'there is no legal obligation on Academies to educate pupils for a certain number of days"

Leila Galloway's picture
Tidemill Academy, in Deptford, which recently underwent a transition to academy status after a yearlong campaign by Deptfordsaysno to stop the process, was due to move into a new building during the October half term break but due to planning delays, the move has now been put off until December. The school is offering parents the option of paying £20 a day for their children to be looked after by a private firm, Schoolfriends, for the last two weeks of normal term-time.

Leila Galloway, whose child attends the school, recently asked the DfE to confirm the minimum number of days in a year on which an academy school is legally obliged to provide education. They replied in an email sent on 25th November that 'there is no legal obligation on Academies to educate pupils for a certain number of days". They point out that "a key feature of the Academies programme is the freedom and autonomy teachers have to develop creative and innovative curricula tailored to the needs of their pupils, which includes deciding upon aspects of subject study, how they will teach it and how they arrange learning within the school day." And conclude by stating their belief that "it is for headteachers and teachers to exercise their professional judgements when making decisions about issues such as the number of days they teach."

In such an unregulated environment, we must wait to see the extent to which academies will begin to alter the length, timing and shape of the school year. However, what we can say is that already, in the first term operating as an Academy, the Headteacher of Tidemill has "exercised his professional judgment" with a resultant loss of ten days education for every single one of the pupils in his charge, and many working parents are now facing an unexpected fee of £200.

Tidemill is a school situated in a deprived area of London and for many of the parents, finding an additional £200 for each of their children just before Christmas will simply not be possible. Had the school remained under the supervision of the local authority, arrangements would have been made to ensure that parents and children were not penalised and that the school received the support needed to meet its obligation to provide a minimum of 190 days education in the current academic year.

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Janet Downs's picture
Thu, 01/12/2011 - 07:43

Before the strike yesterday, Mr Gove said school closure would cause great inconvenience to mothers* who would have to have a day off work to look after children who would normally be in school. I hope Mr Gove will be similarly outspoken about an academy which is to deprive its pupils of 10 days of schooling. However, this is being brushed aside under the "professional judgement" get-out clause which is usually used by Mr Gove to say how schools can open for longer.

If Tidemill Academy had been a local authority (LA) school then the LA would have been legally responsible to provide education for these children. But because it's an academy and able to use "professional judgement", then it can close for ten days and opt out of its responsibility by giving parents the option of paying a private firm to provide the education that it should be giving.

*Mr Gove obviously expected mothers to stay at home, not fathers. This speaks volumes about Mr Gove's attitude towards "women's work" and about which parent should take the brunt of parental responsibility.

Margaret May Brand's picture
Fri, 02/12/2011 - 03:06

Much has been made of the extra hours for which Academies would be open busily educating the nation's children. Little, I would suggest nothing, has been made of their not being required to be open for a minimum number of days not educating anyone. I have taught in two brand-new LEA Schools, one of which opened a term late and the other two terms. Inconvenience to parents was minimal and it was the local authority in each case, that had to sort out what to do with teachers employed to teach in a non-existent building! In my case, the London Borough of Hillingdon just put is in the school where our future pupils were but the London Borough of Brent were really quite creative and I picked up two terms of valuable experience in a number of establishments, at their expense.

Children attending a local authority state school have to be educated for 190 days a year and, in addition, teachers have to do an additional five days a year of training. However, children attending a non-local authority state school i.e. an Academy or a Free School have to be educated for no specific number of days and, also, there is no minimum number of additional days of training which teachers have to do. Am I correct? If so, we seem to be in a very 'interesting' situation. Teachers and, more specifically, Heads of Academies and Free Schools can use their 'professional judgement' . Are their equivalents in LEA Schools assumed to have no professional judgement, not to be able to use their professional judgement or to need an LEA to use that judgement for them? I think I'm confused!!

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