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.