A new free school in Brighton and Hove sponsored by the University of Brighton Academies Trust: what’s the problem?Can it be fixed by parental involvement?

University sponsorship does not safeguard democratic governance or parental engagement. Nor does it suggest a better school than those run by local authorities or even by other academy and free school sponsors (known as Multi Academy Trusts when more than one academy or free school is sponsored).

Free schools and academies both have the legal status of an academy but the term free school is used for newly opened academies, while existing local authority schools which convert are called academies. Both are, by definition, not locally accountable schools. In our experience, parental engagement tends to be greater with local authority schools and even academy heads will say that local authorities interfere rather less in their schools than Multi Academy Trusts (MATs) in their academies and free schools (regardless who set up the MAT). There is now evidence that MATs, including those run by universities, have over-ridden heads and interfered  in the curriculum of free schools and academies.

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£2 million in funding and 42 teaching posts could be lost from University of Brighton academies

 

A matter of days ago, it was with some pride that the Vice Chancellor of the University of Brighton asserted that the University of Brighton will “continue to expand its academy chain adding to the fourteen schools it has across Sussex with two further schools in Crawley and the secondary free school in Brighton which will make it the largest university multi-academy trust in the country” (see http://www.theargus.co.uk/news/14837226.Vice_chancellor_makes_pledge_over_university_student_numbers/?commentSort=score ). We presume she thought the further involvement of the University of Brighton in Sussex schools – making it one of the bigger multi academy trusts (MATs) in the country – was good for schools, parents, children and teachers.

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Brighton & Hove City Council considers “embracing” Nicky Morgan’s U-bend

Statement from Hands Off Our Schools Brighton & Hove

https://handsoffourschoolsbrighton.tumblr.com/

When the Brighton & Hove Council Children’s Committee sits on 6th June, item 15 on the agenda will be a proposal to “embrace & bend” government proposals for schools to become academies. Hands Off Our Schools Brighton is committed to fighting academisation proposals in every form. We demand locally accountable, creative, autonomous and fully inclusive schools with qualified teachers for ALL our children. Other councils have rejected the government’s plans outright, we expect no less from Brighton & Hove.
Statement follows:
Late last week, Brighton & Hove Council proposed a way forward with the government’s plans for forced academisation of our schools. They wish to “embrace & bend” government plans rather than reject them outright. Hands Off Our Schools Brighton & Hove was formed in April after parents, carers, teachers & governors were outraged by the government’s announcement of the Education White paper and we are still determined to resist these plans and defend our schools, teachers and children’s education.
In presentations to head teachers & governors, it is being suggested that the Council could form a trust, a pre-emptive measure that, it is claimed, apparently safeguards against being forced to convert. This particular model for a trust is not new. Some models have adopted Multi Academy Trust (MAT) status, some have been seen as pre-MATs. It would be unfair to suggest that the creation of a trust of this sort means schools will become academies, but it’s difficult to believe that the intention is anything other than to prepare for academisation (forced or otherwise). We suggest that it’s not difficult to imagine the trust becoming a MAT if needed and for the Council to withdraw from schools, indeed one local school governor has described the council’s proposal as “schools setting up their own MAT”.
We are determined that this will not be the future for our children’s education or for our schools autonomy. We want locally accountable, creative & fully inclusive schools with qualified teachers for ALL our children. We do not want our schools run by MATs – even if the MAT is encouraged or chosen by some local Councillors. We see risks in this proposal that include schools becoming academies without a democratic decision by all parents and staff involved with each school and a tacit acceptance of the ideological narrative by government, that wholesale privatisation of education is either desirable or acceptable.
The Council’s Children’s Committee meets on 6th June http://present.brighton-hove.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=883&MId=6141&Ver=4 to request formal engagement from stakeholders (that’s teachers, parents, carers & pupils amongst others) about the preferred ‘partnership model’. There are a number of steps you can take to ensure YOUR voice is heard.
Join us to protect & defend our schools, our teachers and our children’s education. 
* Write to your local Councillor or to the leader of the Council to protest. A number of Councils elsewhere in the country have already expressed their total opposition to any plans for forced academisation; there is no reason why Brighton & Hove Council cannot do the same.
* Raise awareness of this issue with other parents/carers at your child’s school – you can ask us for flyers to help. 
* If you’re a teacher, talk to your colleagues. The NUT have made their opposition to academisation plans clear and are currently balloting members for strike action.
* Ask your Governing Body to make it clear they will not join a trust before proper consultation of and with the wholesale agreement of parents and staff.
Hands Off Our Schools Brighton & Hove

Are SATs Nicky Morgan’s Trojan Horse for Forcing Academies on Schools and Local Councils?

Nicky Morgan’s attempt to force all schools to become academies by 2022 exposed the huge opposition from parents, teachers and many politicians to turning good local authority schools into academies (no matter the process and no matter the academy sponsor). Yet, despite being forced to back down on her original proposal, Nicky Morgan is still determined to force many more schools to become academies and wants to see all schools convert. It’s now clear that she intends to replace her original blunt proposal with a more piecemeal and devious plan – one that is no less a threat to local schools. We now know that the Queen’s Speech will announce the intention to further add to the powers she’s already used to force many schools to become academies. These new powers will include disregarding local governors and local elected councillors and even forcing local councils to hand over all their schools if she, or her unelected, unaccountable and shadowy Regional Schools Commissioners, so decide.

Many commentators and educationalists are pointing out there has been no reversal of policy. James Williams, Lecturer in Education at the University of Sussex told Hands Off Our Schools Brighton & Hove, “This apparent U-turn is no such thing. This is a U-bend, which like its plumbing namesake, contains a trap. “The objective of full academisation remains. It will be achieved in other, much more punitive ways. The Government is still peddling the false belief that academisation achieves improvements in schools faster than leaving them in the hands of the local authority, a claim that has been disproved time and again.”

So far, Nicky Morgan has declined to provide the details of how she will deem schools and local councils to be subject to her new powers but, it seems, the new tougher SATs may have a role. Many believe that the new SATs have been designed to fail many schools (as well as, distressingly, children) and, if so, this will make it easier for Government to force schools to become academies. Within days of Nicky Morgan’s change of tack, The Sunday Times reported, As many as 1,000 primary schools are expected to be turned into academies after failing to ensure that sufficient 11-year-olds pass the new tougher national tests in maths and English”. And an analysis of existing data by the respected on line newspaper Schools Week has revealed that the large majority of local councils likely to be targeted by Nicky Morgan’s changed tack are run by Labour administrations.

Unintentionally, Nicky Morgan’s botched attempt to force all schools to become academies in a single blow and the forcing of new SATs on schools (despite the chaos surrounding them and the inability of the Schools Minister to understand them) has exposed the Machiavellian wiring behind her education policies. We can now see how toughened SATs and the proposals to remove parent governors are linked to a disregard for local democracy and the undermining, and under funding, of local councils and attempts to force schools to become academies (and grab the land).

The thousands of Brighton & Hove residents who signed petitions against forced academies, the hundreds of local parents who took action against the spiteful SATs, the teachers and governors who have raised serious concerns at the way education policy is turning schools into factory farms and the politicians who have described academisation as ‘pre privatisation’ are all opposing policies that undermine children’s education. A new consensus is emerging: the ideological nonsense behind this Government’s failing education policies must stop. We need new proposals for education policies that are intent on promoting good local schools, accountable to parent governors and local councils, and focused on providing children with a broad curriculum – not obsessed with testing.

A FEW RESPONSES TO THE PROPOSALS ON FORCED ACADEMISATION FROM COUNCILS, POLITICIANS AND HEADTEACHERS

Lincolnshire County Council: ‘Government’s ill judged plans … are causing real concern to councillors across the spectrum’ ‘Put simply, enforced ‘academisation’ is anti democratic, and there’s no evidence it will do anything but deny choice’. (Executive for Children Services)

Oxfordshire County Council: the plans are ‘bonkers’, ‘I’m fed up with diktats from above saying you will do this and you won’t do that.’ (Cabinet Member for Education).

Birmingham City Council: ‘well achieving schools’ should not be forced ‘into a reorganisation that the school does not believe to be in the interest of its pupils’ (Council Statement).

Luton Borough Council: forced academisation would be ‘damaging’ and could even prevent the Council ensuring ‘adequate provision’ for every child in the borough. (Council Leader)

Derbyshire County Council: ‘… absolutely no evidence that academies improve the outcomes for children, so …  mystified … why the government insists on pressing ahead … . We will do all we can to support parents and schools opposing the move’. (Cabinet Member for Children’s Services)

Kent County Council: ‘the government appears to have come to a view that it knows what is better for schools than the schools themselves.’ ‘We do not believe there is an evidence base for this wholesale change’. (Cabinet Member for Schools).

Hampshire County Council: ‘To force all schools would be ridiculously expensive and …  the wrong thing to do and also could cause …  a drop in standards in all our schools’. (Council Leader) 

Gateshead Metropolitan Council: the ‘plans to force all schools to become academies [have] been greeted with disbelief and dismay by parents, teachers and politicians.’ ‘We will seek to encourage campaigning against the White Paper …’ (Motion passed by Council)

West Sussex County Council: “I have reservations that the ‘one size fits all’ academies approach … does not seem to promote any benefits to pupils and parents … . We have very specific concerns about how vulnerable children will fare under the proposals ….” (Council Leader)

Brighton & Hove City Council: There is ‘no appetite for academisation of schools in Brighton & Hove’. ‘The proposals will result in the ‘pre-privatisation of our state education system’ with no local accountability. ‘… Her Majesty’s chief inspector has uncovered a worrying trend of fat cat salaries and the poor performance of academy chains compared to council maintained schools. ‘Instead of wasting public money … the Conservatives should be spending … money in the classroom and tackling the national and local teacher shortages … . Instead, they are embarking on a full frontal assault on local democracy.’ (Council Member for Children’s Services)

Lord Baker (Margaret Thatcher’s Secretary of State for Education who introduced the National Curriculum) has spoken out against forcing schools to become academies and the Chairman of Conservative 1922 Committee has warned the proposals could lead to ‘new and distant bureaucracies’. Backbench Conservative MPs from across the country have questioned the value of enforced academy status for high performing schools, questioned the lack of evidence for the proposals, suggested a ‘well run school that’s performing well’ should be left to ‘do its job’ and asked ‘why something, that is obviously not broken, needs fixing’.

Local Government Association Labour Group: ‘It’s astonishing that at a time of major cuts to school budgets, the Government would propose spending hundreds of millions turning all schools into academies when there is not a shred of evidence that it will help improve school standards.’ ‘These changes are not inevitable and governing bodies should not rush to convert’.

Liberal Democrat Leader: the compulsory academy plan is ‘worse than misguided – it is downright harmful. It will be a costly and disruptive process for thousands of schools’.

Stockport Labour Group: ‘Putting types of schools up against each other in competition is not a pathway to school improvement, nor is undermining the invaluable role of Parent Governors and making schools less accountable to the communities they serve, and nor is leaving Councils with responsibility for provision of places whilst ‘freeing schools from local authority control’.

MP for Bristol South: ‘By focusing on reorganising school structures, government ministers are trying to answer a question no one is asking.’ ‘… a one size fits all model … is ridiculous. Why tip up the applecart for ideological reasons?’ ‘At a time when the government talks about devolving powers down to local communities, forced academy status does exactly the opposite.’ 

MP for Brighton Pavilion: ‘Local authorities are needed to ensure good planning and fairness across a local area. They can provide … support services for pupils with special educational needs’. ‘Many people in … Brighton and Hove, have resolutely opposed academies. Forcing parents, teachers and pupils into accepting these changes by Government diktat is deeply undemocratic. “This is part of a sustained attack on local government.  Funding has been slashed, services have been cut and now they are seeing this outrageous attack on their vital role in local education. I fear the Government want to lead us down the path of the privatisation of education.’ 

Deputy General Secretary of the NUT: ‘… Nicky Morgan said: “We want parents to be more involved in their children’s education, not less”. But they will have no voice over academisation nor even which chain. She said: “We support the idea of parents being school governors.” But she intends to remove the requirement for elected parent governors.’

Chief Executive of Harris Academy Federation argued in The Guardian that teachers shortages and the gap between teachers’ salaries and housing costs were of ‘greater concern than full scale academisation’ and that to press ahead with forced academisation was ‘a distraction’.

Head teacher letter of resignation (Durham): ‘The current expectations and curriculum, as I see it, will not raise standards’. ‘I believe the current system is putting undue pressure, not just on our pupils, but on hard working staff, too.’ ‘I don’t believe that the Government’s drive to force us all to become academies is the way forward.’ ‘I’ve always had conservative values but I believe that we need to have a social conscience and that the education of children is what I have at heart’.

Head teacher letter of resignation (Sussex): ‘The narrowing of the curriculum … has increased significantly over the last two years … and I have increasingly felt that we are ‘factory farming’ our children …’ ‘The recent announcement that all schools should become academies has further strengthened my belief that now is the time to leave a career that has been central to my life …’ ‘I strongly believe in a state system in which all children have access to a good rounded education and where staff are treated with respect and enjoy fair working conditions, I do not believe this will be possible under our progressively fragmented educational system’.

Head teacher and Chair of Governors letter to parents (Brighton & Hove): ‘We reasonably fear that academisation will lead to a fragmentation of the education system, where corporate interests will override educational interests. … the present terms and conditions for teachers will no longer be protected and schools will be able to appoint unqualified teachers. It is also still not clear what impact academisation will have on admissions. … We already work very effectively in an informal partnership of schools. We learn from each other and share capacity, whilst maintaining our independence. We are also directly accountable to the Local Authority. Therefore, we will offer our support to the political campaign which is gaining momentum against the academisation programme’.

Useful Links (click on name for link to website):

Hands Off Our Schools Brighton & Hove Campaign

NUT ‘Tell Nicky No’ Education White Paper Campaign

Hands Off Hove Park School

Rescue Our Schools

Anti Academies Alliance

LetKidsBeKids

 

 

 

 

Campaign launch: Against forced academisation

ITV Meridian news 6.4.16The meeting on Wednesday evening (6 April 2016) attracted an audience of almost 100 people to discuss how to oppose the forced academisation of schools in Brighton and Hove and across the country. There were teachers and school support workers, heads, governors, parents, teacher trainers, and students. As the chair Simeon Elliott said, the degree of expertise in education present in the room was formidable. There was great determination to launch a campaign and a strong sense that this is a campaign that we can win. Click on the photo to see the Meridian TV report of the meeting.

Forced academisation wasn’t in the Tories’ manifesto. It’s obvious why not – it was bound to be an unpopular policy and they knew that many of their own candidates and supporters would be against it. The meeting was strongly against forced academisation. The idea, promoted by the Labour leadership of Brighton and Hove City Council, that the council might establish a local academy trust was roundly rejected. We are against academisation in principle. Establishing a trust would be to do the Government’s dirty work for it and can only neutralise opposition. We should fight back while the Tories are split. The council in Birmingham has voted to reject forced academisation; B+H CC should do the same.

We know that there are problems in education. There is a crisis in teacher recruitment and retention. Funding cuts are harming children’s education. Many areas are short of school places. Primary testing is proving unworkable. These are problems largely created by this Government and they will not be solved by the proposals in the White Paper. Continue reading