Academies update

Well, my academies motion passed at last night’s CLP meeting. Of course, CLP motions are (in themselves) about the least influential form of political activity known to humanity: the question is what now follows.

Our CLP secretary is a former teachers’ union leader, so he’s well-informed about what the unions are planning in order to resist the conversion of schools into academies. Some sort of coordinated approach to headteachers (involving unions, Labour and possibly even other parties) is most likely. Watch this space.

In the meantime, if you happen to be a member of Orpington CLP and you are a parent or teacher at the affected schools, then do please heed the call to write to headteachers asking them not to rush into academy status.

The need for action is urgent, as the Academies Act 2010 is now law, and the independent schools (the wording used in the legislation – let’s not kid ourselves about what’s going on here) it creates will start to appear from this September. The consultation provisions in the Act are farcical: school governing bodies are required to consult “such persons as they think appropriate” before a school converts to academy status, but are not required to do so before applying for academy status, or even before an academy order is granted by the secretary of state.

In other words, the most “consultation” we can expect for many schools over the summer is a letter to parents saying, “We’ve been granted academy status by the government, you have two weeks in which to let us know what you think, but it won’t make any difference.”

There was some encouraging news: the London Borough of Bromley’s Labour councillors (all three of them!) proposed a motion recently calling on the council to write to headteachers in the borough encouraging them not to pursue academy status. Most Labour motions die a lonely and unloved death in the Bromley council chamber, but it seems this one was supported by the Conservative majority and passed (albeit in a revised form which retained the substance of what Labour had proposed).

[EDIT: It had been a long day and I misunderstood what our CLP secretary was saying. The Labour motion was not accepted, but instead passed to a committee without comment. However, the action that has since been taken by the Borough – writing to schools urging them not to rush into applying for academy status – is in line with what the Labour motion had been calling for. Thanks to Cllr Nicholas Bennett (C) and our CLP secretary for clarifying this with me in the comments and by email. In the event, only two schools in the Borough (out of the 24 that “expressed an interest”) have applied so far for academy status.]

Even Tory boroughs such as Bromley are concerned about the rush to academisation, because conversion of schools to academy status reduces council funding available for other, generally more needy, schools. Kent County Council is another Conservative-dominated council which is warning of the implications of academy schools on other areas of council spending.

Remember: while Labour’s academies, whatever you thought of them, were about trying something new to help failing schools, Michael Gove’s academies are about entrenching privilege by enabling already “outstanding” schools to leap further ahead of the pack, literally at the expense of those left behind.

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6 thoughts on “Academies update”

  1. The Labour motion was not supported by the Conservative Group. It was referred to the relevant Policy and Development (PDS) Committee without comment. At the Children and Young People’s PDS on July 20th it was postponed until the next meeting as the Academies Bill was then still before the House of Commons and subject to further amendment. Two Bromley schools are likely to become academies on September 1st – Kemnal Technology College and Derrick Wood.

    1. Cllr Bennett: thanks for the clarification. Clearly some wires got crossed in the feedback received by our CLP secretary from the Labour group. I did check the Bromley website and saw the minutes referring the motion to the CYP PDS in June, but had assumed the report we got referred to the July meeting. Will edit my post accordingly.

      Out of interest, do you have any idea how Kemnal Technology College and Darrick Wood intend to fulfil their statutory obligations to “consult” on the change, given that we are now in the summer holidays?

  2. Remember: while Labour’s academies, whatever you thought of them, were about trying something new to help failing schools, Michael Gove’s academies are about entrenching privilege by enabling already “outstanding” schools to leap further ahead of the pack, literally at the expense of those left behind.

    I’m trying to work out what your view actually is on this, because I think I’m detecting two mutually contradictory positions.

    Position one: Gove’s reforms will entrench division by making the best schools better without improving the worst.

    Position two: Gove’s school reforms should not be undertaken at all.

    The reason they contradict is that position two assumes that Gove’s reforms are unequivocally bad for schools, while position one assumes they are unequivocally good. Put another way, position one implies that Gove has not gone far enough, while position two states that he has gone too far.

    Are you having your cake, or eating it?

    1. Not really. I’m just trying to sidestep (for these purposes) the argument over Labour giving the Tories the weapons they are now using (like the Israelites going to the Palestinians to sharpen their farm implements!).

      I don’t think there is a contradiction between the two positions. Academies will be given extra cash and additional “freedoms”, both of which will come at the expense of other schools, and at the further cost of reducing academies’ connections with local communities and balkanising local educational systems. (Why the scare-quotes round “freedoms”? Because for all this is being bigged up as “schools free to decide their destiny”, in practice many academies are either going to end up consolidating into quasi-commercial chains such as the Harris Federation, whose management is far more remote (and far less democratic) than any LEA, and/or becoming dependent on private outsourcing companies (not to mention lawyers) to take on the functions previously provided by LEAs.)

      I’d compare it to demutualisation of building societies like Northern Rock. In the short term, it all seems great: customers get a tasty little windfall, the new banks seem much more professional (especially in their new willingness to pursue creative, go-getting financial strategies), have shiny new logos and fresh carpets, etc. In the medium and long term, however: well, “Northern Rock” sums it up pretty well.

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