The headteacher's view: ‘Why do ministers insist that my school become an academy?’

11th November 2015 at 14:27
The drive to change the status of schools is politically driven, and has absolutely no consideration for the children, teachers and staff involved, writes one celebrated headteacher

I was fascinated to read an article over the weekend about council-run schools not being able to run other schools that are in a category. The Local Government Association argues that too many academy chains are performing poorly and therefore it would be logical if high-performing local authority schools could become the sponsors.

The evidence is quite compelling. Only three of the top 20 largest academy chains are in a position to take on additional schools, while only 15 per cent of these academies (the so-called saviours of the education system) are performing above the national average when looking at "value added", compared with 44 per cent of local councils. But however stark those figures, of course Nicky Morgan never mentions them in her speeches.

Instead, she seems keen to encourage the withering of local authorities.

In the past year or so, we have been approached to support schools experiencing a difficult period. Early in May, one in a category asked us formally to be its sponsor. I duly contacted the Department for Education as I felt we had the capacity to help. The bureaucracy of the DfE was astounding, and we were told that we could take on this support role only if we became an academy.

What is the rationale for this? It seems to me that it is totally and utterly politically driven, and has absolutely no consideration for the children, teachers and staff involved.

I have also been contacted recently by a journalist and asked why my "outstanding" school has not become an academy. This is totally the wrong question. Why would we need to? If, as educationalists, we always put the needs of children first, then why change something that is not broken? Will my school gain more by becoming an academy? Research suggests this is not the case, although I may get a pay rise.

I work in a large authority. I have not always agreed with it and it certainly hasn't always agreed with me. However, it has always been there for me, offered support when needed and left me alone when things are going well. It continually checks on the school and I know there is support available if needed. With this package in place, we have been able to thrive. Why change that?

Of course, we must change with the times and my authority has certainly done so, but we really need to listen to what the Local Government Association is saying. As its chair Roy Perry said: "Councils are education improvement partners and not a barrier to change."

Parents want the best for their children and I don't think they have a real interest in the legal status of the school. The political notion that all schools should become academies is totally and utterly flawed.

When there is concrete evidence to support a change I may reconsider. But until that happens, why can't good or outstanding schools which have the capacity to support other schools be allowed to do so?


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