Academies: are they just white elephants?

22nd April 2011 at 01:00

Gerard Kelly's editorial on academies and the ATL conference was a shameful and disgraceful piece of so-called journalism. To compare the democratically elected leadership of one of Britain's largest trade unions with a vile Stalinist dictator responsible for thousands of deaths is truly pathetic (by the way, I'm an NUT member, not NASUWT).

All the teaching unions are completely right to oppose academisation as it represents the break-up of state education in favour of an unproven free-market model. I believe the academy programme was introduced as a way to break up local education authorities and start the process towards the privatisation of state education. The first wave of academies had private sponsors or charities that were linked to big corporations.

Although the new academies do not necessitate a corporate sponsor, the reality is that school management will buy in more and more privately provided services to replace services provided by the borough. This is the first step to the end of state education - academisation is in effect "back-door" privatisation.

Mr Kelly's editorial rightly reminded us that academies are not bound by national pay and conditions for teachers or support staff. National pay and conditions represent the most important victory won by the education unions. Nationally agreed working conditions guarantee that the rights and working conditions of school staff are fully protected. Academisation removes these protections.

Mr Kelly suggests that teachers are not opposed to the new wave of academies. In some cases, staff have accepted academisation because they have been faced with the threat of compulsory redundancies as a result of the Coalition's cuts in school funding. Understandably, many teachers choose academies over lay-offs.

Of course, in the very short-term, some schools may benefit from the small amounts of money given to academies by central Government, but this money is likely to dry up soon. And if academisation is such a wonderful idea, why do academies have to give seven years' notice to return to the local authority? One can only assume it is to force academies to remain academies even if academisation turns out to be a regressive move. Academies will be a disaster for our school system.

Jeremy Taylor, West Ealing, London.

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