the most disadvantaged children.
It would finish the job of dismantling Local Authority input into education, leaving schools without the support and resources to meet every child's needs. This would be at the same time as it is becoming increasingly clear that many 'academy chains' are failing to provide such support and that the Government would struggle to find sufficient sponsors to take on these schools. Their dogma is endangering our children's futures.
It would encourage the fragmentation of trade union organisation and national terms and conditions, in an attempt to drive down costs by cutting pay and jobs, narrowing the curriculum, introducing more unqualified staff and driving up class sizes. It goes hand-in-hand with the 'unfair funding' at the heart of the Tories' National Funding Formula. That, of course, is precisely why this privatisation plan is being announced as part of the Budget.
As the NUT's press release correctly said tonight, “Finally the Government has come clean on its education priorities and admitted that its real agenda all along has been that every school must become an academy. The fig leaf of ‘parental choice’, ‘school autonomy’ and ‘raising standards’ has finally been dropped and the Government’s real agenda has been laid bare – all schools to be removed from the support of their LA and schools instead to be run by remote academy trusts, unaccountable to parents, staff or local communities. Parents will be as outraged as teachers that the Government can undo over 50 years of comprehensive public education at a stroke"
“The most urgent problems in schools are to do with the chronic teacher shortage, real terms funding cuts, the school places crisis, chaotic implementation of the curriculum, and workload going through the roof. The drive towards total academisation will do absolutely nothing to fix those problems.”
As I found when debating with a pro-academy Headteacher on behalf of 'Stop Academies in Lewisham' last year, when the arguments for and against academies are put to parents, then there is clear opposition to academisation. However, this Government doesn't want a proper debate, it just wants to railroad through these privatisation plans.
However, let's warn this Government, if they're prepared to listen. In their hurry to cut and privatise public services, they are overplaying their hand and going beyond the limits of what they can get away with. This all-out academisation plan will provoke an angry response and an inevitable fightback.
As the determined mood of teachers on today's Sixth Form Colleges strike showed, NUT members are prepared to act to oppose attacks on our pay and conditions - and the damage those attacks cause to education. This academisation plan is a further national attack on pay, conditions and education. As the NUT's successful defence of its Sixth Form College strike in the High Court showed, then unions can - and will - take action to stop those attacks.
|On the march in Westminster today to defend Sixth Form Colleges|