George Osborne has announced that all schools are to become academies. The teachers at John Roan School in London are already campaigning to save their comprehensive school from academisation and here explain why.
1. Academies don’t have to follow the national curriculum – the pressures to achieve in English and Maths GCSEs narrows the educational choices for students in academies.
Academies do not need to follow the national curriculum. The ethos of academies tends to focus exclusively on results in English and Maths and a testing culture that marginalises the arts (Drama, Art and Music etc.). We must defend the broad and diverse curriculum we offer. We know from experience that limiting students’ access to other activities and subjects affects their enjoyment of learning.
2. There is no evidence that suggests that academies improve attainment of children and much evidence to suggest that attainment gets worse.
Even Schools Minister Nick Gibb has conceded that: “This government does not believe that all academies and free schools are necessarily better than maintained schools.”
In January 2015, following an 18-month Inquiry into academies and free schools, the House of Commons Education Committee concluded that: “Academisation is not always successful nor is it the only proven alternative for a struggling school”. In relation to primary schools, the Committee said: “We have sought but not found convincing evidence of the impact of academy status on attainment in primary schools.”
The Government frequently refers to academies’ Ofsted results as evidence of their better performance. However, a Schools Week analysis of Ofsted data for April 2015 revealed that there were proportionally more ‘inadequate’ academies than maintained schools. There were around 1,000 maintained schools with this rating (less than 2 per cent) compared with 133 academies (4.4 per cent). The 133 inadequate academies included 28 that were rated ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ at the time of conversion.
A growing trend is the practice of removing students in Year 9 from the roll in one way or another (exclusion, expulsion, off site provision, on-site behaviour units etc) which mean that they don’t appear in the headline figures for results. This was recently reported in the Guardian where the DfE estimates that over 10,000 students disappeared from the student roll nationally and although Harris Academy has appeared as the worst offender, the marketisation of schools has created the pressures for such practices.
3. Multi Academy Trusts (MATS) are no more accountable than sponsored academies
Some people suggest that MATs are preferable to ‘sponsored Academies’ because schools will maintain greater autonomy and independence. All academy structures lead to less accountable education as our schools will be controlled by a Board of Directors rather than the Local Authority and school Governing Body. The growing trend in academies is the removal of elected parent and teacher governors and their replacement with appointed governors. More worryingly, some academy chains such as E-ACT recently abolished their Governing Bodies entirely across all their schools and MATs would have the power to do so too. Source: http://www.teachingtimes.com/news/academy-conversions.htm
MATs are in most cases sponsored by private companies. As sponsors, they have the right to have the majority of Governors on the Board and to appoint Directors of the Trust. This is privatisation through the backdoor. Source: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/458632/governance-in-multi-academy-trusts_Sept2015.pdf
4. Lack of transparency and accountability and financial mismanagement are rife in academies
Academy conversions are costly and undermine the fair funding of schools There are serious concerns with funding arrangements too. The MAT Board of Directors receives a General Annual Grant (GAG) directly from Government. However, there is no guarantee that all schools in the MAT receive fair and equal distribution of funds.
Corruption is now rife in academies along with the use of procurement contracts to enhance the financial assets of Headteachers and their associates. Heads salaries have experienced 30% increases while teachers and support staff have seen pay freezes for almost five years. The Guardian (9 Feb 2015) recently reported that the Chief Executive of Harris Academies has a salary in excess of £400,000 along with enhanced pension contributions which is an 83% increase in salary since 2009. This is simply obscene. This money should be spent in the classroom. Even the Government has had to admit that increasingly, Headteachers and Governing Bodies use their procurement powers to hand out lucrative contracts to their business associates and even family members. Source: http://www.parliament.uk/documents/commons-committees/Education/Conflicts-of-interest-in-academies-report.pdf
Local Authorities lease the land for 125 years to the academies. This public land along with school buildings could be lost from our community for generations. Can we really be expected to hand over the assets of our schools to unaccountable organisations? Surely the answer is NO!
5. Pay and conditions for staff in MATs and academies are worse than Local Authority schools
Academies do not have to adhere to the School Teachers Pay and Conditions Document (STPCD) or Local Authority contracts for support staff. That means everything from working hours, sick pay arrangements, maternity rights, job descriptions, redundancy rights are not protected under academy contracts.
They do not have to employ qualified teachers. Need we say more?
Pay in academies is not required to follow the national pay scales for teachers or LA pay arrangements for support staff. While salaries for Head teachers are often 30% higher in academies, the teachers and other staff often get paid less than in Local Authority led schools. Academies experience high staff turnover. The current crisis in recruitment and retention of teachers and support staff is a direct result of the academisation of our schools and exclusive focus on exam results that goes hand in hand with this ethos. We are already struggling to retain and recruit teachers. becoming an academy would exacerbate this problem. Source: http://www.teachers.org.uk/campaigns/academies
Academies will often say that they will maintain workers’ rights and some rights are protected under TUPE arrangements. However, some TUPE arrangements only last for a year (collective agreements) and many academies renege even on this promise. Pensions are not protected under TUPE arrangements.
6. Academies can determine their own admissions arrangements.
This undermines the Local Authority’s ability to plan and manage school places. It is also leads to an increasing number of unfair admissions procedures and fuelling social segregation. Comprehensive schools should educate all children regardless of academic background or learning difficulties. What is to stop the MAT from changing this ethos? It’s not a risk we can take. Especially when evidence suggests that SEN needs are not adequately catered for in academies. Source: http://www.localschoolsnetwork.org.uk/2012/05/academies-diminish-the-rights-of-sen-children
There are 15,632 schools which the DfE will need to academise within 6 years (or 4 if they lose the next election) which works out at 2,605 a year. This is a ridiculously ambitious target.
Please sign the petition to scrap plans to force state schools to become academies