Dear Mr. Stevenson,
I am asking for your support as our local MP for Carlisle. I have grave concerns about the government’s direction on education policy which I believe will be to the detriment of schools both within and beyond your constituency. There are many things that frustrate me regarding the DfE, including the inability for Nicky Morgan, Secretary of State for Education and Nick Gibb Secretary of State for Schools, to listen to the teaching profession. Hence, I need your support as an MP, even if it means disagreeing with the conservative policies.
I have many current concerns regarding education, including a poor assessment policy, clear cuts to school funding, policies not being based on research or what is best for the children, and my main current concern – the forcing of all schools to become an academy by 2020. I am happy with school choosing to be an academy, and for some schools it is a great decision, however for some schools it is not. I have noted briefly some points as to why forcing them to become an academy is disconcerting.
The secretary of state argues that by ensuring all schools are academies it will raise standards as schools will begin to collaborate and support each other. This argument is flawed. Schools already collaborate, as you know schools in your constituency already work in cluster groups supporting each other in all aspects of school life from supporting teaching and learning to joint financial procurement. This assumption that you have to be an academy to collaborate with other colleagues is outrageous.
The financial cost involved for the conversion of maintained schools to academies is preposterous. The Secretary of State said on Saturday 30th April, that a further £500m will be allocated to ensuring every school is converted to an academy. It has been suggested that this will be over £1bn to convert all schools to academies. With school budgets frozen until 2020, this money could be better spent on the pupils in every school, rather than divert public sector money into the hands of private sector solicitors and accountants. In my opinion, and that of many other people, this would give a better return on the taxpayer’s money to raise standards.
Improving good and outstanding schools
I received a letter from Nick Gibb, in December of last year, stating that our school was in the top 187 schools, how will converting our school into an academy improve the learning outcomes for my pupils? Surely you will agree, if we are as good as Nick Gibb acknowledges, we should be allowed to carry on doing what we are doing. Schools who are good or outstanding are already delivering high-quality learning opportunities for their pupils, changing the school structure will not improve the learning.
Reduction in standards
Many people believe that conversion into academies may lead to a reduction of standards. If the head teacher is out of school, engaging in multiple meetings throughout the conversion, they are not in their schools. This leads to a reduced time spent leading teaching and learning. The amount of time out of school will undoubtedly have a negative impact for the current cohorts of children.
Nicky Morgan argued last week that an education model of multi-academy trusts structure would be best placed to serve our educational system. Russell Hobby, General Secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, suggests that if this conversion is based on convenience then the most convenient thing to do would be to convert all schools to the majority which is maintained schools.
So many schools united against this model
Although the academy model has been around for many years now, the government have been really pushing this since 2010. I have been in meeting with the DfE and been offered cash incentives of above £25k to convert. I have heard from colleagues regarding being bullied into forced academisation. But six years on from the change of direction, there is a reason why over 15,000 schools remain as maintained schools.
You say on your website home page that you have a keen interest in education, if this is so, you will lobby for a change of direction from the DfE. I am more than happy to show you around our school and discuss this further with you. You could invite Nicky Morgan too, so she can see first-hand that you don’t need to be an academy to be successful. However, I know she doesn’t visit many non-academies, but my door is always open.
Mr. C. Coady M.Sc