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Why teachers oppose Academies

May 26th, 2010 by Graham Attwell

In a post on Monday I explained how the UK government was planning to privatise the education system through the establishment of Academies. This post, which is an abridged version of a document written by the National Union of Teachers explains why the NUT opposes Academies. It was published last year in reaction to the Labour Parties limited programme of establishing Academies and before today’s announcement by the UK schools minister that he aims to create over 200 Academies this year.

Academies hand over state schools to sponsors

Creating Academies in place of community or foundation schools involves the transfer of publicly funded assets to unaccountable sponsoring bodies.   Academy sponsors are given control of a modern independent school set up as a company limited by guarantee. Sponsors receive the entire school budget directly from the Government. Academies on the scale proposed by the Government have the effect of transferring billions of pounds worth of publicly funded assets in the form of buildings and land into the hands of private sponsors.

Many sponsors are unsuitable

Sponsors are not required to have educational expertise or experience. As examples, Academy sponsors include Charles Dunstone, the founder and Chief Executive of Carphone Warehouse, Aston Villa football club, Christian philanthropist, Sir Peter Vardy, of Reg Vardy car dealership and David Samworth, a sausage, pies and ready meals manufacturer.

Some sponsors have used their involvement in Academies to further their business interests or in the case of some sponsors to impose their individual religious views on a school.

Academies Threaten Fair Admissions Procedures

Academies have a destabilising effect on the capacity of other neighbouring schools to achieve a balance of abilities amongst their pupil intakes.  The publicity surrounding Academies gives parents the impression that they are the “best” secondary schools in the area irrespective of the quality of other schools.  Their brand new buildings and glossy image on show during visits by Government ministers can act as magnets for parents.  This has resulted in some Academies being heavily over-subscribed, irrespective of the realities of their educational attainment.

There is a wide diversity of practice regarding admissions in Academies including entrance tests, various forms of banding, sibling places, random selection such as lotteries as well as selection by aptitude. The criteria used by Academies in respect of distance from school, however, also varies.  The complexity of these arrangements means that there is a lack of transparency for parents in understanding how the Academies’ admissions systems work.

Academies threaten teachers; pat and working conditions

All Academies are able to set their own pay, conditions and working time arrangements for newly appointed teachers joining the Academy.  In some Academies, pay and conditions arrangements for such teachers are similar or identical to those for teachers in local authority maintained state schools.  In others, teachers’ pay and conditions can be very different.

In some Academies teachers are being expected to work an extended day and for more hours in each academic year.   Also, in many Academies, teacher and support staff Trade Unions are not recognised….

Academies do not offer pupils a better education than other local schools

Academies are based on a flawed premise that standards will be raised simply through designating a school as an Academy and by transferring it to a sponsor. There is no independent evidence that Academies are delivering significantly improved results at a faster rate than Academies. PriceWaterhouseCoopers Fifth Annual Report, published in November 2008, concluded: “There is insufficient evidence to make a definitive judgement about Academies as a model for school improvement”.

Academies undermine the independent role of school governors

The governance arrangements for Academies differ substantially from those of local authority schools which have a balance of places for key “stakeholders”, particularly elected parent and staff governors, as well as representatives of the local community and the local authority.

In an Academy, the external Academy sponsor always appoints the majority of governors, even when the local authority is a co-sponsor. Academies are only obliged to have one parent governor.

The DCSF Standards website states that most Academies also have a teacher governor (either elected or appointed), a staff governor (either elected or appointed) and many include community representatives. This is not a requirement however.

Academies have a damaging impact on other neighbouring schools and on local authorities

Academies can create or reinforce local hierarchies of schools.  The entitlement of Academies to select ten per cent of their pupils means that they are able to choose more academically successful pupils.

Figures from various sources show that Academies exclude disproportionately high numbers of students. …In December 2008 the Institute of Education reported that Academies that expel large numbers of disruptive pupils are having a potentially bad impact on neighbouring schools. The Institute of Education’s findings support claims by critics that Academies are failing to meet their original objective of raising standards in deprived areas not only for their own pupils but also for their “family of schools” and the wider community.

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