The government’s plans for all local authority maintained schools to convert to academies is an issue of concern to me and many people, particularly parents and teachers. In fact, two petitions opposing the government’s plans have each received over 140,000 signatures.
This is addition to several organisations that have expressed their opposition, including the Local Government Association, councillors from across the political spectrum, the National Union of Teachers, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers and the National Association of Head Teachers. All have pointed out that the government’s proposals will distract schools from their core functions of teaching and learning.
While there are some great academies, there are also some excellent community schools. Indeed, the vast majority of non-academy schools affected by these plans will be primary schools, over 80 per cent of which are already rated as good or outstanding. Of course, there are also extremely poor examples of both academy schools and local authority maintained schools.
Claims from government that academy status leads to improved standards are based on mixed and selective evidence. For instance, the House of Commons’ Education Select Committee reported in January 2015 that current evidence does not prove that academies raise standards overall, or for disadvantaged children. Education inspector Ofsted recently reported that the academies programme is not bringing about rapid improvement and in some cases, has led to decline.
The government’s central concern should be with improving standards across all types of schools. Instead, these plans risk diverting resources, time and effort away from that vital task.
Our schools are currently facing reduced budgets, a shortage of teachers and not enough good school places. These plans will not solve these serious problems.
For these reasons, I will oppose the government’s plans and will do all I can to ensure that parents, children and communities are at the heart of decisions on our schools.