Wednesday 26 February 2014

Let Down by Academy Sponsors? Return schools to their Local Authority!

Yesterday, E-Act became the latest example of an Academy employer that has been shown to be letting down its students and staff. The Department of Education has announced that up to ten E-Act academies are to be taken off its hands.

Some parents and teachers in E-Act schools may be pleased that their grievances appear to have been heard. Others may be worrying what the future brings - and perhaps with good reason. That's because all that yesterday's announcement means is that the DfE will now try to hand the schools over to new sponsors - ones that haven't yet fallen out of favour with Michael Gove. 

Of course, what the DfE will refuse to recognise is the obvious conclusion that parents and teachers are drawing: academisation doesn't work! Despite the funding thrown at academies and the political backing that they have received from all the main parties, there is no evidence that academies improve education.

Instead, as E-Act has shown, there is increasing evidence that these privatised chains cannot cope with running large groups of schools. Notably, while the list of E-Act schools under threat has not been formally announced, there are some suggestions that some of the more geographically distant of the Chain's schools might be the ones to be removed, leaving E-Act to concentrate on a more geographically compact entity.

Are the DfE suggesting that it makes more sense to allow schools to work in partnership across a particular geographical area? If so, then we should remind the DfE that such partnerships have existed for decades - Local Authorities!

Unlike Academy Chains, Local Authorities are subject to elections that at least ensure some accountability to local people. LAs can properly plan local provision of school places. They aren't subject to the same pressures to profiteer that fall on private education businesses. They can guard against the excessive salaries (like the £300,000 that was reportedly paid to former E-Act DG Sir Bruce Liddington), dubious admission practices and other dodgy-dealings that have regularly hit the headlines from various Academies and Free Schools.

However, the real scandal is that successive Governments have legislated for a one-way ticket  that pushes schools into becoming Academies - but won't then let them be returned to Local Authority control. It's now starkly clear that this insistence on academisation is damaging education.

This damaging privatisation of education has got to to stop. Parents, teachers and unions have got to demand: return Academies back to our elected Local Authorities!

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