Academies - why not (CONTINUED FROM PAGE 4)
The academies project is a mirror image of the City Technology College initiative started under Margaret Thatcher. Twelve of the existing 15 CTCs are now academies. The only difference is that, under Labour, the money sponsors were obliged to commit was massively reduced and academies were bound by the School Admissions Code.
But union opposition is not just about pay and conditions – it is because academies don’t work, and because they have a detrimental effect on surrounding schools by creating a two-tier system.
Divergence of outcomes is the only possible consequence of the different funding regimes for our schools, and that inequality creates an unfair and discriminatory society.
There is not sufficient evidence to suggest that academies improve results. Of the 74 academies entering pupils for GCSEs for two or more years, a third have seen their results fall. The fifth, most recent, PricewaterhouseCoopers’ report concluded that there is “insufficient evidence to make a definitive judgement about the academies as a model for school improvement”.
Research by think tank Civitas shows many academies are boosting results by entering pupils for vocational courses rather than traditional GCSEs.
Academies exclude more pupils than local authority (LA) schools. They also manipulate admissions processes, to skew their intake in favour of those from higher achieving backgrounds. For example, David Young Academy in Leeds makes pupils take a fair banding test, based on national banding, but David Young is located in Seacroft, Leeds – one of the poorest areas in Yorkshire. Many academies use other methods to indirectly exclude poorer pupils – increasing numbers are requiring sixth form students to wear smart business suits.
Because academies are exempt from the Freedom of Information Act, it is impossible to find out how much their principals earn. When asked if there should be a limit to the pay of head teachers at the new academies, Michael Gove said: “To my mind, you can’t put a price on what (they) have done.”
At least 11 academy principals are paid more than £150,000, but the figures may be an underestimate because many receive generous bonuses and add-on payments for running spin-off businesses and consultancies, or supporting other schools.
Academies are not covered by most current education law, so pupils and their parents have far fewer rights than those educated in the maintained sector. Also, all the protection provided by statute and case law for children with special needs in maintained schools does not apply in academies unless specifically mentioned in the funding agreement.
During the passage of the Academies Act this summer, however, ministers conceded that all academy funding agreements should include details of their obligations in regards to children with SEN. These obligations mirror the governors’ duties in Part IV of the Education Act 1996 and makes it clear that an academy is expected to behave like a maintained school in meeting the needs of children with special needs.
Ministers also made a commitment that academies would now be required through their funding agreement to have at least two parent governors. The NUT remains concerned that academy governing bodies will not follow the stakeholder model of governance as in maintained schools, as was the case previously. In many existing academies governors have not been elected but instead were appointed by the sponsor. Elsewhere, the governing body no longer has any power: all decisions are made by the trust board.
There have been many successful campaigns against academies, bringing staff, parents and pupils together in opposition. In my area, Wakefield, we built one of the first campaigns against schools leaving the LA and forming trusts.
We started the campaign with an open letter to prominent trade unionists, local politicians and celebrities, allowing us to identify our allies and show that we were a serious campaign. All the education unions, including Unison, ATL, NASUWT, and GMB, are against academies.
If you find out that your school plans to become an academy, contact the NUT (see box below) and the Anti Academies Alliance for advice and support.
If it happens to you…
If you find out your school intends to become an academy, go to the NUT website – www.teachers.org
. uk/academies – where you will find a wealth of information, materials and suggestions for action.
If there is no NUT rep in your school, elect one and let your local association/division and NUT head office know.
Keep in touch with your local NUT association/division for support and assistance – find the contact details using the map on the NUT home page at www.teachers.org.uk
Contact the Anti Academies Alliance: www.antiacademies.org.uk
Tel: 07528 201697
Sally Kincaid has been Wakefield and District NUT Division Secretary for four years. She taught ICT in the FE sector from 1986 to 1997, and has since worked in secondary schools in Leeds, then Freeston Business and Enterprise College, Wakefield.
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