A number of my constituents have contacted me recently about the Government’s plans to force all schools to become academies.
Academies were introduced under Labour as part of a larger package of measures to improve failing schools. The Conservatives however, have introduced them on the basis of dogma. I believe that forcing schools to become academies whether they want to be or not is foolish and will distract head teachers from tackling some of the other challenges facing our education system.
Many schools are facing a difficult time and are having to deal with a number of issues including the Government’s changes to the examinations system, staff shortages in areas such as maths and science, budget cuts and growing class sizes. 50,000 teachers quit their jobs last year and the Government have missed the trainee teacher targets for the last 4 years in a row. Furthermore, half a million primary school children are now taught in classes with over 31 pupils.
The last thing that many schools need is to be forced into the complicated process of acquiring academy status. I would like to see our teachers concentrating on raising standards within schools and providing our children with the best possible education. In some cases becoming an academy is the way to do this, but this is certainly not true for every school.
The Government have simply ignored the fact that most primary schools don’t want to become academies. Small primary schools will not even be allowed to become standalone academies, so will have to join with other schools or join an academy chain. Some of these chains have been described by the Chief Inspector of Schools as worse than the worst local authorities.
I recently spoke out against these changes on Question Time where I challenged the Secretary of State Nicky Morgan about the Government’s record on schools. You can watch this episode here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b07453vd/question-time-17032016
I was pleased that Jeremy Corbyn was able to speak about this issue at the recent NUT Conference. You can view a video of his speech here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PfQ67tbEYn4 We will continue to work with teachers’ unions to support them on this matter and listen to what they have to say. The Government have clearly failed to do this and have shut both parents and teachers out of the decision making process.
The Labour Shadow-Education Secretary Lucy Powell has been vocal on this issue and you might be interested to read a piece that she has written in opposition to the proposed changes. You can read this piece here.
I can assure you that I will be working closely with the council and local schools to look at how they can minimise the negative impact of these changes on pupils. I will also continue to work with my Labour colleagues to hold the Government to account on this issue.