Yesterday I debunked three factoids from the Department for Education which they’d used to dispel what it considered to be academy ‘myths’. Here I expose four more of the DfE’s rebuttals.
DfE Myth Four: ‘All schools will have to join multi-academy trusts’
‘Successful, sustainable schools will not be forced to join up in a trust with other schools,’ says the DfE. This means a school, even an existing stand-alone academy, has to ‘successful’ and large enough to cope with the financial and administrative burdens that come with academy status. Small schools won’t have the resources so, yes, they will have to join a multi-academy trust (MAT). And if a school isn’t deemed ‘successful’ (ie it’s ‘coasting’, or there’s a drop in results), then it can expect to be forcibly taken over.
The DfE says ‘two-thirds of current academies have chosen to be part of multi-academy trusts’. Many would be what David Wolfe QC described as ‘near boiled frogs’ – schools who jumped before the ‘flames of Ofsted’ brought ‘the water to the boil’. The population of ‘near boiled frogs’ is likely to increase now the Government has proposed mass acedemization. Schools may feel they’d be better off choosing a MAT rather than wait and have one forced upon them. Other MATs would have grown from Wolfe’s ‘rewarded succeeders’ – schools (mostly secondary) who chose to convert and who have since become MATs. A case of ‘swallow or be swallowed’, perhaps.
DfE Myth Five: Academies won’t be accountable to parents
The DfE’s statement is worthy of Squealer in Animal Farm. This is how he would have phrased it:
‘My fellow animals. We want parents to be more involved in their child’s education – not less. We are not suggesting parents should no longer be on academy governing bodies. But not all parents have the skills to make them effective. That’s why we are proposing to remove the requirement for academies to have parent governors. Academy trusts will be free to appoint those with appropriate expertise to support the business… (cough) …academy trust. And we will ensure trusts put in place arrangements to listen to parents’ views. Final decisions, of course, lie with trustees who, you must agree, have the knowledge and skills which parents lack.’
DfE Myth Six: Academies will be forced to cut all ties with the local authority
The DfE says academies will still be able to work with LAs if they wish to. That’s correct. But services provided by LAs are reduced when funding goes direct to schools – all that will remain are statutory responsibilities such as for children with special needs.
Schools will be able to decide where they buy services from, says the DfE. But schools have been able to do this since Local Management of Schools was introduced more than 25 years ago. The only services provided by LAs to their maintained schools are a few legal and administrative duties associated with employment and asset management. This allows schools to focus on their core purpose: education.
‘What it does mean is the end of the local-authority monopoly on running schools,’ the DfE repeats. But, as we will never tire of saying, local authorities do not run their maintained schools. Their responsibilities are limited to those mentioned above. Multi-academy trusts (MATs), however, can and do run their academies – the amount of delegated freedom is in the MAT’s gift.
Myths Seven, Eight and Nine will be exploded in my final article in this series
DfE Myth Ten: There is no longer a role for the local authority in schools
As mentioned above, LAs will still have statutory duties. Whether they will have the funds or ability to undertake these is debatable. The ability of LAs to manage school place supply is already greatly diminished when schools become academies. LAs can’t direct schools to expand or to reduce their pupil admission number in line with local needs.
The DfE wants LAs to act as champions for pupils. But in a fully academized system, LAs would be impotent.
This is the second in a series of articles debunking DfE factoids about academies. The first is here.
This is a companion piece to Henry Stewart's article debunking myths about academies.
The NUT rebuttal can be downloaded here.
CORRECTION 10.58. The original title said there were three DfE rebuttals exposed. Readers who can count will have found there were four. This has now been corrected