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It's budget day and parents across the land are waking up to the news that all state primary and secondary schools in England will become academies by 2022.
Words like 'forced' and 'no choice' are being used in the news and it's hard as parents to grasp whether or not these changes will be good for our children's education.
Academisation is the answer to failing schools according to Chancellor George Osborne, who has pledged over £1 billion in extra funding to speed up the roll out. Despite the fact that the academies programme was originally launched by Labour, mission academy conversion is at the heart of the Government's overhaul of the education system. David Cameron has vowed to “make local authorities running schools a thing of the past” and enable every school in England to shape its own curriculum and manage its own budgets.
How many schools have already converted?
Currently, 2,075 out of 3,381 secondary schools are academies, while 2,440 of 16,766 primary schools have academy status. Any school that fails to gain academy status by 2022 will now be forced to do so under “radical new powers” granted to Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan.
Those in favour of the move talk about "setting schools free from the shackles of local bureaucracy" and use these statistics as proof: 700,000 pupils attend a school below “good” and 143,000 attending a failing school (Ofsted, 2015). But will giving the responsibility of pulling up proverbial socks to the schools themselves really help? Critics say it's dangerous to give power to unelected school managers who can't be held to account at the ballot box.
There's also the matter which made the headlines last week of "serious weaknesses” at many Multi Academy Trusts. In an open letter sent to Nicky Morgan, the Chief Inspector of schools and champion of the academies programme, Sir Michael Wilshaw, wrote that they had "noted poor progress and outcomes for too many pupils” during academy inspections. He also expressed concerns that the level of chief executive pay at some academy chains appeared to have no link with performance and revealed that pay in seven of the academy trusts was higher than the Prime Minister’s salary, with one CEO earning £225,000.
What do schools make of the news?
Head of the National Union Teachers, Kevin Courtney, has said that the NUT would block the Government’s efforts to force academy status on schools claiming that “the most urgent problems in schools are to do with chronic teacher shortage, funding cuts, the school places crisis, chaotic implementation of the curriculum, and workload going through the roof”.
Clearly this is a story that is going to grow in importance and sharing facts with other parents will be key. If you have experience of your child's school becoming an academy, join our forum discussion here:
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Academy schools – pros and cons