Local members of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) have reacted angrily to claims by the schools commissioner that Lancashire primary schools are failing pupils and will be forced to become academies.
The schools commissioner, Dr Liz Sidwell, said she would be pressing for 36 primary schools in Lancashire to convert to academies because test results for 11-year-olds remained, ‘stubbornly low.’1
However, Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), said primary schools have given the movement a lukewarm reception.
He also claimed that negative rhetoric and forced conversion could stall schools already on an upwards trajectory, by the distraction of unnecessarily converting to an academy.
Mr Hobby said: “The schools’ commissioner’s visit to Lancashire may have more to do with the low interest in academies than with the proportion of under-performing schools.
“The commissioner’s raw numbers fail to take account of the fact that Lancashire is one of the biggest counties in the country, with many schools – 480 in fact.
“There are dozens of outstanding primary schools in Lancashire and in figures up to April this year, 250 others were rated good. Lancashire is in line with the national average for achievement in tests at age 11 in English and exceeds the national average by two per cent in Maths. To focus on failing schools without acknowledging either the many successful ones or the sheer scale of the county, therefore, is wrong.
“Of course every school should aspire to be outstanding and where schools are struggling they need help and support to improve. But forcing schools to convert to academy status against the wishes of their community and their leadership is not the way to do it.
“In fact, in their haste to get the numbers, officials are also targeting good schools. At least one successful school in Lancashire is under intense pressure to convert, despite the head and teachers taking it from special measures up to a ‘good’ classification in the last few years. Under these conditions, the academy agenda distracts from, rather than encourages, school improvement.
“We urgently need an approach that looks beyond the data, to the work that the school is doing, and which recognises a range of approaches to school improvement. In the meantime, let's celebrate the achievements of hundreds of schools in Lancashire and thousands of pupils. The constant negative rhetoric not only fails to reflect that children leaving school today are better educated than any generation before them, it saps the very boldness and innovation that we will need to overcome the real challenges that remain.
"Of course, there is also no statistical evidence that academy conversion can turn around failing primary schools because it has only just started being attempted. The statistics quoted by the commissioner are for secondary schools only. There are some very big differences between secondary and primary schools."
Page Published: 13/07/2012