On the forced academisation of schools in England

This is a transcript of a letter I have written to my MP, on the announcement that the Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan, proposes to force all schools in England to adopt ‘academy’ status, by 2020. This has been announced without any public consultation.

Dear Mr Davies,

I wish to express my extreme concerns at Nicky Morgan’s plans for the education system in England, proposed in the last week.

The announcement of forced academisation of all schools by 2020, has frankly left me stunned. It would see irrevocable damage being done to the education system as we know it, and leave the future of our children and workforce in a very precarious situation.

Both of my children attend Baildon Church School, which I know you visited in recent months, and I’m sure you agree is an excellent school. It has an OFSTED outstanding rating. I can’t think of a single scenario where turning it into an academy would be to its benefit, or that of its pupils.

My issues with the academies programme are numerous. I shall not go into those around the involvement of private businesses, or 125-year leases of land right now, rather I will focus on the impact on children and teachers.

1. Academies are not required to follow the National Curriculum

The principle of a standardised, universal programme of teaching, that must be delivered to all children, regardless of where they live, is obliterated by forced academisation. I don’t believe the rhetoric of ‘giving schools more choice’ at all — it exposes children to the whims of the people who run the academies. If there is no requirement to deliver specific subjects, children will end up in a postcode lottery of future job opportunities. Imagine if a chain of academies in Shipley decided not to teach geography, thus precluding any child from Shipley from becoming, say, a surveyor, or an archaeologist, or a town planner.

2. Academies are not required to hire qualified teachers

The fact that this is even true of the existing academies, I still find hard to believe. That academies are free to hire anyone to teach their pupils, regardless of their professional background, or ability to teach, should surely be of grave concern to any parent. The current routes into teaching (PGCE, etc) are rigorous, with a high drop-out rate due to workload, but this at least is a way of sorting those who like the idea of teaching, from those who are really committed, and have the right skills.

In the eyes of an academy trust, I would probably make a good employee. I have a good education, a long career in graphic design, and I am also a parent, meaning I understand children (to a certain degree). But I would make a terrible teacher. I don’t understand pedagogy, I haven’t been trained in classroom management, and learning ‘on the job’ is unacceptable, when real children’s learning would be the thing at stake while I figure out whether teaching is right for me or not. The very idea that Nicky Morgan proposes to roll this out to every school in England is terrifying. Groucho Marx once said, “I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member”. By the same token, I refuse to send my kids to any school that would have me as a teacher. If Mrs Morgan has her way, I won’t have a choice.

3. Academies set their own pay

This is a clear move to undermine the teaching profession as a whole. All of a sudden, we will have affluent academies being able to attract staff with generous salaries, whilst schools in poorer areas with little financial clout only being able to offer meagre incentives. This will result in a race to the bottom in terms of teacher remuneration, and fewer quality teachers in problematic areas. Again, it’s the children who will suffer. Standardised teacher pay ensures that whether you work for an overstretched inner-city school, or a pleasant, single-intake village primary, your pay is based on your experience and performance as a teacher, not what the school can afford.

Aside from the above, the other grave concern is the fact that this has been announced without any public or parliamentary debate, and was not something mentioned as a policy during the run-up to the last general election. Why would such a profound and wide-reaching transformation of our education system, be undertaken in this way? Announcing it during the budget, without consulting parents, teachers, or indeed heads of industry, suggests Mrs Morgan knows the uproar there would be if the people affected by this move were to understand the implications.

Along with the news that OFSTED will no longer be judging quality of teaching in their inspections, and that schools will no longer require to have parents on their boards of governors, I can see this as nothing short of a co-ordinated attack on our education system, and the teachers who work so hard under colossal pressure, to help each child achieve their potential.

I urge you to use your influence, to oppose these measures, and at the very least, call for a public consultation and parliamentary debate for such an important issue.

Your sincerely,

Dean Vipond

If you agree with any of the above, please write to your MP and raise your concerns. Go to writetothem.com