By Miriam Scharf
Downloading PDF. Please wait... Issue 2613

Academies plan for school privatisation is faltering

This article is over 5 years, 10 months old
Issue 2613
Academies do not drive up standards
Academies do not drive up standards

The aim of academising all English schools by 2020 has been scrapped. And the forced academisation of so-called “coasting” schools has also gone.

Now only those schools which are rated “inadequate” by the Ofsted inspectorate are required to look for an academy sponsor.

Last week Handsworth primary school in Waltham Forest announced it was not going to become an academy after a big campaign against the move.

In Newham, east London, unions and parents are mounting challenges to the academy agenda. And the rate of conversion from local authority (LA) to the private sector has slowed down significantly.

When Tony Blair’s Labour government brought in academisation it was designed to bring a business model into education.

The Tories continued the policy, hoping that a strongly unionised workforce would be weakened as workers at academies and free schools came out of national pay and conditions.

The education system would become cheaper and open to further privatisation.


There is no doubt that workers in academies and free schools can be attacked more easily than in the public sector.

But workers in academy chains remain unionised and have, mostly, retained the same pay as in the maintained sector.

Academies have failed on so many levels. The fantasy story used to sell academisation was that of school improvement.

Not surprisingly bosses concentrated more on what they could get out of the system, failing to improve their schools.

A study by UCL Institute of Education released last week confirms that councils are better than academies at school improvement.

Then there’s the money. The latest Public Accounts Committee (PAC) report hammered academisation, warning that the Department for Education did not sufficiently scrutinise academy sponsors.

The PAC found a “succession of high-profile academy failures” that have been “costly to the taxpayer and damaging to children’s education”.

Behind the scheme to expand Multi-Academy Trusts (MATs) to take over up to 40 schools was the hope of disguising education cuts.

The scandal where Wakefield City Academy Trust deprived one of its poorest schools of its budget was a symptom of a system which has financial interests at its heart.

MAT trustees have no interest in helping less well-off schools.

There are an increasing number of “orphan” schools with no academy sponsor and the law still forbids the LAs from taking them back into their control.

Built into academy conversion is a loss of local control.

But where parents find out the facts they often choose to fight for their school to be kept with the LA.

In Newham a key demand of campaigns has been to get a parent ballot in any school under threat. Even in Tory areas parents want to have a say in their child’s schooling.


Another disastrous consequence of academisation has been the manipulation of admissions.

There is chaos in school places and lack of care for looked after children and students with what’s termed special educational needs and disability.

With the Tories in disarray, some local councils are backing calls for change.

Newham council’s cabinet has passed a policy aimed at keeping its schools in the public sector—a complete reversal from its practice only last year.

And the Local Government Association is calling for councils to take up their previous key role in school improvement and place-planning.

The research shows definitively that academies exacerbate inequality. For Labour and the education workers’ unions this should fuel an offensive against academisation.

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