Please contact your MP about the Parliamentary Debate on Forced Academies on 12th Jan 2012
On the 12th January the Rt Hon. David Lammy has secured a debate in the House of Commons on the issue of ’forced academies’. This is very important as it is the first public scrutiny of how the Secretary of State is using new powers obtained under the 2011 Education Act.
These powers appear to give Michael Gove the power to force schools to convert to academy status, regardless of the views of parents, staff, governors or the Local Authority.
We urging everybody to write immediately to your MP, whatever party, raising concerns and questions and urging them to take part in the debate.
These are some of the questions you could ask your MP
1. There is no evidence that converting primary schools into academies raises attainment. The evidence currently available suggests that the New Labour secondary school academy programme, which came with significant additional capital and revenue, has had mixed fortunes – with some academies doing very well but other doing not so well. Some academies are in the OFSTED category of ‘Special Measures’.
2. Is forced academy conversion the best value in terms of school improvement? There is abundant evidence that a relentless focus on improving teaching and learning is the most cost effective method of school improvement.
3. How does the policy of forced academies fit with the values of “Big Society” in which power is supposedly being given back to local communities? This is direct central control of schooling, disregarding the whole local community.
4. The new OFSTED chief Sir Michael Wilshaw has recently acknowledged that “academies will fail”. He is proposing a new layer of bureaucracy –local school commissioners – to oversee schools. Is there a danger of a new and costly bureaucracy which will duplicate the role of the LA?
5. The policy of forced academies has no mandate. It did not appear in either Tory or Lib Dem manifestos, or in the Coalition Agreement. In the debate at the time of the 2010 Academies Act, Michael Gove made clear that academy status was entirely a voluntary or ‘permissive’ matter.
6. The apparent absence of due process in forced academy conversions appears to breach the expected norms of public consultation. Indeed, there are doubts if there is any effective mechanism for consultation with all stakeholders. In Haringey, north London 5 schools were given 2 weeks over the Christmas holiday to agree conversion or have the academy order and sponsor imposed on them.
7. There has been no public Parliamentary scrutiny of the either Academies Programme or the Free school programme since the election, despite repeated stories in the media of financial problems and stakeholder opposition. The rate of voluntary conversions far exceed the DfE initial impact assessment which identified only 200 conversions per year. MPs have a public duty to scrutinise the impact of much greater numbers converting.