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Burnham For Mayor

Monday, 25 April 2016

Forced Academisation of Our Local Schools

Photo by Daniel Eden

Forced Academisation of Our Local Schools

By Councillor Joanne Platt and Andy Burnham MP

The Government’s recent announcement on schools and the plan to force all schools into academy status has nothing to do education standards.

Across the Wigan borough 94% of our primary schools are classed as good or outstanding and 74% of our secondary schools are good or outstanding by OFSTED.  Our children and young people continue to outperform their peers nationally at both key stage 2 (end of primary) and key stage 4 (GCSE). 

Our school leaders, regardless of the status of the school, are bound together in partnership, and with the Council, to raise achievement and aspiration.  What will forcing these good or outstanding schools to acadamise actually do to improve the experience and outcomes for children and families?

We have a very proud track record of educational excellence in Wigan Borough.  Our primary school position is ranked, 3rd in the North West behind Cheshire and Trafford and 2nd in Greater Manchester. How will forcing our schools to academise improve this position?

As Cabinet Member for Children’s Services in Wigan Borough, and as Member of Parliament for Leigh, we know what the pressures and priorities facing schools and our young people are because of our close links with educators across the borough.

The LGA study, carried out by the National Foundation for Educational Research, found no evidence of short-term benefits in improved performance that could be associated with a school’s conversion to an academy. There was also very little evidence that pupils eligible for free school meals, or with low prior ability, made more progress in academies than they would have done in similar, maintained schools.

We are seeking answers to these important challenges from the Education Secretary and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who announced fundamental changes to the education system in this country that were not in the Tory Manifesto or part of his budget.

1.    What will forcing our schools to acadamise do to help children and families with special and complex needs to have choice and access to the right support?

2.    There is a teacher shortage crisis in the country.  How will forcing our schools to acadamise ensure highly qualified teachers are trained and retained?

3.    The current curriculum and testing changes are in chaos.  What is the forced acadamisation process going to do to give clear and guidance to teacher’s students’ parents and the future employers of our young people?

4.    This Government seem intent on ended the role of communities in education. The message of giving control back to local communities that is being given by Government could be further from the truth. If this plan is pushed through Multi Academy Trust are run as small business with accountability only to the Governing Board which no longer require parent representatives. Local elected councillors and parent governors bring local community accountability to schools.  Why are the Government forcing schools to lose this local accountability and hand power to non-elected and non-accountable regional schools commissioners and to Whitehall bureaucrats?  Local people know what is in the best interest of their children and communities, and local people need someone to turn to when they need help and support with the education of their children.

The Government’s policy does nothing to resolve these key challenges, other than to divert much needed resources and focus away from these issues and into a pointless, imposed re-organisation.  We continue to be proud of all our schools and to work with them in the best interests of our children and families – community schools, faith schools and academies.

We are calling on all educators across the Wigan Borough to join our campaign opposing these changes.