Rescue our Schools was started by parents in response to the government’s announcements in March 2016 on forced academisation in England and its proposals on school funding. We have had years of political meddling in schools, and now enough is enough. The so-called U-Turn on academisation in May belies a continued commitment to force many schools to become academies – whether their communities want it or not. We are gravely concerned at the direction in which state education is heading and we believe that parents’ voices should be heard. We invite anyone who cares about education to support our campaign. We want to give teachers hope and our children a secure future in these uncertain times.
Our key areas of concern are: piecemeal enforced academisation, threats to the quality of teaching and learning, and school funding cuts.
Academisation – Ripping Schools from their Communities
- There is no evidence that academisation leads to school improvement – yet schools are still being forced to academise if they are considered inadequate. At the same time many schools are still opting to academise because their local authorities are so weakened or they think that becoming part of multi-academy trusts is the only way they can survive financially.
- Public land will be given to privately run chains and trusts for 125 years – no other country in the world has given its schools away like this.
- Schools will be run by remote academy chain chief executives and central government – any claim that schools will be empowered is just not true.
- We are now starting to see the emergence of “orphan” schools who have been abandoned by their original MAT sponsors, but no other sponsor is willing to take them on. The story of the Wakefield City Academies Trust, where thousands of children have been abandoned, is a chilling warning of trouble ahead.
- Academies can decide on staff pay and conditions with worrying implications for teachers’ working conditions.
- The voice of parent govenors and representatives is generally far less powerful within the MAT structure than in community schools.
- Academisation costs money at a time when public services are being cut.
Exam Factories are undermining the quality of teaching and learning
- Academies can take on unqualified teachers – so if all schools become academies we fear it will undermine the quality of education across the board.
- Having fewer qualified teachers could see schools increasingly relying on mass-produced lesson material – which makes money for providers but risks providing a “one size fits all” education. The ARK multi-academy trust, for example, has been promoting “blended learning” which replaces teachers with computers and technical assistants.
- It’s not clear if students with special educational needs will be assured a place in their local school once it is an academy – exemptions for academies regarding selection are already resulting in some students being turned down.
- There are too many poorly conceived tests which restrict the curriculum and set children up for failure – with huge implications for children’s mental health. SATs in year 6, GCSEs and A levels have all been made significantly harder under Michael Gove’s reforms. Yet there is no academic evidence that students will cope with tests and exams which are age-inapropriate. Instead they are being put under undue stress. Year 6 SATS are now pass or fail and in 2017 almost 40% of students were told they were not secondary school ready.
- The government’s policies are prompting even more teachers to leave the profession.
- The whole thrust of the government’s education vision is at odds with what employers say they want – creative individuals who can problem solve in an increasingly complex world
School Funding is at risk from the government’s new funding formula
- The government’s new funding formula
- We should maintain funding levels in areas of social and economic disadvantage because schools require extra resources to ensure every child reaches their potential. The broader picture across England is that all schools have already had real terms cuts in funding. They are receiving “flat cash” whilst shouldering higher costs for staff pensions and National Insurance. In effect all schools are being underfunded and pupils and staff are now starting to feel the squeeze.
- Schools that lose money under the changes face sacking teaching assistants, giving less extra support to children who need it and reducing school trips and enrichment/extra curricular activities.
- It will be harder for students from some backgrounds to get to university – reversing the huge success in this area over the last few years.