The laws requires very little consultation. This is being disputed and there are a number of legal challenges going through the courts contesting minimal consultations. At least one school has had to re-run their academy consultation after recognising they would lose in court (William Tyndale School backs down over academy bid in face of court threat ).
Given that Headteachers and Governors want the best for their school it is reasonable to assume that they should want to hear the opinions of their parents, pupils and staff, and that their parents, pupils and staff are properly informed. Too often there is a minimal consultation with parents, pupils and staff given little, and one sided, information, and no real opportunity to express an opinion.
We would propose to any school that is considering becoming an academy that they follow a democratic and open consultation process.
This would include the following:
- Before Governors decide to investigate becoming an academy to invite both proponents and opponents to present their views to a Governors meeting.
- If the Governors decide to pursue academy status a democratic consultation should be held:
- A parents meeting should be held at a convenient and well publicised time (more than one if necessary). Speakers for and against should be present. It may be useful to hold an indicative ballot to assess the mood of those who have attended and heard the debate.
- Literature both for and against should be circulated to every parent.
- A secret ballot of parents, pupils and staff should be held with a clear question on the ballot.
- If Governors want their decision to be respected then they should respect the vote, and abide by it.
While we would not consider any process other than the above to be democratic there are some obvious requirements for a process to have any pretence of democracy :
- There should be sufficient notice for any parents meeting
- Campaigners should not be obstructed from distributing alternative viewpoints
- A consultation form should have a Yes / No response, not simply ask for comments
- Governors should release the result of any vote