Teachers declare war on academies

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The Independent Online

Teachers will today declare war on the Government's plans for a massive boost to the academies programme.

Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, will urge schools and governing bodies to join forces to scupper what she calls the "rocket boosters" that Education Secretary Michael Gove has put under the programme.

Under new legislation, 2,900 schools classified as "outstanding" by Ofsted, the education standards watchdog, will automatically be allowed to transfer to academy status from September.

Mr Gove has also written to every primary and secondary state school urging them to seek academy status – which he says will give them freedom to run their own affairs.

In a keynote speech due to be delivered to a conference organised by Compass, the left-leaning Labour pressure group, Ms Blower will say: "This centralisation of power completely flies in the face of the coalition Government's stated intention to involve local communities in schools and other public services."

The union is incensed that schools will be able to opt out of local authority control without having to consult parents, staff and local communities. All they need is the agreement of the governing body. The union is combining with other teachers' organisations to write to every MP, urging them to back an amendment insisting that consultation takes place.

In her speech, Ms Blower will say that the combined effect of the academies boost and the creation of Swedish-style independent "free" schools – which will be run by parents, teachers and charities – will be to introduce more segregation in schools.

She will cite research from the National Agency for Education (NAE), Sweden's most respected research organisation, which concludes "fairly unambiguously, segregation has increased" as a result of the programme.

"The NAE has found that free schools have higher results on average than municipal schools, but the Agency says a significant factor for parents who opt for the former is 'choosing a particular desirable social context'," she will say. "In other words, free schools are a magnet for the middle classes."

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