Devon NUT submission on schools proposing to move to Academy status
By imbreathra | Wednesday, February 02, 2011, 00:01
NATIONAL UNION OF TEACHERS
NATIONAL UNION OF TEACHERS
mso-bidi-font-family:Arial">Devon NUT submission on schools proposing to move to Academy status
Devon NUT is extremely concerned that the
consultations are deeply flawed, not least by the speed at which they are being
conducted. Crucially there is no mention of opposing arguments to academy
Devon NUT has framed its
response to the proposal by schools to move to Academy status under the
Academies are independent of the
local authority and outside the Devon County Council (DCC) family of schools.
DCC plays a key role in the strategic planning and management of education
provision across the county and has an overview of changing education needs and
how best to plan and deliver for this. Moving to academy status will further
fragment education, making it harder to plan and deliver resources to schools and
the community in a strategic and equitable manner.
be funded directly by the Department for Education. The Act by-passes local
authorities and would bring about Government control of the schools either
directly, by the Secretary of State for Education, or indirectly through a
newly expanded and strengthened quango, the Young People’s Learning Agency.
3. Lack of Accountability
schools, Academies would
not be subject to democratic accountability. As a report by consultants Price Waterhouse Coopers
noted: “Academies as independent schools are not scrutinised or held
accountable to their local education and children’s services or democratically
Removing a school from
the local family of schools will have a detrimental impact on other schools in
the area. Instead of supporting and working in partnership with each other and
Devon County Council, Academy status could result in Queen Elizabeth’s Community
College becoming a stand alone institution, working in isolation, remote and
unaccountable to its community.
5. Widening Inequalities
analysed the school level characteristics of those schools which had “expressed
an interest” in becoming a Gove Academy and their analysis showed that such
schools were very different to Labour’s Academies. In existing Academies, the
percentage of pupils with SEN, those who were entitled to free schools meals,
and those from ethnic minority backgrounds were much higher than in all
secondary maintained schools. In contrast these same groups have much lower
representation in those schools which had expressed an interest in Academy
status under the new arrangements compared with those that had not.
If a school
becomes an Academy its assets, including all its land, building and contents
transfer from the local authority to the sponsor or Academy Trust under a leasehold
arrangement - usually 125
7. Lack of Proper Consultation
Academies Act, a
school can make a decision to apply for Academy status through a simple
majority vote on the governing body. An Amendment to the Act means that the
governing body must consult “such persons as they think appropriate” but the
Government refused amendments specifying who such persons might be or how they
would be consulted. This would effectively disenfranchise the local community.
The NUT is
also concerned about the undemocratic governance arrangements for Academies,
which differ substantially from those of local authority schools. In a
maintained school there is a balance of places for key “stakeholders”,
particularly elected parents, who make up a third of the governing body, staff
governors, and representatives of the local community and the local authority.
In an Academy, the external sponsor or Academy Trust appoints the majority of
governors. Academies are only obliged to have two parent governors and there is
no requirement for a teacher or staff governor.
There is no evidence to sustain
the view that the Academies model has resulted in higher levels of pupil
attainment. Of course, with the fast-tracking of “outstanding” schools to
academy status this is certain to change. Among existing Academies, the
evidence to date is that, as with schools as a whole, some Academies are doing
well while others are struggling.
National Audit Office Report (10/9/10) suggests that the rate of increase in
Academy GCSE results is faster than in comparator schools. However the NUT is
concerned that there is strong evidence that Academies may be directing
students into taking less academically rigorous qualifications to boost their
headline GCSE results. In 2009, 58% of students in all maintained schools
obtained an A*-C GCSE in a modern foreign language, but just 14.2% of students
in Academies did so. A study
by the Historical Association found that only 6% of Academies surveyed taught
history as a standalone subject.
10. SEN Provision
Taking funding for a proposed
Academy from DCC control could damage the education of children with Special
Education Needs. Devon County Council has a key role in identifying need and coordinating
provision, which ensures equitable access to SEN services. There will be less funding for SEN provision in
schools that remain within the authority where the its budget has been depleted
by an Academy conversions such as proposed here, thus increasing the chances
that families with children with SEN will face a postcode lottery and that
disadvantaged children will not receive the same quality of
education. Families would no longer have the safety net of the local
authority to turn to if they are dissatisfied with the provision their child is
11. Academies and Exclusions
Devon NUT is deeply concerned
about the high exclusion rates in current Academies, which raises concerns over
whether they are discriminating against some disadvantaged groups of children
and whether some Academies are using exclusion to remove young people who might
depress the exam results at those institutions. Permanent exclusion rates in
Academies last year were almost three times higher than those in schools as a
whole and almost double the rate for local authority maintained secondary
schools. Pupils with SEN are eight times more likely to be permanently
excluded; children who are eligible for free school meals are three times more
likely to receive either a permanent or fixed period exclusion than children
who are not eligible for free school meals.
12. Local Authority Funding
Devon NUT is concerned that
removing funding for a proposed Academy from the DCC budget will mean
it has less to spend on other schools.
The Government has stated
that Academies will be funded at the same level as maintained schools but the
funding formula, as it currently stands means this may not be the case. An NUT
analysis of the proposed funding formula identified the problem in the way the
calculation is made by the Young People’s Learning Agency (YPLA) – the body responsible for Academy funding. The
YPLAs methodology for calculating Academies’ funding includes a number of types
of expenditure that do not go directly to schools, such as the strategic
management and running costs of the whole children’s services directorate. It also included the
Academy’s “share” of the local
authority’s central spending on
school improvement. However, this is spent mostly on schools that need additional
support, not on those designated as ‘outstanding’.
Grant payments to Academies would replace DCC services, which depend on the
level of central spend in the authority.
Evidence is emerging of problems re the amount paid to schools in
respect of VAT. Some Academies are reporting a shortfall and are passing the
extra costs on to pupils, for example increasing the cost of a school trip to
incorporate the VAT element. Queen
College would also be liable for any shortfall in the Teachers’ Pension scheme
and Local Government Pension Scheme. There are no guarantees of level of
funding after March 2011. Crucially,
there is no provision in the Education Act for returning to Local Authority
control should the governing body have a change of heart, or become bankrupt,
for example. The matter would rest with the Secretary of State alone.
Teachers’ Pay and Working Conditions
The NUT opposes the right of Academies to set
their own pay, conditions and working time arrangements for new teachers. (Please
see the attached letter from Lord Hill to Headteachers)
Teachers are being told that would transfer on current pay and
conditions and that the Transfer of Undertakings for the Protection of
Employment (TUPE) would apply. However, the NUT and other unions are aware that
the Governing Bodies of some academies have decided to change pay and
conditions after transfer, eg employing any new member of staff on different
arrangements from those on nationally negotiated terms and conditions, thus
creating a two tier-system. Lord Hill, a Government Minister has made it clear in a letter to all Headteachers considering Academy status, dated 15 December 2010, that there is no requirement to enter into any agreement on School Teachers Pay and Conditions "We consider the ability to set pay and conditions to be one of the key freedoms of Academy status."
15. Cost and Resourcing of
the Academy Programme
The NUT is also
concerned about the cost of the Academies programme at a time of recession when schools and
local authorities are facing cuts and when Building Schools for the Future
(BSF) funding has been axed
Devon NUT is aware that the Government has given Devon schools a greater share
of the funding for pupils
nationally, following intensive lobbying regarding the unfairness of the
funding formula. The Government
has increased this award from £4005 per pupil (which is £395 less than the
to £4602 for 2010/11. Some Heads and Governing
Bodies have argued that projected deficits and
the possibility of redundancies
for 2011/12 are the prime reason for moving to Academy status. Devon NUT
believes that given the new cash injection this argument is invalidated.
it is clear that move towards Academy status are being conducted with indecent
haste by a
small minority of people within Community Schools. Devon NUT urges the Governing Bodies of Pilton Community
College and Braunton Community
College to agree to a full consultation to take place, which would include
giving ‘stakeholders' as
much information as possible regarding the arguments for and against
Academy status. We also believe
that a ballot should then be conducted via an independent body such as the
Devon NUT is willing to underwrite the cost of this process.
NUT Division Secretary Jamie Wells says, “This should not be the basis on which
community schools are removed from local authority control and left to the
vagaries of the market, knowing that the decision will be irreversible in law
and that the education of students could also be seriously damaged as a
Please email Devon NUT Secretary Jamie Wells on firstname.lastname@example.org or Devon NUT P&P Dave Clinch on email@example.com for more information
LETTER TO NORTH DEVON JOURNAL WHICH PUTS THE CASE FOR A BALLOT ON ACADEMY STATUS AT BRAUNTON SCHOOL AND COMMUNITY COLLEGE AND PILTON COMMUNITY COLLEGE
Is it not shocking to think that a small group of people could decide to remove a large institution such as a local community school from Local Authority control without even a nod to basic democratic procedures such as a public debate and a ballot of all those who have an interest in the school such as parents, staff, other school users, local primary schools' parents, staff and their governors?
Both Braunton School and Community College and Pilton Community College are embarking on this route. They are not even required by this government to consult the local community unless they think it is 'appropriate'.
Parents are being informed, we understand, that the schools are considering moving to Academy status. They are not being informed, however, of the serious consequences for the schools if they are removed from the Devon County Council family of schools and become prey potentially to private groups and organisations. This process is also irreversible.
The present government has launched an unprecedented ideological attack on state education, which if successful will reduce it to the level of competing schools, with different pay and conditions for their staff, where the ideas of collaboration and creativity are negated by the drive for competition and the desire for the needs of the economy to prevail at all costs.
There are several reasons why, in our view, schools should not accept financial inducements from this government to become Academies. We have no problem with proposals being made to move in this direction, after all we are supposed to live in a democracy. We do think, however, that any proposal should be tested ultimately at the ballot box following informed debate. Is that not a reasonable suggestion?
The line that there is no requirement in the recent Education Act to do this is simply not good enough. The moral imperative is to act in a decent manner and observe the time honoured methods of allowing those who will be affected by such a momentous decision to listen to the arguments and have their say, followed by a vote.
Devon NUT has offered to underwrite the cost of any ballot of 'stakeholders' in schools considering becoming Academies, which would be scrutinised by an independent organisation such as the Electoral Reform Society.
We would hope to receive a positive response to our offer from the governing bodies of both Braunton School and Community College and Pilton Community College.
President Devon NUT