Saturday 28 February 2015

Say NO to the Prendergast academy plans

On Thursday next week, NUT members at the four schools threatened with academy status in Lewisham - Sedgehill, and the 3 schools in the Prendergast Federation (Hilly Fields, Ladywell Fields and the Vale) will again be taking strike action - this time joined by members of GMB and the NASUWT.

Teachers were buoyed by the excellent support given at a packed meeting of SAiL, Stop Academies in Lewisham, last week.

Following the meeting, I have helped produce a leaflet setting out the arguments against the proposed plans to turn the three schools in the Prendergast federation into academies. It can be downloaded from:

Here's just some of the points it raises:

Isn’t it true that academy schools give children a better education?  
“Current evidence does not prove that academies raise standards overall or for disadvantaged children”
All-Party Select Committee of MPs, Jan 2015.

Can academies be trusted to act fairly when they are given control of admissions policies? 
“Charter School has been criticised for setting its catchment area to exclude children from two council estates with the risk of skewing its intake”
Guardian report on Schools Adjudicator, 2012.

Aren’t academies better than non-academy ‘maintained’ schools at supporting students from all backgrounds ? “Converter Academies, on average, take far less than their fair share of disadvantaged pupils. They aren’t helping increase social justice in education. Maintained schools should be preferred”.
Professor Gorard, listed in Governors’ own report 

Won’t becoming an academy “secure greater accountability” for staff and parents? 
“Parents are sidelined from all important decisions, over whether schools convert in the first place, and over how they’re run once they become academies”
From All-Party Select Committee Report, Jan 2015 

Don’t most Heads and Governors agree that schools have to become academies to successfully run a Federation of schools? 
"Why on earth should I go academy? What are the advantages? We already have a reasonable amount of freedom with the curriculum … unions are happy because their members' terms and conditions are unaffected, the extra money that was given to academies has disappeared"
Chair of Governors, Dartmoor Schools Federation 

Won’t the schools be better-off if  they convert into academies? 
“There is no funding advantage to being an academy” … but there is a “risk of losing PFI funding rebates”
From the Governors’ reports on the school website 

Can we trust academy governors when they are given control over school budgets? 
“Nearly half of academy trusts have paid millions of pounds in public money towards the private businesses of directors, trustees and relatives”
Investigation by the National Audit Office, 2014 

Weren’t the Governors just following normal practice when they voted to apply for Academy status without asking parents first? 
“Conversion to academy status is a significant step” … “No governing body should submit an application unless and until they have consulted”
Advice from the National Governors’ Association

As the leaflet concludes, "we hope these facts help you understand why SAIL opposes the academy plans - but every parent should have a chance to decide. That’s why SAIL is calling on the Governors to hold a full consultation where parents can read and hear both sides of the debate. They should then hold a ballot so that parents can vote on the future of their schools. If the Governors are so sure of their arguments, why won’t they agree to ballot parents?"

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