The practice of forcing schools into academy status against the wishes of parents, pupils, schools and the larger community was strongly condemned by voters at NAHT Annual Conference 2012 in a number of motions.
The motions revolved around the issues of: localism versus centralisation; community involvement and choice; and a political agenda that attempts to ‘prove’ the effectiveness of the academies and free schools program.
Motion 1, which was carried almost unanimously, says:
Conference believes that schools considering becoming an academy should have the support of their local community and deplores the government policy of “forced academies”.
Conference instructs National Executive to support affected schools by all means possible and continue to press the DfE that no school is forced to become an academy.
Keith Rogers, a Leeds Life Member, said that the policy of forcing schools that are ‘failing’ into academy status is iniquitous and fails to respect the wishes of the local community.
Speaking to motion 2, which ‘instructs National Executive to use every available opportunity to oppose the increasing centralisation of the education system’, NAHT Past President, Dr. Rona Tutt said that Michael Gove is creating a fully centralised system ‘giving him the powers of an elected dictator’. She also cited the example of the phonics screening check which has been imposed on all schools, including academies.
Motion 3 of the conference, also largely carried, states:
This Conference believes that the seismic changes to the public education system, exemplified by the Academy and Free School programmes, are based solely on political dogma and not on educational principle.
Conference instructs National Executive to continue to campaign for a true public education system which must not be fodder for private sector profit.
Tony Roberts from the Lancashire branch said that the academies as an idea had originated in political think-tanks, and was intended to be optional. Tony Roberts believes the current approach to have a ‘highly undesirable underlying philosophy’ and he spoke of a group that is being set up to run 2000 schools on ‘John Lewis’ lines with performance bonuses for directors. He pointed out that only 3% of academies have taken on weaker schools as was originally promised.
Seconding the motion, Les Turner , also of Lancashire Branch asked that we start calling ‘forced academies’ ‘bullied academies’ instead.
Motion 4, the final motion on the subject, which was also carried, said:
This Conference rejects the government’s policy of forced academisation of schools.
Further, Conference instructs National Executive to pursue a policy of challenging the notion that academisation of our schools is a silver bullet and to convene a meeting of education unions and associations in order to begin a national campaign against this most damaging agenda.
Speakers to the motion were Derek Gray and Sandra Bailey of Stoke on Trent and Birmingham. They pointed out that Birmingham is facing upwards of 60 academisations and that these are mostly primary schools. Many of these schools are already making good progress.
The policy was described as a ‘highly political, cynical move’ to enable Michael Gove to ‘crow’ about the number of academies at Party Conferences.
Like the preceding motions, this was largely carried.
Page Published: 06/05/2012