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.
1) Enforced Academisation – Ripping Schools from their Communities
- There is no evidence that academisation leads to school improvement – yet the government is due to introduce legislation in the autumn which will force schools to convert to academies where there is already a “critical mass” of academised schools. It will also force schools to academies where it thinks local authorites are underperforming – and it can already force ‘coasting’ or ‘failing’ schools to academise. Exact definitions are vague in all these instances
- 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
- The government is still planning to remove the role of elected parent govenors in schools. Instead, there will be no ‘requirement’ to have any parent governors. And all governors – parents included – will have to sit a ‘skills test’. The net effect will be a less diverse set of governors and minimal accountability to parents and the school community
- Schools need stability – many local authorities are doing an excellent job, so why sever this link with local government and the communities they serve?
- Academies can decide on staff pay and conditions with worrying implications for teachers’ working conditions
- Forced academisation costs money at a time when public services are being cut
2) The Quality of Teaching and Learning in School is Under Threat
- Academies can take on unqualified teachers – so if all schools become academies we fear it will undermine the quality of education across the board
- The government is proposing that schools decide when a teacher is qualified. It’s unclear how this will improve education, but it raises the prospect of heads putting off the moment when a teacher is deemed qualified, so that they can save money on salaries
- 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
- *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
- It’s proposed that OFSTED no longer judges the quality of teaching in schools – what’s to stop schools then ‘teaching to the test’, turning schools into exam factories with a narrow curriculum instead of offering a stimulating education which prepares students for life?
- 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
- The current Year 6 SATS will judge children as either at the expected standard or not – in other words pass or fail. The grammar element is widely seen as too difficult. Proposed tests for 4 year olds have been contested by both teachers and experts as harmful (get rid of the full stop at the end of this sentence)
- We fear the government’s proposals will prompt 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
3) School Funding is at risk from the government’s “Fair Funding Formula”
- The government will introduce legislation in the autumn to take some money from inner city schools and give it to schools in areas where pupils have traditionally got less money. The aim is to give everyone the same amount. This might sound fair on the surface, but the background is that the areas that currently get more money do so because their overheads are higher – for example in London – and they have to deal with challenging social conditions for many students. Counteracting these costs money – the success of the well-funded London Challenge proves the point.
- We should maintain funding levels in areas of social and economic disadvantage because schools require extra resources to ensure every child reaches their potential. We need a simple, transparent formula based on need – instead of robbing Peter to pay Paul. It’s estimated the “Fair Funding Formula” will see an average 9 per cent cut in budgets in London schools. 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. There’s nothing fair about that.
- 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