Image from by Tim Lezard Teaching unions have dismissed a Policy Exchange report which recommends all primary schools become academies over the next five years. The report, Primary Focus, is published as anti-academy protestors …

Tim Lezard Europe, UK, Education (EI),
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by Tim Lezard

Teaching unions have dismissed a Policy Exchange report which recommends all primary schools become academies over the next five years.

The report, Primary Focus, is published as anti-academy protestors are celebrating last night’s decision by governors at Hove Park School to unanimously reject a move to turn their school into an academy.

Twitter feed @teacherROAR welcomed the news, saying: “The Hove Park campaign has been brilliant. They never once accepted it was a done deal. Heroes!”

And comedian Mark Steel tweeted: “Bugger my boots we’ve won. Academy defeated after 6 month brilliant campaign. I’m off for a whisky.”

A statement from the Anti Academy Alliance said: “The parents, carers and members of the community that make up Hands Off Hove Park School are delighted and thrilled that the governors have ultimately made the right decision and voted no to academy status.  This is an excellent result for the whole of this school community but also for all schools across Brighton & Hove.

“[Head teacher] Mr Trimmer and the Governing Body have clearly recognised that the reality of academies is that they weaken governance and accountability and offer nothing in terms of raising standards or improving the educational environment for children, parents, teachers and communities.

“When the proposal to become an academy was first made in March a lot of people thought it was a done deal. We have to thank all the students, parents, teachers, city council, trade unions and other community members that kept faith with our campaign.

“Together we have made banners, written letters, composed songs, tweeted, posted, marched, rallied, lobbied, laughed, performed, donated, banged wheelie bins and stood at the school gates night after night to ensure this conversion didn’t take place. At times it has taken over our lives but it has brought us together as a loud and strong collective voice. It has demonstrated that Hove Park has a fantastic community who clearly care about the school and the education of all children in the community, regardless of background or ability.

“We hope other parents across the country involved in similar battles against the deregulation of state education will draw encouragement and hope from our campaign. We hope that people will take similar action where the public services they cherish and depend on are threatened. It’s been hard work but it’s been a lot of fun.

“As a vibrant and active parent group, we can now look forward to directing our energy into supporting the school to ensure it continues on an upwards trajectory, helping to build on the improvements that have already been made in the last few years for the benefit of current Hove Park students and generations to come.”

Commenting on Primary Focus, NUT general secretary Christine Blower said: “Given the endless reports on the shortcomings of existing academy chains, this report’s recommendation that all schools should convert to academy status seems somewhat absurd. Primary schools have been less keen to change status for the simple reason it is not in their best interest.

“This government championed the free schools and academy programme as opening up choice for parents. This is a far cry from the coercive methods that have been employed by the Department for Education to force schools to convert.

“The report’s recommendations have nothing to do with standards but everything to do with opening up further a free market for education. The result of increased competition between schools will not improve standards or provide support for schools. We only have to look at Sweden who, having experimented with a free-for-all in education, have now seen a drop in standards.  We need to learn from this and not continue to peddle myths about the benefits of a fragmented system.

“It is quite incredible that this report is co-authored by the former, inexperienced head of Pimlico Primary who quit her job within weeks of it opening. The school is part of an academy chain founded by government minister Lord Nash. This tells the public everything they need to know about the failure of the academy and free school programme and those – such as Policy Exchange – that continue to promote it.

“It is time to end these unnecessary reforms and return schools to the democratic oversight and accountability of local authorities.”

ATL assistant general secretary Nansi Ellis said: “It is absolutely right that primary schools need to work together to share expertise and help each other to continually improve.

“Primary schools have not chosen to become academies, so the suggestion from Policy Exchange that they should be forced to become academies and join an academy chain amounts to removing the very choice and autonomy that the think-tank believes is so important.

“If one-in-five primary schools are at risk of ‘failing’ from 2016, this is because the government has put in train massive changes to the curriculum and assessment without providing training for teachers.

“The government needs to focus on ensuring there are enough teachers and on the quality of their training, rather than wasting time and money turning schools into academies and free schools.”


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Tim Lezard

Campaigning journalist, editor of @Union_NewsUK, NUJ exec member; lover of cricket, football, cycling, theatre and dodgy punk bands

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