Number of academy status schools – such as strike-hit Oasis Salford Media City, left – has increased more than sevenfold under the Coalition
Education unions have reacted furiously to comments from Cabinet Minister Michael Gove accusing critics of the government’s academies programme of being “happy with failure” and “enemies of promise”.
NUT general secretary Christine Blower described his speech as “an insult to all the hard-working and dedicated teachers, school leaders, support staff and governors in our schools.”
And ATL general secretary Mary Bousted said: “All schools, whether academies, maintained, or independent, are ambitious for their pupils, but the government’s economic policies are making their job harder because children living in poverty face huge barriers to success.”
NASUWT general secretary Chris Keates said: “As it is clear that Michael Gove now considers himself to be the Secretary of State for academies and free schools, rather than the Secretary of State for Education, questions need to be raised about who exactly is promoting the interests of the other 22,000 schools and the children and young people who attend them.”
The Education Secretary wants more schools to become academies, which are state-funded but semi-independent and outside local authority control. Up to 200 schools are being told they will have to convert to academy status because they have not met the standards of the education watchdog, OFSTED.
New figures show the number of academy-status schools has risen from 200 to more than 1,500 since the Coalition government took office, less than two years ago. However, the head teachers union says academy conversion does not raise standards in itself.
The ACSL (Association of School and College Leaders) general secretary Brian Lightman said: “The keys to school improvement are excellent teaching and leadership and a relentless determination to stamp out failure.
“Many ASCL members have decided that academy status will be the best route to that goal, many others have decided that they can best achieve this as LA maintained community schools. What really matters are the outcomes their students achieve rather than the type of school they go to.”
Christine Blower said: “If academy status brought the benefits claimed by the government why have so few of England’s schools opted to convert?
“The forced academy programme is about bullying schools into academy status against the wishes of school communities and their local authorities who are best placed to judge what support any particular school may need.
“The academy programme is wrecking local education authority services to schools, including school improvement services. Each time a school becomes an academy, funding is removed from the LEA, reducing services and support to remaining schools.
“The Secretary of State’s assertion that the opponents of the Government’s forced academy programme are “happy with failure” is an insult to all the hard-working and dedicated teachers, school leaders, support staff and governors in our schools.
“Academy status has nothing to do with school improvement but is part of an ideologically driven agenda to dismantle our current system of local accountability for education.”
Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of the ATL, said: “It is ridiculous to argue about whether academies are good or bad schools. Now that nearly half of all secondaries are academies some will be good and some not good enough, as is the case with other state-funded schools.
“There is no evidence that becoming an academy makes any difference to pupil performance, when an allowance is made for the pupils’ background. All schools, whether academies, maintained, or independent, are ambitious for their pupils, but the government’s economic policies are making their job harder because children living in poverty face huge barriers to success.
“The government’s academies policy is wrong for a whole host of reasons – individual schools, particularly primary schools, are too small to be completely independent organizations; getting schools to work together is the best way to improve education overall; it reduces the accountability of schools; and it is preparing schools to be run for profit rather than for the benefit of children.
“It is wrong and counter-productive to force schools to become academies. It diverts them from raising achievement. The government can only offer tired rhetoric to justify making schools become academies because it simply cannot explain how forced conversion helps anyone.”
“No one will be surprised that the first formal speech of the New Year made by Michael Gove was about academies, delivered in an academy. Another year, another series of speeches on academies.
“The Secretary of State consistently focuses on promoting his macadamisation project. Despite the spin he puts on the figures, the fact is that only just over 1,500 schools out of the country’s 23, 000 are academies.
“Despite the fact that there is not one shred of evidence, however much he seeks to manipulate it, that Michael Gove’s academisation project raises standards.
“As it is clear that Michael Gove now considers himself to be the Secretary of State for academies and free schools, rather than the Secretary of State for Education, questions need to be raised about who exactly is promoting the interests of the other 22,000 schools and the children and young people who attend them.”
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