Why we should not stop the fight to keep our local state maintained schools - For the sake of communities, the longevity of our schools and the government?

Marie Faulkner's picture
Many think the fight against academies is over, now more schools are converting to become academies. The mass media have now decided to neglect how radical these reforms are, and simply not recognize the similarity between the privatization of the NHS and our education system. Where was the pause for thought when Michael Gove railroaded the Academies Act last year?

After the Academies Act got through we did see schools converting to academies at a much slower rate than now. This was due to the high risk, lack of information and little benefits offered to a community school. Therefore it was schools with very ambitious head teachers and governors who craved independence and felt confident enough that they could ‘go it alone’. Some with edgy priorities and little to no consultation for teachers and local community; whilst many working alongside profit driven education companies/chains in order to set them up.

The story now is very different. At a time where cuts are happening across all sectors many just saw the conversion as extra money and an opportunity to become independent to escape redundancies and avoid the cuts made to their budgets. As more and more schools have gone, more have felt pushed into the decision of converting. This does not suggest a sudden change of thought on academies and neither will it be the best decision for those schools long term.

This is not just a problem for our local communities who now have schools that are only democratically accountable to the secretary of state, but this is a huge problem for central government. Many academies who didn’t do the conversion for independence, will still seek that support and guidance from government. They will either just continue to work in collaboration with the Local Authority (who may not have the ability to work in the same manner as other schools convert and economies of scale diminish). Or they will be flooding the YPLA/EFA with emails in calls

Now the government did not plan for every school to become an Academy. It can’t have, as you can see in Warwick Mansell’s article: http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2011/apr/26/academies-lacseg-funding...
- the figures do not add up and the YPLA/EFA are going to end up answerable to every school in England- if they get there way. This isn’t possible and something is going to have to give. My only possible thought is that now Gove has the power to convert any school he wants he won’t choose the school to create their own trust or work with the local authority but will be getting private companies and corporations to pick up his mess and set up vulnerable schools with for profit organisations.

This cannot happen; we want to see good quality mixed provision in all areas that can work collaboratively between school, the local community and the local authority. Isn’t this the localism that the ConDem’s wanted? Or are we going to end up with Academy Chains that have in many cases acted in isolation with the local community schools and have created hostility amongst the community and with local authority.

Councillor’s could be on your side with this one, the vulnerable schools that have already taken academy status are at risk we need to maintain the schools we have do not take this gamble.

There will be a great conference on Saturday the 11th of June set up by SERTUC and the Anti Academies Alliance which offers a great line up and some interesting workshops that look one year on from the Academies Act. Register here: http://bit.ly/mERBKS. This will offer more understanding and information on how to help keep your schools state maintained.
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Andy Smithers's picture
Tue, 24/05/2011 - 14:05

Academies are local schools. Academies are part of their local community. Academies are socially inclusive in exactly the same way as local authority schools are socially inclusive.
Most schools that have converted to Academies have kept the same board of governors they had as a local authority school, so local accountability is exactly the same.

For many parents Academies are their local schools and are a central part of their community.

Let's look at 2 examples of local academies, Mossbourne Community Academy in Hackney and Durand Academy in Lambeth. One a secondary and one a primary.
Please take the time to go to their websites, look at their OFSTEDs, look at their intake, look at their results and outcomes.
Then tell me what they are doing that is so wrong compared to their closest local authority school.

Academies are a good thing, let's celebrate all local schools, not just the ones that reflect your political ideology.

Janet Downs's picture
Tue, 24/05/2011 - 16:29

Academies are not locally accountable. If parents are unhappy with decisions made by an academy’s governing body they cannot complain, as they can with LA schools, to a local councillor or to the Local Authority. They have to complain directly to the Secretary of State.

It may be that convertor academies at the moment keep the same governing bodies as they had pre-conversion but there is no legal duty for the governing body to keep the same composition if governors leave. There is no legal duty for academy governing bodies to have parent or staff governors. If these leave, they may not be replaced.

Schools can convert within a couple of months - it takes seven years to revert to LA control by which time there may be no LA services to education as there are now. Schools who struggle with the extra administrative burden (and these are considerable) may feel they have no choice but to join a Federation.

John Burns, OBE, an academy advocate, told the Education Bill Committee about this concerns re academies being taken over by Federations:

1A take-over would result in individual academies having fewer operating freedoms that LA schools.
2There is no obligation for academies who wish to join a federation to consult with parents, staff or the wider community.
3Federations create centralized bureaucracies financed by siphoning money from schools
4They escape proper scrutiny and accountability by being exempt from inspection of the central body.


Allan Beavis's picture
Tue, 24/05/2011 - 14:19

Sorry to say this Smithers but you are totally misinformed and haven't grasped the fundamental difference between what is an Academy and what is local state maintained school This site was set up to provide such information. Do please go and inform yourself. I suspect though that your blind adherence to your deep prejudices will make it impossible for you. I do hope not. Aspiration to enable segregation. That is your political ideology. It s shameful one and not one that many people would be proud to boast about.

Andy Smithers's picture
Tue, 24/05/2011 - 14:21


What are you talking about?

Take a look at the 2 examples of excellent local schools I gave ?
What is wrong with them ?
Please do stop trying to insult everyone who disagrees with you.

Allan Beavis's picture
Tue, 24/05/2011 - 14:47

Smithers. As Cameron would say "Calm down dear"!! Academies are not local schools. They are not LA maintained or supervised. Learn the difference. its also a bit facile to purse your lips in horror at a bit of friendly insulting. I think you're not above childish insults yourself (please see your last squeak of exasperation at Francis Gilbert).
I'm aware of the achievements of selected Academies just as I am aware of achievements of local schools. I won't embarrass schools by naming and shaming schools- - Academies or otherwise - that have failed by mentioning them by name but they do exist. It's a cheap way of point scoring and it would be cruel. I'll let you jump in there!

You have often said how aspirational you are. Aspiration to enable segregation.

Andy Smithers's picture
Tue, 24/05/2011 - 15:00


All parents are aspirational for their children.
Why are you so anti aspirational ?
I suggest you read Tony Blairs' A Journey. it explains all about aspiration and the problem old labour and the unions had in not recognising what it means. Enjoy.

Also I have just read The Beliefs of the founders of this site. Many of them are shared by academies.

Please do stop insulting everyone who disagrees with you. I know I am not the only contributor who has had to ask you.

Allan Beavis's picture
Tue, 24/05/2011 - 15:27

Am bored now Smithers. Aspiration yes but at the cost and as a means of of segregation - no! I don't see what Blair's book has got to do wit this. In any event Labour achieved in integrating society and that is how social mobility can be achieved. What point are you making exactly? That you want to fracture society? Glad to see that you are so proud of your prejudices and intolerance you are happy to stand up and be counted amongst the....well let's leave that blank.

Ben Taylor's picture
Tue, 24/05/2011 - 16:01

All schools are accountable if nobody has to go to any particular school - this is the legal position as I understand it. The accountability is the right to send a child to a different school, any school, according to the wishes of the parents and children, and let the money follow. To cope with problems of selection we can allow expansion of grammar schools or allow free schools that teach grammar curriculum on open entry. I am sure there is also demand for "less academic" types of school.

It's about the local state school not being the equivalent of an open prison for children but having to engage its community so people want to use it. It means unions and teachers lose some of their power, but remember it's a democracy not a gulag.

Andy Smithers's picture
Tue, 24/05/2011 - 17:51

I have just seen Barack Obama visiting a great Local school in London.
It was great to see the President celebrating the success of one of our local schools.
It was the Globe Academy in Southwark, a warm welcoming school with ambitions for all its pupils.
Let's keep celebrating local schools.

Fiona Millar's picture
Tue, 24/05/2011 - 18:22

Would that be one of those schools with fantastic facilities built by the Labour government under a scheme now deemed a failure by the Coalition. Lets hope all local schools get similar investment.

Allan Beavis's picture
Tue, 24/05/2011 - 18:22

Smithers - Obama and his administration are responsible for the upsurge in Charter Schools in America, where big corporations and for proft making organizations are causing havoc in these schools. For every successful Charter School (mainly in middle class affluent urban areas such as New York) there are many that have failed to educate the disadvantaged in rural areas. In other words, Charter Schools have not improved education in America across the board and have not solved the problem of improving standards for low income and black males. Worse, many individual schools and whole states are now taking legal action against the commercial companies that run schools and have exploited the naivety and inexperience of schools boards who thought they were the answer to their operational, curriculum and staffing needs. Let's hope this American template isn't exported to our shores. There are numerous posts about Charter Schools on this website. I suggest you go read some of them and get a broader picture of what has been going in the US.

Not sure therefore why you think dropping Obama's name into your post supports your argument for local schools. Academies are not really local schools and you know it. Are you impressed with Barack Obama's pursuit of spinning the lie of aspiration at the cost of genuine social mobility? Of course you have! - you've demonstrated that shamelessly!

Andy Smithers's picture
Tue, 24/05/2011 - 18:26


Local schools are local schools.
Academies are local schools.
Let's celebrate all local schools.

Are anti aspirational for your own children ?

Allan Beavis's picture
Tue, 24/05/2011 - 18:36

Smithers- you've changed your tune! I'm glad you're becoming more inclusive in your thinking! Well done you! I don't think my personal life merits any attention and I don't see what it's merits or otherwise have got to do with the more important broader issues but
yes - I am aspirational for my children and they are doing very well in their studies at our fantastic local comprehensive, thanks for asking!

Even better, at their school they mix with children from all social backgrounds, all ethnicities, all abilities. I am really happy that they also aspire to be kind, to treat people no matter what their backgrounds with respect, that they celebrate rather than sneer at diversity and they will see how destructive aspiration at the neglect of people who need kindness can be. I'm very proud of them and proud of myself quite frankly to have raised children with important values.

Andy Smithers's picture
Tue, 24/05/2011 - 18:57


Not sure I have changed my tune, but glad you have finally decided to actually read other peoples posts instead of insulting them.
Its great you now accept that academies are local schools.
It is good that you, like all parents, are aspirational for your own children, so not sure why you have been complaining about aspirational parents for so long.
Aspiration does not mean segragation - you will get there in the end if you keep listening.

Allan Beavis's picture
Tue, 24/05/2011 - 19:13

Smithers - you are one bundle of contradictions and confusions aren't you? And my - how you twist words with such little effect or wit. I hear the sound of a damp squib...Anyway, you carry on not facing up to the ugly truths about...er..well I don't want to be insulting so let's leave that hanging in the air

Ben Taylor's picture
Tue, 24/05/2011 - 19:50


I agree with your sentiments such as;

"...aspire to be kind, to treat people no matter what their backgrounds with respect, that they celebrate rather than sneer at diversity and they will see how destructive aspiration at the neglect of people who need kindness can be."

But this isn't a exclusively a quality of the comprehensive school only is it?

What about the provision to the poor by Young and Birbalsingh? Does it also count?

Francis Gilbert's picture
Tue, 24/05/2011 - 21:54

Birbalsingh hasn't opened a school yet -- and taught for most of her career in a school that's effectively selective -- and we don't have the stats on WLFS yet as to the proportions of poor children it's admitting.

Ben Taylor's picture
Tue, 24/05/2011 - 21:57

I don't see how you can criticise WLFS on this issue since they have a compliant non selective admissions process

Allan Beavis's picture
Wed, 25/05/2011 - 07:59

Francis - how was Birbalsingh's school selective? I didn't know it was effectively selective!

Francis Gilbert's picture
Wed, 25/05/2011 - 07:53

But what's their intake? Is it genuinely representative of the community? Any info? I haven't seen any...

Francis Gilbert's picture
Wed, 25/05/2011 - 08:22

It operated -- and operates -- a "fair banding system" which means it's effectively selective. KB taught there for a number of years and praised it when she was there. For more, see:

Allan Beavis's picture
Tue, 24/05/2011 - 20:17

Ben - it remains to be seen exactly what provisions Young and Birbalsingh will bring to their free schools. Young and his headmaster have unfortunately made public comments which would be very offputting for many people who might to apply to WLFS. Saying that their academic curriculum won't appeal to everyone has a horrible snobbishness about it and isn't really designed to appeal to what you call "poor" people. It's a form of covert selection. Reading his other comments online, where he appears to be extremely derogatory about individuals and organizations which genuinely represent the concerns and interests of the disadvantaged or those in opposition to the unfair distribution of wealth or influence and , well, I would be very sceptical about just how genuine his concern for the "poor" really is.

Birbalsingh's school is still but a theory. Her mantra is her mission to help poor black kids but how many can she help? What is the point of stuffing a pop up school of segregated poor black kids? Aided and abetted by elitist private school advisers? No - better provision would be for the government to re-invest in BSF in Lambeth, support, develop, expand and improve and on existing provision rather than risk preciously small resources on a risky venture that has failed in America. So - does it count? Well, possibly but not as much and not as valuably as many good maintained schools have been doing quietly and successfully for a very long time

Janet Downs's picture
Wed, 25/05/2011 - 08:31

Ms Birbalsingh wants to open a free school - she alone (as is made clear in her book) "knows" what is wrong with UK education (which according to her is unfit for purpose). Only by "stepping out of the state system" can UK education be improved, she says.

Her Telegraph blog, "My own Free School", trades in on her "victim" status, as well as flattering the Secretary of State and presenting herself as a "rebel" for supporting the Tories (how daring!)

"Michael Gove is doing a great job in trying to strongly encourage state schools to go down this [Free School] route. Alas, I am unable to be part of that system any more. But I don’t have to be. Luckily, thanks to Michael Gove, and dare I say, the Conservative Party, it is now possible for teachers like me, who know what their kids need, to step out of the state system, and give it to them."

(Even the above shows confused thinking - Gove isn't encouraging existing state schools to become free schools - he's asking interested groups to set them up. And the schools will be part of the system because they're financed by the state.)


Ms Birbalsingh is contradictory and deliberately provocative. She says she wants to improve education, and there is evidence that she was in fact a good teacher (see Guardian article below). However, she has also treated her pupils with contempt (giving them patronising names in her book/blog) and exposing some recongisable ones to ridicule at a much-publicised conference). For one who claims to know all the answers she shows ignorance of educational findings (eg she says failing students should repeat years - this is refuted by OECD). And her own confessed treatment in her book of a girl who was being abused showed more concern about her own feelings than a need to follow laid-down procedure for dealing with such pupils.

Her proposed school is allegedly supposed to deal with underachievement in black boys. Does this mean that boys will be prioritised over girls? Or will girls feel the schools is not for them? And what about underachieving white pupils?



Marie Faulkner's picture
Thu, 02/06/2011 - 14:49

Financial gain biggest driver for academy conversion - 12 March 2011


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