Stop this bullying over academy status

Guardian letters Saturday 17th December

Having failed to persuade more than a few hundred primary schools to become academies voluntarily, the secretary of state for education has become the playground bully, using draconian legal powers to force schools into academy status, removing democratically elected governing bodies, circumventing the important role of local education authorities and creating more opportunities for those in the private sector to take over England’s schools.

It is clear that the Haringey schools mentioned in your article (Gove accused of aggressive treatment of primary school, 16 December) and, we understand, many more around the country are being used to promote the government’s academy agenda. Department for Education officials are instilling fear in schools and putting them under intense pressure to convert voluntarily rather than face the stigma of being forced to become academies run by external sponsors as so-called failing schools. This use by Michael Gove of legal powers, departmental staff and resources to pursue a political agenda has nothing to do with school improvement and must cease forthwith. Decisions about schools are best made by people from the communities they serve. This undemocratic programme is no more than political dogma and has nothing to do with localism or communities.

David Lammy MP Labour, Tottenham
Christine Blower General secretary, National Union of Teachers
Mary Bousted General secretary, Association of Teachers and Lecturers
Chris Keates General secretary, NASUWT
Dave Prentis General Secretary, Unison
Alasdair Smith National secretary, Anti Academies Alliance
Martin Dore General secretary, Socialist Educational Association
Haringey Labour councillors:
Kaushika Amin
Zena Brabazon
David Browne
Gideon Bull
Nilgun Canver
Ali Demirci
Isidoros Diakkides
Pat Egan
Joseph Ejiofor
Pauline Gibson
Stuart McNamara
George Meehan
Reg Rice
Alan Stanton
Anne Stennett
Ann Waters
Richard Watson


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4 Responses to Stop this bullying over academy status

  1. Janet says:

    Equitable funding with neighbouring boroughs, would be a start, Lord Hill.

    The most evidence-based solution with long term efficiency to improve educational attainment would be to reduce the number of families living in poverty.

    How on earth can the response to this to privatise schools be anything other than ideological?

  2. Julie Davies says:

    And my response to it, also in today’s Guardian:

    The Department for Education spokeswoman cries crocodile tears for Downhills school. The truth is, the school and the local authority have worked hard on the weaknesses identified by Ofsted, and any fair inspection team would recognise this. Michael Gove wants an academy to claim all the credit for the school’s hard work. Private sponsors would love to get their hands on Downhills; the work’s all done for them. Results this summer will be the highest in the school’s history.

    Schools in places like Tottenham need a lot of help, support and resources. The levels of poverty they deal with, and the challenges they face, are far beyond the understanding of a millionaire cabinet or a privately educated education secretary of state. These schools cannot be allowed to drift off by themselves; they are part of a local education service. They are safe havens for children and families, at the heart of deprived, transient and often volatile communities.

    Far from explaining “the clear benefits of sponsored academy status”, the DfE has floundered under direct questioning. There are no forced academies anywhere else in the country. Why should Downhills school be the first?

    Julie Davies

  3. andrea wilson says:

    A response fromn the Parliamentary Secretary to give balance;

    David Lammy’s letter (Stop this bullying over academy status, 17 December) and Warwick Mansell’s article (It’s the end of state education, 20 December) were both wrong on motives and methods. Our motivation is simply to raise standards for children. Eight primary schools in Haringey are below the floor standard – the highest number in London, with five having been below for four or more of the past five years. Ofsted has said five Haringey primaries need significant improvement. Our support for academies is not based on an ideological whim but on evidence which started to accumulate under the Labour government. It has been backed up by independent reports from the London School of Economics and the National Audit Office. Schools in some of our most deprived areas, which were once underperforming, have been transformed thanks to the academy programme, supported by passionate sponsors and fantastic teachers.

    Back in June, the secretary of state said the government would be targeting underperforming primary schools. He rightly did not “name and shame” local authorities or schools. Since then officials have had six monthly meetings with Haringey. They have also met local headteachers. At all stages we have been clear that our goal is school improvement and have sought to work with the local authority – as we have done successfully in many other parts of the country. So perhaps it is not our stance on academies which is ideological. All we want is a lasting solution to underperformance so children in Haringey can have the opportunities that exist in neighbouring LAs.
    Jonathan Hill
    Parliamentary under-secretary of state for schools

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