Call for consultation over academy plans

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Schools must be made to consult with parents and staff before becoming an academy, a teachers' union insisted today.

The National Union of Teachers (NUT) is backing amendments to the new Academies Bill which call for the removal of a clause that states schools can consult before or after an order is granted for academy status.

It is "completely against common sense" for parents to be consulted after a decision has already been taken, NUT general secretary Christine Blower said.

The Bill, which paves the way for the Tories' plans for "free schools", will allow more schools to opt out of local authority control and gain greater freedoms through academy status.

Education Secretary Michael Gove has been accused of rushing the Bill, as ministers want it to complete its passage through Parliament by the time summer recess begins this week.

The Bill is scheduled to be debated for the final time on Monday.

Ms Blower said: "Whatever people's views on the Academies Bill, there is great distrust at the way the Government has rushed this legislation through.

"The Bill is an attack on the very existence of democratically accountable, free state comprehensive education. It is privatisation on a grand scale and it is unacceptable that such a significant Bill has not been allotted sufficient time to be properly scrutinised."

She added: "The NUT is supporting amendments to the Bill, which will be debated on Monday, to improve the provisions on consultation, in particular to remove the clause which allows consultation to take place after an academy order is granted.

"It is completely against any common sense understanding of 'consultation' for parents to be asked if they want their school to become an academy after the decision has already been taken."

The original clause of the Bill says: "Before a maintained school in England is converted into an academy, the school's governing body must consult such persons as they think appropriate.

"The consultation must be on the question of whether the school should be converted into an academy.

"The consultation may take place before or after an academy order, or an application for an academy order, has been made in respect of the school."

The amendments call for this to be changed to "must take place before", or that particular sentence to be taken out entirely.

Mr Gove has said that more than 1,500 primary, secondary and special schools have registered an interest in becoming an academy.

Academies are semi-independent state schools, which were a flagship education policy of Tony Blair's government.