Sunday, 17 December 2006

Our schools are not for sale!

No to Academy status at Peers School

You may have heard in the local media that there are plans to turn Peers School into an Academy – this mean that private ‘sponsors’, including businesses, will run the school, with virtually no accountability to parents, teachers, or the community. BMW, the Church of England, and Brookes University have been named as potential sponsors.

The New Labour government claims that Academy status will help turn around ‘failing’ schools, and bring in much-needed cash for education. The reality is very different:

Academy schools are undemocratic and unaccountable
In return for investing up to £2 million, sponsors will have a controlling influence on the school. They can appoint a majority of the school’s governing body, leaving elected governors and school heads marginalised. Sponsors also get to influence what is taught, however bizarre their ideas may be. For example, two academy schools in the North East are run by millionaire used-car dealer Sir Peter Vardy, a Christian fundamentalist who insists that Creationism should be taught in science classes.

Academy status does not bring in a lot of funding
Although they get to control the school, academy sponsors don’t even have to put in that much money. While they pay up to £2 million, the government – that is, the taxpayer – still pays up to 30 million for the typical academy. So we have to pay, but we don’t have a say.

Academy schools do not improve standards
Of 11 academies set up in 2004, 5 showed no improvement in GCSE results, while Unity City Academy in Middlesbrough failed its inspection by Ofsted (the body that assesses schools). So much for academy status turning around ‘failing’ schools!

Academies do not help the community
Where academies saw an improvement in exam results, it was because they ‘cherry picked’ the best students. They are allowed to select up to 10% of their students, and many deliberately recruit from middle-class families whose children they think will get better GSCE results. Academies are a step backwards to the days of grammar schools and the 11-plus, when working-class children were denied a decent education.

Academies are not wanted
Nearly everybody involved in education opposes academy status. One survey showed only 6% of head teachers were in favour! Teaching unions and governors’ organisations are against them. So who is in favour?

The government likes academies, because they can make money by flogging off our schools to the highest bidder. Government advisor Des Smith was even arrested after allegedly promising peerages to businessmen who invest in academies. Businesses like them, because they can shape the teaching to suit their own needs, and somebody else (the taxpayer) pays them to do it. Religious groups like them, because they can impose their beliefs on children. But they are not good for children or communities.

Respect opposes academies, and will campaign to stop academy status at Peers. Our schools need decent funding from the state, not money from businessmen that comes with strings attached. If the government hadn’t squandered millions of pounds on war in Iraq, there would be plenty of money for a decent education for all.

For more information about the national campaign against academy schools visit:

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