Teaching unions blast academy plans

Academies ... yes or nor?
Academies ... yes or nor?

Teaching unions in Burnley have blasted the Government’s radical plans to turn all schools into academies.

All primary and secondary schools in Burnley have been told they must begin the process to leave local authority control by 2020, Chancellor George Osborne announced in his Budget on Wednesday.

Mass forced academisation is not a quick fix to school improvement. Were it that simple all academies would be outstanding

Headteacher

But the move has been criticised by teachers’ unions who said Lancashire’s schools were doing well, and questioned the success of the academy system.

Burnley teacher Mac Harrison, from the NASUWT, said: “Many of our members do not like the concept of academies because it is the privatisation of education.

“The vast majority of schools in Lancashire are excellent. If it’s not broke, why try to fix it?”

Shuttleworth College is currently the only secondary school in Burnley in the process of becoming an academy.

The headteacher, Ruth England, however, warned against mass academisation.

She said: “We took the decision to switch to an academy this year as the opportunity arose to work with a local sponsor with the right ethos and vision for our school.

“For us, it was the correct decision at the right time as we feel it’s the next step to taking our school forward.

“However, mass forced academisation is not a quick fix to school improvement. Were it that simple all academies would be outstanding.”

More than 90% of Lancashire’s schools are rated good or outstanding by Ofsted.

Peter Middleman, regional secretary of the NUT, said: “The Chancellor’s proposals will do nothing to resolve the growing crisis in our schools.

“Teacher recruitment, retention and morale are dangerously low and his promise to ‘set schools free’ from bu reaucracy rings hollow without a root and branch overhaul of an Ofsted inspired accountability regime, which demands that teachers spend more time justifying their teaching rather than be allowed to actually do the job they love.

“Forced academisation not only ignores the available evidence on attainment, and parental and professional views‎; it also removes any semblance of local democratic control over education provision.

“His announcement about longer school days is just a gimmick which overlooks the range of innovative means by which teachers already demonstrate a dedication to pupils by going above and beyond the call of duty.”

County Coun. Jennifer Mein, leader of Lancashire County Council, said the authority already provided excellent support to schools.

Around 25% of secondary schools in Lancashire are currently academies, compared with 60% nationally.

County Coun. Mein said: “Schools in Lancashire work incredibly hard to deliver the best outcomes for all their children and young people.

“The local authority provides excellent support to assist this work.

“An indication of this is that 95% of our schools, academies and maintained schools alike, choose to buy in our services. Education is too important to be treated as a political football and so this kind of radical change needs to be considered very carefully, and based on solid evidence, to make sure that it is in the best interests of all children and young people.”