By Kevin Courtney
The government's plan to force all schools to become academies over the next six years has been greeted with incredulity and horror by parents, teachers and politicians.
They are recklessly ploughing ahead with this policy despite the fact many communities and schools have categorically said they do not want to convert to an academy. In effect this plan will, in one clean swoop, remove the voice and choice from local people over education in their area.
Over 80% of local authority schools are rated good or outstanding by Ofsted – why force them to change? Lots of evidence suggests the academy programme isn’t working. The head of Ofsted, Michael Wilshaw, just last week said many academy chains were performing badly and letting down disadvantaged children.
Astonishingly, this huge change wasn’t put before the people in the general election less than a year ago. If the Conservatives believe this is such a good idea, why wasn't it mentioned in their manifesto?
The government's white paper misleadingly titled "Educational Excellence Everywhere" is a complete distraction from the very real problems facing schools and parents now. It's a huge danger to our education system and will open the door to privatisation.
Schools and parents are facing a chronic teacher shortage, a lack of school places, chaos around curriculum changes and primary tests, and a funding crisis. But instead of dealing with these issues, the government is pursuing a top down re-organisation of education that has no basis in evidence to support it.
The proposal to replace the Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) with what is supposed to be a "new stronger accreditation", is nothing of the sort. It removes universities entirely from the accreditation of teachers and brings the international portability of England’s teachers' qualifications into question. This is hardly elevating the profession.
As well as forcing schools to become academies, the government intends to remove the requirement for governing bodies to have parent governors, with multi academy trusts (MAT) being able to close down the governing bodies of individual schools. Once in a MAT, there is no way for a school to decide to leave. Far from giving more autonomy to schools, all self-management can be removed once a school enters an MAT.
The programme, which is supposedly, about choice, is actually the complete opposite. It will drive the public further and further out of education; no councillors, no local authority governors, no parent governors, and the removal of autonomy for heads. Instead, very well paid chief executives will make the decisions for us all.
This white paper is focusing on entirely the wrong priorities. We agree with shadow education secretary Lucy Powell’s call for a ’pause’ and we intend to work with all possible allies including, importantly, parents and governors to defeat these plans.
Kevin Courtney is deputy general secretary of the National Union of Teachers
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