Thursday, 27 May 2010

Government plans for new academies give me the willies - both as a parent and as a politician

The Con-Dem Government's enthusiasm for one of the scarier New Labour policies - the transformation of state schools into privately-run 'academies' fills me with despair.

As a local councillor I know that families want more and better chools, close to their copmmuninities, and, crucially, they want a say in how they are run.

Most don't want to get directly involved, of course, instead they want democratic accountability: they want to know that a public authority is responsible for standards and the way their childrens' school is run, as well as setting the overall admissions policy that makes sure every local child has access to a good local school.

If they don't like the decisions that are taken, they can, ultimately, vote to make sure the councilllors responsible for these decisions are booted out of office.

But the logic of academies and so-called 'free schools' turns that on its head: taking power away from parents, teachers and local councils, and handing it to sponsors - that is, anyone with a few hundred thousands to spend setting up a school in their own (not the pupils') interests.

Al this wouldn't be so bad if it improved performance - but the evidence suggests that it doesn't guarantee any such thing. Many academies end up failing.

As a parent of a six-year-old whose excellent primary school 'feeds' directly into Falmer High School - soon to become an academy - I worry that stamndards will fall, and that the school's specialisms, business and sport, will be completely irrelevant to his interests and educational needs.

Obviously, things change - and I really hope I'm proved wrong about Falmer, but at the moment I just can't imagine wanting him to go to school there.

The Green Party has always spoken in favour of greater freedom for the school to decide how it is run and the school curriculum.

But this does not and must not mean putting the running of the school into the hands of a private sponsor who may know nothing or very little about education, and taking the power away from parents and teachers who have little representation on the governing body at an academy.

Academies can see principals paid in excess of £120,000 whilst there is a high turnover of valued and committed staff lower down the pay scale as they are invited to reapply for their jobs on different pay scales.

Time and again Greens and others have asked why the freedoms and funding attached to academies cannot be given without the strings of creeping privatisation and millionaire sponsors attached. Yet no answer is given.

The Greens' Education spokesperson, local councillor Rachel Fryer, sums it up well:

“With the proposals of up to 25% cuts across local authorities, inevitably affecting front-line staff including teachers, we could be facing the situation of having new buildings without the teachers to go in them.

Let’s give the money directly to schools through greater investment, trusting schools and teachers to know the best way to spend money to improve education."

No comments:

Post a Comment