Stories + Views
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.
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?”