Ten good reasons to oppose the Education White Paper – and one to be avoidedPosted: March 25, 2016
- Making all schools academies will take up time and money. It will do nothing to address the real problems facing schools, especially the growing shortage of teachers and school places.
- There is no evidence to support the contention that overall academies perform better than local authority schools. The great majority of local authority schools are good or better. What problem is the government trying to fix?
- The White Paper promotes academy chains as the preferred model. However many chains are performing badly – significantly worse than many local authorities. The performance of 7 leading chains has recently been savaged by Michael Wilshaw.
- There have been too many examples of financial mismanagement verging on corruption in academy chains. The Education Finance Agency is widely recognised to be not up to the job of supervising even the number of academies we have now.
- The government claims it is devolving power “to the front line” But actually schools in academy chains lose most of their autonomy – the chain controls their premises, budget, staffing curriculum. Chains have far more power over schools than local authorities do.
- Academies will be controlled more closely by government in future. It is going to change academy contracts to give itself more power to tell schools what to do. It will control the curriculum by imposing more and more tests on pupils.
- Parents and local communities generally will have no say in how their schools are run. Schools will have no governing body of their own. Decisions will be taken by remote trusts and by ministers, often in secret with no supporting evidence published.
- The academy system is designed to undermine the position of trade unions in schools and to end national collective bargaining.
- Academies involve more bureaucracy not less. Every school has an individual legal contract with the DfE and has to comply with charity law and company law with no back office support from local authorities.
- Academies will still be able to employ people with no teacher training or qualifications.
But there is one thing the government is right about
Ministers are right to say that having two systems for running schools is expensive and complicated. There will be a temptation to focus opposition on the compulsory element in the White Paper– that is what Tory councillors are doing. That would be the wrong position to take.
Labour should argue for a single united system – but not the one being proposed by the government. But that means that some serious thought will need to be given to what that system could like after 2020.
How the White Paper may present some opportunities for Labour
- A single system will be easier to change in the future that a fragmented one
- Ministers are going to take more control over academies probably by changing funding agreements – that will make it easier for Labour ministers to put different policies into effect in the future.
- There will be just one set of rules about monitoring and intervention through Regional Schools Commissioners. Transferring them to local authority management would then be easier than sorting out the current accountability muddle.
Schools Week asked the key question: “What will it mean for pupils? It’s answer is:
- Almost nothing. Almost everything about the day to day running of a school can be done in one that is maintained or is an academy.