Revised 2016: Since the introduction of the Academy Act in 2010, we have supported many individual members and branches with their response to academies, particularly to forced academisation. This has often been done quietly because we achieve more that way, but we need to ensure the lessons learned are widely known.
This toolkit contains our best understanding of the facts, including the actual powers of the government, and our recommendations for tactics. We have found them to be successful on dozens of occasions for getting inappropriate threats lifted from schools and for cutting through the obfuscation. They’re not a silver bullet, of course, and there are limits to our defence.
At NAHT, we don’t defend underperformance; we recognise sometimes something has to change at a school. We don’t believe academisation is always (or even often) the right response and every school targeted is genuinely underperforming. Even where change is necessary, our members need to be treated with the respect due for many years of public service and which is all too often sadly lacking. The processes used have been chaotic, opaque and unfair. We have unearthed examples of schools with rapid trajectories of improvement. These have, in some cases, taken them over the floor standards, but they’ve still been put under pressure to become academies. We shouldn’t be converting these schools; we should be copying them.
The advice in this document can be summed up in three headings: challenge the data, discover the source and develop an alternative. It works. And NAHT is here to provide support to branches and members in applying the advice or in lobbying central government. A big thank you to all those working with schools – particularly our branch secretaries and regional officers – for contributing to this work and to NAHT Director of Research and Policy Development Lesley Gannon for compiling it. Suggestions for future toolkits are more than welcome.
It’s hard being on the defensive all the time about our performance, particularly when it’s unjustified or based on a flawed definition of performance. It may be worth reflecting on this. I have worked in many sectors of the economy and don’t know of another with the same quality of leadership as education. It’s possible to be proud of what we have done without in any way being complacent about how much work is still to come.
NAHT General Secretary