Hatcher, R. (2008) Selling Academies: local democracy and the management of ‘consultation’. Journal of Critical Education Policy Studies 6:2, 21-36. Available at http://www.jceps.com/?pageID=article&articleID=129
Academies (state schools owned and run by private sponsors on a non-profit basis) are a key element in Labour’s education agenda. Proposals to set up Academies, in most cases by taking over existing schools, have provoked local campaigns of opposition in many areas. Replacing a Local Authority with an Academy entails a process of consultation. Sponsors, acting in partnership with the Department for Children, Schools and Families, and the Local Authority, are faced with the problem of how to manage the consultation process. This paper is based on a case study of one such process as experienced by teachers, school students and parents campaigning against a proposed Academy. It identifies the strategies employed by its proponents and situates them in the context of current debates about participation and local democracy. It concludes that Academy consultation processes are best understood as instances of state-driven governance networks designed to construct compliance and marginalise dissent.