Local Government lobby on school academisation

Posted on: 20 May 2016

The Council’s Cabinet Member in charge of schools, Cllr James McInnes says he’s pleased that the Government has re-thought its proposals to force council maintained schools to become academies.

In an address to county councillors, Cllr McInnes told members that he was well aware of the growing discontent about the Government’s proposals from many school heads, teachers, governors and parents, as well as cross-party politicians.  And that he is pleased that the Government’s re-think shows that ministers are listening.

The vast majority, some 70 per cent, of the 365 schools in Devon currently remain part of the local authority.  Heads and governors say that they value their local identity and relationship with the council, which has a record for speaking out nationally in support of its schools.

The Government claimed that forced academisation would drive up standards, but Devon argued that over 91 per cent of its schools are judged by Ofsted to be good or outstanding – considerably higher than the national average, and higher than the average for academies.

National performance tables place Devon alongside the country’s top local authorities for many education measures.

Among parents concerns are the possible removal of a requirement for parent governors, and a lack of authentic consultation in the academy conversion process.

Cllr McInnes said that while people can remove him at the ballot box if they are not happy, the role of overseeing academy performance risked being passed to un-elected, faceless bureaucrats in London and Bristol.

Cllr James McInnes“I am not against schools taking ownership and control, schools are independent places now,” he said.

“Schools have had the freedom to become academies for a number of years and just over a quarter have chosen to exercise that freedom.

“There is however no evidence to suggest that academisation necessarily improves performance, as the success of Devon’s maintained schools demonstrates.

“On behalf of the many parents, teachers, governors, and even some academy leaders, we have expressed our concerns to ministers including the Secretary of State, and to our Devon MPs.

“While the Government’s White Paper has some way to go, I am pleased that they are re-thinking their position, and will continue to allow schools the option to decide for themselves whether they wish to remain as maintained schools, rather than have academisation forced upon them.

“I’m hopeful too that the Government will decide against its proposed removal of funding to councils for school improvement next financial year, which would immediately disadvantage children attending  maintained schools.”

3 comments on “Local Government lobby on school academisation

  1. Paul F says:

    Q: If standards are already high in Devon’s schools, then why put these at risk by an untried academies process?

    A: It is either Tory dogma that private sector is always better (though there is lots of evidence to the contrary if you look) or an attempt to cut costs as part of the austerity measures without being open about it or worse still a deliberate attempt to take responsibilities from county councils (along with so called “devolution”) to the point that county councils can be seen as having too little responsibilities to be economic and can be abolished.

    Note: Any one of the above reasons MIGHT be valid – but there needs to be open debate based on fully scrutinised facts in order to show that it is true and justifies the changes. The current approach of policies based on dogma without facts, reason, justification or manifesto to back them up is simply undemocratic.

  2. Derek Hewertson says:

    Privatising Devon schools is unnececcassry. The existing schools administration by the County has worked well over many years for the benefit of staff, pupils and parents. It has constantly been under close observation by many groups looking for waste and mismanagement and has continued to serve its constituency well. There is no evidence nationally that private companies or charities can achieve the same high standards provided by Devon C.C. at lower costs

  3. Paul F says:

    The government’s Academisation policy is simply privatisation by stealth – and when taken in conjunction with other “privatisation” by stealth policies appears to be an attack on county-council-level local government.

    I am glad to see DCC resisting the academisation process, and encourage other local residents to campaign to avoid academisation of local schools.

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