It was fitting that it was the Chancellor of the Exchequer who announced the new government policy of forcing every local authority school to become an academy because the policy has everything to do with the seizing of public assets for private profit and very little to do with education.
On Twitter yesterday I called it a proposal with no democratic mandate to abolish democratic accountability fo schools.
It is now widely acknowledged that there is no convincing proof that acdemisation improves the quality of education, even when judged solely by narrow examination results. At the same time Ofsted has been critical of the educational failure of some academy chains and the high salaries (creamed off from schools) that their CEOs command.
It is easy to ignore the fact that the public service ethos in local government is not just limited to Labour or Lib Dem led authorities but is also shared by some Conservatives. LINK This shared commitment could be the basis of a Grand Alliance to fight to maintain the role of local authorities in the oversight of educational provision.
The statement by the Local Government Association yesterday LINK is particularly significant and an opportunity for dialogue with an influential body that could make an impact on the Chancellor's plans.
The government often claims that parents are in favour of 'freeing' schools from local authority 'control' but there is no evidence for this. London Councils research in September 2014 indicated that parents would like to see MORE powers for local authorities to intervene in poorly performing academies and free schools LINK:
A new report has found substantial variation and confusion about these things. According to research by You Gov for London Councils, parents are most likely to look to their local authority, rather than Ofsted or the Department for Education, if they have concerns about school governance or leadership, inappropriate treatment of their child by staff, educational issues or bullying.
This finding reflects many parents’ imperfect knowledge about where responsibility lies. For example, 38% of London parents with a child in an academy school believe their local authority has the power to step in if the school is under performing, and no less than 56% of those with youngsters in free schools believe the same.
In fact, local authorities have no such formal powers, as academies and free schools are run by central government. Yet many parents clearly wish they did. You Gov found strong parental support for councils having powers to intervention across the spectrum of state schools. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this was found to be highest, at 77%, among London parents with children at local authority maintained schools. However, 68% of parents with children at free schools and 63% of those with children at academies felt the same way. Even 35% of parents who’ve “gone private” would like their council to be able to step in in this way.
A campaign uniting education unions, governor organisations, local authorities and parent groups could be very effective in maintaining the democratic accountability of schools, their public service ethos and saving them from privatisation.
In the short term there is the demonstration advertised above and a Twitter storm organised to coincide with Nicky Morgan's appearance on BBC 1 Question Time tonight:
A petition against the policy has also been launched: CLICK HERE TO GO TO PETITIONSPREAD THE WORD FOLKS! Twitterstorm tonight to coincide with Nicky Morgan on BBC QT. When the programme starts use the hashtag
This is the wording of the petition:
Hold a public inquiry and a referendum over turning all schools into academies
The government has announced that every school in England will become an academy. This was not in their manifesto and is therefore a completely undemocratic move.
There is growing evidence that academies underperform & serious questions about their financial oversight. Buildings & land are being handed over to unaccountable orgs. Once they are transferred there is no legal mechanism to get them back. Before all schools become academies we demand the government holds a full public inquiry - that takes into account educational research and the views of teachers, parents and students - followed by a referendum in order to show that they have a mandate.