"Academy status, we were repeatedly told, was a mechanism for raising standards in schools. Multi-academy trusts, we were assured, were structures to ensure that individual academies did not work in isolation and so stronger schools could provide support to weaker counterparts ... But it isn’t happening. It hasn’t worked. Instead, we have a chaotic education market where schools are transferred from one provider to another as if they were retail units".
Kevin Courtney, NEU Joint General Secretary, writing for the TES, 22.11.17.
Every week, more revelations come out exposing the scandalous truth of the failings of academisation and how it has been used to break-up state education and transfer control of schools into unaccountable private hands.
Even more scandalously, some Governors and Councillors continue to push academisation, despite all the evidence that shows they provide no educational benefit. In the video below, angry parents at Avenue School in Newham make their views crystal clear to Governors intent on trying to convert their primary school into an academy. NEU members are due to strike there on Wednesday against the threat of a transfer to a new employer - likely to be the EKO Academy Trust.
The NUT's latest Privatisation Update summarises some of the latest news on academies and free schools. The report is worth reading in full but here are some of the key revelations:
Wakefield City Academies Trust - NEU demands return to LA control
The NEU has called on the Government to allow the 21 schools which were part of the now collapsed Wakefield City Academies Trust (WCAT) to return to maintained status if the local authority is willing to take them back. Wakefield Council has indeed now voted that no transfer to alternative Trusts should take place without full and active consultation with all parties and resolution of outstanding issues.
Those issues include the transfer of millions of pounds of money from individual school budgets into the WCAT central accounts, a move which the council leader has said should be investigated by the police.
Under present legislation, academisation is a 'one-way street' - once a transfer takes place academies cannot be returned to the Local Authority, merely handed on to other private providers. But, significantly, learning from their experience of the WCAT debacle, Wakefield Council have also voted that "in the medium-term, the rules for academies should be changed so that schools can choose to return to local authority support" and "in the longer term full transparency and democratic accountability must be restored to the whole of the education service of this country".
MAT CEOs cost eight times more per pupil than a LA Director
A new blog by the education journalist Warwick Mansell on the NEU (NUT section) website reveals that, far from being more 'efficient', Multi Academy Trusts are using funds that most of us would think were better spent on children's education to pay their CEOs disproportionately high salaries.
As the latest Privatisation Update explains, "Looking at a representative sample of local authorities from before the academies programme, Mansell found that each council area had one children’s services director paid on average £132,000, who was responsible for schools which typically had 49,000 pupils between them. But by 2015-2016, even though their organisations were responsible for an average of just 6,200 pupils between them, the leaders of 127 of the largest MATs were being paid £142,559 on average. In other words, while the average LA director in 2010 was costing £2.67 per pupil, the figure for a MAT CEO in 2015-16 was over eight times higher at £23 per pupil".
So who does benefit from academisation? - Boom in 'related party transactions'
Privatisation Update also reports on the boom in the number of payments made every year by academies to individuals or organisations with which Directors or senior employees or their families are connected. Government figures show that the overall number of “related party transactions” rose from 2,005 in 2014-15 to 3,033 in 2015-16 – a 50% increase which outstrips the 16% growth in the number of academies, from 4,722 in 2015 to 5,474 in 2016.
Meg Hillier, chair of the Commons Public Accounts Select Committee, said: “Despite previous warnings, it seems that too many still think it’s OK to do business with relatives or businesses with whom the staff or governors have personal connections. It’s not acceptable. Schools aren’t personal fiefdoms”.
For a summary of some of the arguments against academisation, download this London Region NUT Section newsletter: