Thousands more schools could be thrown to private firms under ruthless new Tory plans.
The government’s Education and Adoption Bill, published last week, puts every school in England at risk of forced academy status.
It would expand the scope of government academy orders, which instruct schools to convert. It would put more power in the hands of the education secretary and give less to local authorities. And it would put more obstacles in the way of anyone who wants to challenge academy status.
The Tories dress up their attack in the name of improving education and helping disadvantaged children.
In reality academies are a scam to transfer huge amounts of wealth from public to private hands.
The government funds academies—and as the Department for Education admits, its bill is “likely to result in an increase in public spending”. But academy schools are run by private businesses, charities or federations. Parents and others have less democratic control over them.
Academies can employ unqualified teachers on lower pay. They have more “flexibility” on setting’ pay and conditions—and on selecting pupils.
The Tories say they will focus their academy orders on “failing” schools or those that fall into a new, as yet undefined, category of “coasting”. All of this is rubbish. There’s no evidence that academies improve education.
Some 46 percent of academies are currently classed as “failing” by Ofsted. If academy status is the solution to everything, what’s the solution for them?
And in reality the Tories will be able to use this bill to target any school they like. Campaigners have long argued that schools’ inspectorate Ofsted is being used as a political tool to drive through privatisation.
At Downhills primary school in Haringey, north London, Ofsted in October 2011 said the school had a “clear trend of improvement” and children’s Sats results were improving. The then education secretary Michael Gove wanted the school to become an academy.
Ofsted returned to inspect the school in January 2012 and it was redefined as failing. This allowed the government to get rid of the governing body, impose an interim executive board (IEB) and begin academy conversion.
The Tories once defended academies by talking up the “parental choice” they offered. If they get away with this attack, a privately-run, less accountable school will be the only choice on offer.
New attacks on schools in the coming education bill
1. Less consultation for takeovers
School Governing bodies currently have to consult “those they think appropriate” about academy conversions.
The new bill means there is no requirement for any consultation in cases where a school is subject to an academy order.
Governing bodies currently have a 15-day period to respond to a warning notice. The bill would scrap this, allowing local authorities to determine time periods.
2. More powers go to the Tories
More powers to issue warning notices or academy orders will be transferred from local authorities to the education secretary.
The education secretary Nicky Morgan would have more powers to select and impose academy sponsors, and decide the make-up of interim executive boards.
She would also have the power to terminate the contracts of anyone employed by the local authority.
3. Removal of the right to appeal
Governing bodies’ currently have the right to make representations against government warning notices, which can precede academy orders. This right will be “removed”.
Under proposals in the bill, if an academy order is made the governing body will have to “work towards the school’s successful conversion into an academy by taking all reasonable steps necessary to that end”.
4. More schools in the crosshairs
The new “coasting” definition allows the government to target even more schools with academy orders. It has not explained what “coasting” is.
‘They want to privatise everything’
Alasdair Smith is national secretary of the Anti Academies Alliance. He told Socialist Worker, “The government only has one education policy—privatise everything.”
Alasdair pointed out the scale of opposition to academies.
“Over the last eight years we have supported hundreds of groups asking for help against conversion,” he said.
“Their usual complaint is that ideology—that academy conversion is good—is being forced on them.”
Alasdair stressed that resistance will continue.
“Injustice creates resistance. Teachers and their unions are still fighting conversions, and in some cases striking against them.
“Parents are demanding ballots on conversion. Last year a particularly controversial conversion at Hove Park school in Brighton was halted by united parent and teacher action.
“We need to target this new bill—inside and outside parliament.
“And we’ll need to find new ways for parents and others to get justice.”