Our "satisfactory" and improving rural community secondary school has decided to apply for academy status before consulting with students, parents, staff and the wider community. I have therefore stood down as chair of governors.

Nigel Gann's picture
 3
Somerset LA is seeing a flood of schools applying for academy status, particularly because they have understood that they will get £569 per pupil if they convert before September 1st (and half of that if they convert shortly after). We have not done the sums, but the governing body and the headteacher are frightened of "being the last ones left" in the LA. They have therefore voted to apply for conversion, and only then to consult. I stood down as chair of governors (after 4 years) as I am not prepared to lead the GB into this adventure without a clear understanding of the consequences, and without thorough and meaningful consultation with the stakeholders. Three other governors share my views, but we are outnumbered by the rest. There is no business case for conversion as yet, but we are being swept along with the tide.

I have been a teacher in secondary schools (1972-1986) and an educational consultant and school governor in primaries and secondaries since 1988. I have written, spoken and trained on governance issues widely over the last twenty years, for 50+ LEAs, Ofsted, the DfE (in its various guises), the British Council (in Moscow and Qatar, for example). The stakeholder model of governance is the most democratic and accountable model we are likely to get - it has worked, with headteachers accountable to their governing bodies and governors in turn accountable to the local authority and the school community.

The present government's view (a logical extension to that of the previous government and its Academy policy) is that schools should be run, not as community organisations accountable to parents and students, but as businesses accountable to the Secretary of State. This is yet another step in the downsizing of the state and the hiving off of its key functions to the private sector. It also, not entirely coincidentally, allows the existing private sector companies engaged in support services for schools to dictate terms, and to provide another milch cow for millionaires.

I did not enter school governance to direct an independent school accoutable only to central government. I am afriad that the destruction of LAs will first have a very serious negative impact on primary schools - especially the many small village schools around where I live - and then on secondaries. I believe that in five to ten years time, governing bodies may be saying to themselves, "What on earth have we done?"
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Comments

Janet Downs's picture
Sun, 03/04/2011 - 11:50

This post highlights yet again the worries about academy status which are aired so frequently on this site. The rush to convert, forced on by alleged financial sweeteners, the lack of discussion over the consequences of conversion, the requirement to have the bare minimum of consultation, the discussions that take place out of the public eye (as in Lincolnshire), the little-known fact that once a school is an academy it is locked in for at least seven years - all these are extremely worrying developments in a democracy. In addition, there is the ability of academy governors to self-select with no legal requirement to have local people or staff members, the ability to change staff pay and conditions of service (despite the TUPE regulations which are supposed to protect pay and conditions for existing staff), the ability of academy governors to change times of terms and the day with no need to be the same as other local schools, and the possibility of being forced into an agreement with non-democratically-accountable academy chain.

I think many existing members of school governing bodies, when they find that they are redundant because the academy trustees are under no obligation to keep them, will rue the day they allowed their schools to convert. Governing bodies are supposed to act in the best interest of their schools. They are not doing so if they rush like Gadarene swine towards academy conversion.

John Fowler's picture
Sun, 03/04/2011 - 21:53

On the seven years, I think there is a need to distinguish between the school (the Academy) and the governance arrangements (the Academy Trust). I have every confidence that the current Secretary of State will not allow an ongoing Academy to close and reopen as a maintained school. If the Academy Trust wants to give up I am sure one of the emerging Academy chains will wish to take over and keep the school as an Academy unless there really is no need to have a school on the current site. There can be no realistic prospect that a school can become maintained again. Academisation is a one way process under the current arrangements.

Sarah Dobbs's picture
Mon, 04/04/2011 - 05:31

Nigel - I am currently running an anti-academy campaign in Lincolnshire, in what seems like very similar circumstances. DO tell the staff and parents to fight back, especially when it comes to putting a balance of information across. Feel free to contact me through the site if you wish - I am more than happy for LSN to pass on my details to you. The only way to stop it happening is through mass opposition, but we are up against the DE propoganda machine, which is only interested in stiffling debate.
And well done for standing up with integrity to what you know is wrong - I just wish there were more like you around.

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