In April, I posted about the school where I was chair of governors. In August, that school became an academy.
From the 1st August, for the first time in more than one hundred years, there will be no local authority maintained community secondary school in Yeovil, Somerset and its surrounds. Four of our schools have turned themselves into independent state-funded companies limited by guarantee. Their governors are now company directors and trustees.
If you find yourself in a similar situation, there are a few things you can do to try to ensure that the community retains some connection with the schools that serve us:
• Support governing bodies in retaining the stakeholder model of school governance, including parents, staff and the community (academies choose their own governance model and, for example, need only have two parent governors);
• Encourage governing bodies to open up meetings minutes, financial details and other procedures (community school governing bodies are required by law to publish meeting minutes and budgets, but academies don’t have to);
• Ensure there is a proper, independent appeals procedure (parents and students with worries about community schools can appeal to the local authority, but academies make their own arrangements);
• Ensure that academies are accountable to the communities they serve (as the county council, and your local councillor, no longer have any rights to intervene);
• Resist moves by any of our schools to admit any proportion of their students by ability (the government is allowing the expansion of grammar schools and will permit currently comprehensive schools to select students on attainment).
The Secretary of State, who initiated this policy and is providing a one-year only cash incentive to schools, is on record as saying that, “We now have great headteachers who will become educational entrepreneurs. They will build a brand and create chains”. And he added that he would have “no ideological objection to profit-making institutions” in education. A local headteacher has written, “. . . in the new Coalition world, the headteacher will be king.” The accountability of our schools is under threat.
The world of education is being turned upside down, and very few voices are raised in question, let alone protest. But watch out! Next year, it will be your child’s primary school that’s targeted.