Tidemill Academy, in Deptford, which recently underwent a transition to academy status after a year long campaign by Deptfordsaysno to stop the process, was due to move into a new building during the October half term break but due to planning delays, the move has now been put off until December. The school is offering parents the option of paying £20 a day for their children to be looked after by a private firm, Schoolfriends, for the last two weeks of normal term-time.
Leila Galloway, whose child attends the school, recently asked the DfE to confirm the minimum number of days in a year on which an academy school is legally obliged to provide education. They replied in an email sent on 25th November that ‘there is no legal obligation on Academies to educate pupils for a certain number of days‘. They point out that “a key feature of the Academies programme is the freedom and autonomy teachers have to develop creative and innovative curricula tailored to the needs of their pupils, which includes deciding upon aspects of subject study, how they will teach it and how they arrange learning within the school day.” And conclude by stating their belief that “it is for headteachers and teachers to exercise their professional judgements when making decisions about issues such as the number of days they teach.”
In such an unregulated environment, we must wait to see the extent to which academies will begin to alter the length, timing and shape of the school year. However, what we can say is that already, in the first term operating as an Academy, the Headteacher of Tidemill has “exercised his professional judgment” with a resultant loss of ten days education for every single one of the pupils in his charge, and many working parents are now facing an unexpected fee of £200.
Tidemill is a school situated in a deprived area of London and for many of the parents, finding an additional £200 for each of their children just before Christmas will simply not be possible. Had the school remained under the supervision of the local authority, arrangements would have been made to ensure that parents and children were not penalised and that the school received the support needed to meet its obligation to provide a minimum of 190 days education in the current academic year.
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