Labour says a key announcement in today’s budget will damage schools and put the education of children at risk. Making all schools into academies puts Tory ideology before what is best for education.
George Osborne announced the end to more than a hundred years of democratic local control of schools, when he said that the government will force all schools to become academies or “be in the process of becoming academies” by 2020. It means local education authorities like Somerset County Council will lose their historic role of planning education and making sure there is provision for children of all abilities.
Schools will no longer have to follow the national curriculum. Teachers pay and conditions will not be safeguarded. School admissions will become a free-for-all. And pupils with special needs are likely to be pushed aside.
Rural areas will be the hardest hit by this short-sighted Tory policy. Andy Lewis of West Somerset Labour Party said:“Some schools in our area are already members of academy groups and are doing well. But in other cases we have seen problems arising from a lack of any control from an education authority. West Somerset College and Danesfield School both ran in to difficulties which could have been avoided if there had been external oversight.
“The college is now under the control of Bridgwater College and Danesfield is planning a change of name, to try to erase memories of things that went on recently. The news that the college farm unit may close is an example of what can happen when a school or college has to run itself as a business regardless of long term educational need.”
Others have criticised Osborne’s announcement.
Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said: “It is hard to see how the government’s plans will work when there aren’t enough high quality multi-academy trusts to cope with thousands more schools and some trusts are performing as poorly as the worst local authorities.”
And Roy Perry, of the Local Government Association, said: “It’s vital that we concentrate on the quality of education and a school’s ability to deliver the best results for children, rather than on the legal status of a school . The LGA opposes both forced academisation, and giving significant powers relating to education to unelected civil servants with parents and residents unable to hold them to account at the ballot box.”