Devon NUT submission on schools proposing to move to Academy status

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By imbreathra | Wednesday, February 02, 2011, 00:01

  1. 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

status.

 

Devon NUT has framed its

response to the proposal by schools to move to Academy status under the

following headings

1.      Fragmentation

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.

 

2. Centralisation

Schools would

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

Unlike other

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

elected members.”

4. Isolation

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

Academics

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. 

 

6. Transfer

of Assets

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

years. 

 

7. Lack of Proper Consultation

Under the

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.

 

8. Governance

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.

9. Academies

and Attainment

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.

 

A

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

receiving.

 

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 Peoples 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 childrens services directorate. It also included the

Academys “share” of the local

authoritys central spending on

school improvement. However, this is spent mostly on schools that need additional

support, not on those designated as ‘outstanding’.

 

13.        

Academy

Funding

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

Elizabeth’s Community

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.

 

14.        

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

 NB

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

national average)

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. 

In conclusion,

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

Electoral ReformSociety.

Devon NUT is willing to underwrite the cost of this process.

 Devon

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

result.” 

Please email Devon NUT Secretary Jamie Wells on jamie.wells@me.com or  Devon NUT P&P Dave Clinch on dpclinch@gmail.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

Dear Sir

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.

Yours faithfully

Dave Clinch

President Devon NUT

 

      

Comments

       
  • Profile image for imbreathra

    Agreed Barney Bloggs!

    I think there is a moral imperative on governing bodies and Headteachers to ensure that the arguments for and against Academies are aired publicly and then decisions made by a ballot of the interested parties or 'stakeholders'. Anything else is sheer arrogance on the part of Governors and Heads in taking a school out of Local Authority control.

    The NUT and other unions are in opposition to Academies because schools are being led to privatisation and the idea of comprehensive education is being destroyed in the process..

    By imbreathra at 17:21 on 02/02/11

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  • Profile image for Barney_Bloggs

    There is an awful lot of information here about Academy schools. I guess it is down to whether a school benefits from the services and support that Devon County Council supply. It would be very easy to assume that a school would have more money to 'play with' and that they would be able to manage it better than 'them at the Council'. It could all go horribly wrong!

    By Barney_Bloggs at 13:13 on 02/02/11

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