Academy status? No thanks, I'll stick with LAs

11th June 2010 at 01:00

I have yet to receive my letter inviting me to become an academy. But I am not holding my breath. As a "satisfactory" school we are not deemed successful enough to have automatic entry into the academy club. In any event, I find it hard to see what the attraction is.

Local authorities don't control schools. They provide guidance and support, and help us to make sense of new legislation. They work alongside us and we have healthy debate about the way we do things as individual schools and groups of schools.

Perhaps I have been lucky as I work in a London borough that is very supportive. I know there are many who are not so effective, and can be more of a hindrance than a help, but I don't think that should be a reason to view all local authorities negatively.

Being a headteacher is often a lonely job, and no head can know everything. I understand that academy status will mean that all the funding comes straight to schools. However, this means that local authorities will not be able to provide the personnel to support schools even in the most basic of ways. While this may be fine for a school that is deemed to be outstanding and needs no help, it is not helpful for those going through a difficult patch and in need of support.

Schools in disadvantaged areas are extremely fragile, and it can take just one serious event to destabilise them. Are we to abandon such schools and leave them completely on their own? If our school succeeds at the expense of another down the road, do we just shrug and treat it as their problem? Are the only children we care about the ones who wear our uniform? As public servants and as role models for the young people in our care, this is a very important point.

The co-ordination of admissions to community schools is a crucial part of a local authority's role. The system (in our borough at least) is transparent, fair, and ensures that schools have a comprehensive mix of students. If more schools were to become academies, the admission procedures will become a nightmare for parents, and some schools will interpret the admission code to suit their own purposes. Needless to say, it will be the most vulnerable who will suffer.

Furthermore, when planning for school places in the future, local authorities must make sensible decisions about the need for additional places. The free school idea will make nonsense of such planning and will potentially be very wasteful. If some of the "interest groups" that are applying do meet the criteria, this will have a huge knock-on effect on schools in the area. Community cohesion is difficult enough as it is, and the growth of academies and free schools will just add to the problem. In any case, we shouldn't be naive enough to believe that our new Government will liberate schools entirely.

The loss of the words "children and families" from the Department for Education's title worries me, too. They argue that teachers' job is to educate, not to act as social workers. But we cannot educate young people if they are not in school, if they are traumatised and emotionally damaged, and if their physical, social and health needs are not addressed.

Kenny Frederick, Headteacher, George Green's School, Tower Hamlets, east London.

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