Government using 'force and coercion' to turn schools into academies, say teachers

Teachers' leaders say plan to turn a thousand schools into academies is 'irrational and impractical'

Jon Stone
Wednesday 03 June 2015 08:35
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'There is no real evidence to show that turning a school into an academy will automatically raise standards'
'There is no real evidence to show that turning a school into an academy will automatically raise standards'

The Government is using “force and coercion” to turn schools into academies and is “silencing” critics of its policies, teachers have warned.

Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said Education Secretary Nicky Morgan’s plan was “as irrational as it was impractical”.

The government wants to take every school in the country rated “inadequate” by Ofsted and turn it into an academy school run by a private sponsor rather than a council.

Though many academy schools are also rated “inadequate”, these schools will remain academies under the plan.

Teachers and governors already have the ability to convert their school to an academy if they think it will improve performance, but the Government’s new Education and Adoption Bill will force their hands in many cases. Councils and governing bodies will be forced under law to assist with the change in status.

The government estimates up to 1,000 more schools will become academies by 2020, if the bill is passed.

“A pledge to convert ‘up to 1,000’ schools is as irrational as it is impractical. Head teachers are already in short supply, so the promise to sack more of them will simply exacerbate the problem. Where does Nicky Morgan imagine that new teachers and heads will come from?” Ms Blower said.

“The Government justifies this extended and accelerated privatisation of our school system by claiming that it cares about standards. Yet there is now a mountain of evidence which shows that there is no academy effect on standards in schools. Indeed, research by the Sutton Trust concluded that the very poor results of some chains – both for pupils generally and for the disadvantaged pupils they were particularly envisaged to support – comprised ‘a clear and urgent problem’.

“Along with the Local Government Association, we at the NUT believe it should be the job of local authorities to assist schools. This would be preferable to sacking head teachers and silencing opposition to academisation‎ by doing away with the already minimal level of consultation that is currently required.”

She noted that many academies were failing and that changing the structure of the school “is not axiomatically the path to school improvement”.

Academies, which receive state funding, are run by private companies, voluntary groups, or parent groups, but are not currently allowed to make a profit.

A number of Conservative-supporting think-tank have called for academies to be allowed to make profit and ministers in the last government were reported to have drawn up plans for introducing the policy.

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan said recently she did not think profit had a place in the school system, however.

The government described the plan to force academies onto teachers and resistant local areas as “sweep[ing] away bureaucratic and legal loopholes” to their expansion.

“Today’s landmark bill will allow the best education experts to intervene in poor schools from the first day we spot failure. It will sweep away the bureaucratic and legal loopholes previously exploited by those who put ideological objections above the best interests of children,” Ms Morgan said of today’s bill.

Labour’s shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt said Ms Morgan’s policy was “very depressing” and “partisan and divisive”.

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