Sunday 17 March 2013

Fellow Lib Dem MPs show Teather the way on forced academies

Although Sarah Teather MP cancelled her meeting with Gladstone Primary School parents last week two of her Lib Dem colleagues in the House of Commons, John Pugh and David Ward, made their opposition to the DfE's bullying tactics clear in the Westminster Hall debate on forced academies.

I hope she will take time to read what was said in the debate LINK and to read John Pugh's post-debate press release below:

In Westminster today, John Pugh MP led a debate about schools which are forced to become academies. Many other MPs supported John with similar concerns about ‘aggressive’ and ‘threatening’ representatives of the Department of Education. 

Under Ofsted’s new inspection framework, 123 primary schools across the country have been identified as ‘unsatisfactory’ under new Ofsted performance measures. 

Highly paid brokers are employed by the Department to manage the transition to academy status. The Department for health considers this to be the right way to tackle failing schools. Often, school governors and parents are not given a voice in the transition process.

The decision to remove the school from local authority management seems to be taken with little regard to the quality of the local authorities’ track record in education. Sefton, for example, has a strong track record in education. Further, it is the Department for Education, not the school, are also the ones to decide which academy group is best for a school to join.

Some schools have been offered money to change status. ‘£40,000 per school and an additional £25,000 for legal fees’ were offered to a cluster of Lancashire schools if they became independent from the local authorities, according to Lancashire Branch of the National Union of Headteachers. Many school governors have not felt able to give their names but have reported ‘bullying tactics’ by officials.

The Minister responded to John Pugh’s debate today by repeating the statement that the academies program had a track record of success. Previously, the Department for Education has said that is has no targets for converting schools to academies. 

John Pugh remains concerned that creating new academies has become the Government’s aim, instead of working with school governors to improve the quality of teaching for children and parents.

He said today:   
It is unacceptable that the Department for Education is employing aggressive tactics to push through unpopular changes on schools in this way. There remain many unanswered questions around the success rate and value for money of the academies program. Further, I have serious concerns about the removal of assets funded by the tax payer from local authority control. 

Two-way consultation must be undertaken by the Department for Education with governors and parents, before decisions are made. 

We don’t accept bullying in schools so why would we accept bullying from the Department for Education?

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