Parents in rural counties where schools are widely dispersed might be alarmed at what is happening in one of England’s largest counties. Lincolnshire County Council
(LCC) has decided to advise all schools to opt out of its control and become academies, preferably under a single trust run by CfBT, an educational charity based miles away in Reading. LCC estimates that 66% of secondary age students and 12% of primary pupils will be educated in academies by January 2012. Despite 44% of secondary students and 88% of primary pupils still being educated in schools maintained by the county, LCC wants to relinquish responsibility for these pupils. The council argues that “with the large number of schools now switching, that could make it financially difficult for the authority to sustain the remaining non-academy schools, particularly if they are widely dispersed across the county.” In other words, village schools are at risk because the government is promoting academy conversion.
The action of LCC in recommending that all schools opt out of its control could be a precedent for other rural counties. Support for small rural schools will become unviable. Village schools will either be faced with closure or being run by a remote academy chain because they are too small to go it alone.
Academy supporters who constantly talk about “freedom” and “choice” should reflect on how this policy is affecting small, vulnerable schools.