Government Academy Plans Under Fire

Derby County Council have pledged to oppose government plans to turn all the county’s schools into academies.

The proposals were laid out a meeting of the full council on Wednesday 13 April 2016, along with the warning that the Government’s new proposed compulsory academy programme could have a negative impact on the county’s schoolchildren, particularly in rural areas.

It was agreed the council would support schools to ensure all children in Derbyshire get the best education they can to fulfil their potential.

The cabinet member for children’s services Councillor Jim Coyle said:

“There’s absolutely no evidence that academies improve outcomes for children, so it mystifies me why the Government insists on pressing ahead with this stance.

“There’s no appetite for it in Derbyshire and we will do all we can to support parents and schools opposing the move.”

Chancellor George Osborne announced during the budget last month a proposal to turn all schools into academies by 2022. All schools in special measures or with serious weaknesses must, by law, be issued with an academy order and be compelled to academise. It was the latest proposal for compulsory academisation for all schools that prompted county councillors to act.

Councillor Coyle said:

“It’s a step too far. Only a tiny proportion of Derbyshire schools have become academies voluntarily. This shows it’s not something people here want.

“Already Derbyshire parents are showing their opposition and have set up action groups to fight the move and we’ll do whatever we can to support these groups.

“Making it compulsory to become an academy is a massive step away from local accountability and a turn to centralisation. This isn’t in the best interests of children in Derbyshire or the county as a whole.”

He added:

“We’re proud of Derbyshire schools and committed to fully supporting them to give children the education they deserve. This move is not in their best interests.”

Nationally, academies make up 22.4% of schools, 14.5% of primary schools and 61.4% of secondary schools.

In Derbyshire, the numbers are much smaller − 4.3% of primaries and 44.4% of secondary schools are academies.

Local authority schools control their own budgets and run their own affairs. But the DCC play a role in:

  • supporting and challenging schools to be the best they can be
  • championing all children and their families.
  • helping groups of Derbyshire schools work collaboratively to improve standards.

Academies are funded directly by central government and are run by trusts, some of which are national chains.

This, said Councillor Coyle, reduces local accountability:

“This proposal is not in the best interests of pupils or the community,”

“It removes accountability and flies in the face of the localism agenda championed by the Government.”

Rural schools would be worst hit if compulsory academisation is introduced as the new funding formula for schools would make small schools unviable.

He added:

“Nobody will want to take on a small rural school, it just wouldn’t be worth it.”

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