New Education Bill – The democratic right to question academy status

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When Nicky Morgan took over from Michael Gove there was a sigh of relief from schools across England when she said she was not a forcing type of person.  But her first education bill could force hundreds of headteachers on to the scrap heap and their schools into multi academy chains.

What are the so-called roadblocks that the DfE cites?  Will parents and staff have a right to be consulted about academy status?  Do communities have a right to protest against decisions made in Whitehall about their local schools? People have a democratic right to question decision-makers over how public money is spent, especially when their national assets are being gifted on 125 year leases to friends of the Tory government.  

Parents object to academies because they know there’s a lack of local accountability and that academies don’t have to employ qualified teachers. Inspiration Trust has advertised for unqualified teachers at a salary of just £16,300 and STEM6 in Islington tried to move its teachers on to zero-hours contracts. And parents don’t like the fact that there’s no turning back – a failing academy cannot be transferred back to its local authority.

Parents, teachers and headteachers know that academisation is not a magic bullet for school improvement. The techniques cited by the executive headteachers and academy principals to raise standards are available to every school. Nicky Morgan says that academy status will prevent children languishing in under-performing schools but 46% of sponsored academies are themselves judged by Ofsted as ‘requires improvement’ or ‘inadequate’, including a number in the MAT chains quoted in the DfE’s press release.  

There is no rationale behind the conversion of these schools.  Parliament’s own education select committee said it found no evidence, after a decade of the academies movement, that academy status had improved performance.  We can only conclude that Morgan’s latest drive to extend academy status is intended to further disempower teachers, governors and local communities while allowing trustees to line their own corporate pockets.

Parent campaigners from Downhills School in Tottenham said:

Downhills Primary was not failing its pupils.  Parents and governors defended the school because it was inclusive, happy and improving.  SATS results had rocketed from 37% to 64% and, in October 2011, Ofsted said the school had a ‘clear trend of improvement’ and ‘experienced senior staff with high levels of expertise’.

The school governors believed that academisation would be a distraction from the school’s development and they issued a legal challenge to the then Secretary of State.  So just a few weeks later, in January 2012, Michael Gove sent the same inspector back to the school who judged it as a total failure.  

The governors and parents recognised that academy status does not of itself lead to school improvement – just this week, for example, a primary academy in Cambridgeshire has gone into special measures.  Parents recognised the academies and free schools programme is a smokescreen to hand control of public assets to corporate interests and to the government’s wealthy cronies.

 

Notes to editors:

For further information please contact 07904 296701 

www.antiacademies.org.uk

office@antiacademies.org.uk

@antiacademies

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Show us the Evidence!

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The announcement over the weekend that Nicky Morgan will speed up the process to make schools that are ‘coasting’ into academies, is an about face for the Education secretary. She has previously said that the academy model is not the only model that succeeds. Yet now the message is: “Academies are a ‘better kind’ of school than local authority ones”.

This is despite the fact that every study done has shown that there is no evidence to back this claim. Indeed Michael Wilshaw of Ofsted said ‘Struggling schools are ‘no better off’ under academy control’ after the annual Ofsted report this year.

Morgan referred to successful chains such as Harris. The Harris federation is run by a Tory peer and donor, multi-millionaire Lord Harris. Morgan also issued threats to sack head teachers and boards of governors. ‘This kind of talk is not helpful’ said Geoff Barton, a leading Head teacher, on Radio 4’s Today programme.

The ‘listening’ , ‘more carrot than stick’ approach of Morgan, who sought to be different from Gove, seems to have come to an abrupt end. The decision to revert to the Govian ‘war on the teaching profession’ policy has been met with hostility from education unions. Parents and teachers will need to let Nicky Morgan know that she will become as unpopular as Gove if she continues in this vein.

http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/education-secretary-nicky-morgan-sparks-5711190

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/teachers-object-to-new-government-plans-to-sack-headteachers-of-coasting-schools-10256202.html

 

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University of Brighton Trust Free School – Not wanted here

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Shorefields protests against UCAT take over

 

From Warrington to Brighton – let’s hope history isn’t repeating itself.
Back in 2013 the University of Chester Academies Trust opened an academy in Warrington – the University Academy Warrington. Three years earlier the proposal to open the academy had sparked controversy. The Warrington Guardian quoted the Council’s shadow spokesman for children expressing concern that the academy ‘would destabilise the current system, which works well’ and the president of the teachers’ union, the NASUWT, who lived locally, warned that the academy would be run outside of council control. He said ‘I’m certain that people don’t understand the implications it will have on the families and children in Warrington.’ However, a senior Council officer was more sanguine: ‘We are currently in an ongoing dialogue with the University of Chester to assess if an institution of this type is required in the area’ he said. ‘There are no firm plans or timescale to share at this moment as we are at the very early stages of this process.’ The controversy didn’t stop.
In early 2013, the still locally based (but now) former president of the NASUWT said he found the number of schools converting to academies in Warrington ‘worrying’. ‘The issue with academies is there is no accountability to the local community. ‘You lose that family of schools that has made Warrington one of the most successful local authorities. ‘It’s survival of the fittest and the weakest can just go hang themselves. ‘There is no evidence that academies will raise standards. ‘They are racially and socially divisive. ‘The children that will suffer are from working class families. ‘It’s very worrying and it’s very disconcerting.’ The same senior Council officer – the Assistant Director of Children and Young People’s Services – was far more relaxed about the number of schools becoming academies. He responded by saying that the exodus would not impact on the ‘family’ of schools in the town’. And that year the academy sponsored by University of Chester Academies Trust did open. The University of Chester Academies Trust also opened a Free School. What could go wrong? The University of Chester’s education department was rated ‘outstanding’ enabling the University of Chester Academies Trust to claim that it was in a ‘unique position to deliver high levels of teaching and learning, teacher training and bespoke professional development to its family of Academy members and partner schools’.
Roll on another year and in 2014 the University Academy Warrington was inspected and found to be ‘requiring improvement’. Not a great advert for the University of Chester Academies Trust and those who had supported the proposal. Worse was to come. The same year the Department for Education barred the University of Chester Academies Trust from taking on any more academies. Three of its academies were highlighted for ‘unacceptably low’ performance forcing the University of Chester Academies Trust to withdraw from two of them. Perhaps those who had warned against academies were correct and the senior Council officer, who assured the community otherwise, had been mistaken. However, by the time the University of Chester Academies Trust sponsored academy opened in Warrington the senior Council officer had left his post to take up the post of Director of Children’s Service for Brighton & Hove.
In March this year, Brighton & Hove City Council, without any consultation with the local community or teachers, announced that they had asked the University of Brighton Academies Trust to open a free school. The Director of Children’s Services told the BBC that the Council’s proposal for the University of Brighton Academies Trust to open a free school was in ‘very early days, but this is a very exciting proposal that has the potential to be of enormous benefit to the city’. Words not dissimilar to those he used when assuring the community in Warrington over the University of Chester Academies Trust and the number of academies in the area. And by 2015, six of Warrington’s secondary schools were academies – with 50% of them graded by Ofsted as ‘requiring improvement’ – a far worse proportion than the national average! The people of Brighton & Hove are hoping that history isn’t about to repeat itself.

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Staff and parents strike again over Willesden school academy plans

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Campaigners for a Willesden primary school were back on the picket line this week fighting plans to turn it into an academy and will do it again next week if pleas are not heard.

Parents and children joined teachers and support staff from St Andrew & St Francis CofE Primary School in Belton Road, as took strike action on Wednesday over plans to convert the school’s status in what is feared to be slow privatisation, with a fourth strike planned for next Thursday.

Two ‘Fat Cats’ informed the crowd that they were hoping to makes ‘loadsa money’ from schools like

this when education was privatised. They were resoundingly booed.

Campaigners are claiming the school is being forced to change to an academy status after it was placed under special measures following one visit by education watchdogs Ofsted last year but has since been recognised as having made improvements.

Under government rules, special measure schools are forced by the Department for Education to convert to an academy. This means the school is no longer under local authority control and instead it is funded by central government and given its own sponsors.

The school is currently being overseen by Alison Loffler, executive head teacher of John Keble Primary School in Crownhill Road, Harlesden, and an Interim Executive Board (IEB).

Jean Roberts, Brent National Union of Teachers secretary said: “The staff don’t want to have to keep taking strike action. They find it unbelievable that the IEB won’t agree for a parental ballot so we are now asking the council, asking everybody, to see if they can put pressure on them to do that. It would mean we would take no more strike action and we’d abide by whatever the parents said and hope the IEB does too.”

Parents have organised a petition and are demanding an independently overseen ballot with full information of the arguments for and against an academy.

Ms Roberts added: “Parents of over 300 children are on this petition so that shows that the majority of parents don’t want the school to become an academy and blows out of the water the fact that the IEB is saying it’s had a consultation and the parents are for it.

Irene Scorer, parent, thanked staff and parents for supporting the action saying an open meeting for next Thursday 30 at 7.00 pm at St Andrew’s Church in the High Road has been organised.

A Brent Council spokesman said: “We are aware that the teaching trade unions are against St Andrew’s and St Francis becoming an academy; however, it is important to note that the majority of parents who took part in the consultation earlier this year on the school becoming an academy said they were in favour of the proposal.”

http://www.kilburntimes.co.uk/news/education/staff_and_parents_strike_again_over_willesden_school_academy_plans_1_4046991

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The academies couple who contribute – and take out – a lot. Warwick Mansell

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A married couple holding senior positions in an academy chain with nine schools were paid nearly £400,000 between them in salary, expenses and pensions contributions last academic year, despite the trust saying its finances are tight, Education Guardian can disclose.

Steve Kenning, chief executive of the west London-based Aspirations AcademiesTrust, received £225,000-£230,000 in 2013-14, an increase of at least 32% on 2012-13, its latest accounts reveal.

Paula Kenning, whom the trust bills as its “founder and lead executive principal” and is also principal of one of its schools, Rivers academy in Hounslow, west London, earned £158,163 in 2013-14, her first full year in the job.

http://www.theguardian.com/education/2015/mar/31/academies-school-governors-skills-qualifications

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