I am a local councillor and school governor in Grantham. I am appalled at the way Lincolnshire County Council has decided with minimal consultation to encourage all schools to become academies. What is worse, is that the existing school improvement agency for the county, CfBT, will become the trust sponsor. This leaves schools with no independent and impartial body to seek advice from in making decisions.
I have written the following column in the local paper, the Grantham Journal (7th October 2011)
Over recent months there has been huge debate about schools becoming academies - the issue of Kings losing its grammar school status caused much concern.
Lincolnshire County Council in a typical cost-cutting move has decided that all schools in Lincolnshire should become academies, so it doesn’t have to fund them.
Its preferred model is to hand them all over to CfBT, an educational charity that currently supplies advisory services, who will claim the funds directly from the government to run these schools.
Whatever you think about academies, the real worry is that CfBT does not have any obligation to tell you what it is doing. Unlike the county council, it is not subject to the Freedom of Information Act.
The issue for schools is this: if the county council has decided that they should be academies and their advisory service want to run the academies, where do schools get unbiased and impartial information in deciding what to do?
Add to this the fear factor - the county council has said it does not know how it will continue to support those schools who decide not to become academies - then genuine choice is being eroded.
It should be remembered that for all the talk and passion about freedom, all these academies will be under the control of the Secretary of State for Education. He has the powers to decide how much schools will be funded and more ominously what should be taught.
He can also close any of these schools down if he so wishes and will be the sole arbiter of complaints about schools from parents.
Central control is expensive, and there will inevitably be a new funding agency that will suck money away from the frontline.
My question is: where is the debate? The LEA has made this decision with minimal consultation with the public. Thankfully, an organisation called Save Lincolnshire Schools is petitioning the council to call for a full debate and consultation. You can the sign the petition here