Academies – Opportunity or Threat

As you may have heard in the press, the Academies bill is moving through the Houses of parliament. This will allow your child’s school to become independent from the local authority. If your child’s school has been rated as “outstanding” by OFSTED, then this can happen virtually automatically. Schools not in that category will still require a sponsor.
However these schools won’t be required to consult parents or the local community, and we believe this is wrong. The academies that exist currently had to undergo consultation with the local authority, parents, the community and staff. 

What you must remember is that these ‘outstanding schools’, have been part of the local authority when they became outstanding, so what’s the point of them moving away from local authority support now, and losing the expertise of the support services that help them currently?


The effect of a significant number of schools in Buckinghamshire becoming academies will be to threaten the capacity of the Local Authority to provide a wide range of services, from special needs and EMA support to Occupational Health and pensions and payroll services; from school transport to NQT induction; from governor support services to in-service training. The only extra money that Academies will get is the money that currently funds these services. School admissions arrangements will become increasingly chaotic, and the mechanism for schools to work together on all sorts of issues will be broken.


A small number of Academies that are well-intentioned can work within a framework largely determined and funded by other schools and partners, but a larger number all taking the money for central planning and central services out of the pot and not being involved in the consultative mechanisms will soon destroy effective arrangements previously put there to benefit all.


The local authority is not and never will be perfect, but it is a safety net when there are problems with budgets, potential redundancy and deficit situations, problems with financial management, heads and governors facing complex situations around staff health, induction, training needs, disability provision, challenging parents and pupils, emergency situations such as fires, floods and major crimes, and so on. It is also a source of advice and guidance on a wide range of everyday issues that schools have to deal with, developed locally, based on people’s practical experience.


The role of the local authority in its whole range of services, such as EMA and SEN support, education welfare, buildings support, health and safety, payroll and pensions, library, music, interfaith and outdoor education services, curriculum support, legal services, governor support, risk and insurance management, financial services and more is very hard for smaller or more distant providers to replicate.


Making sure that the school’s needs in these respects are covered becomes a whole new aspect of management for a school, magnifying the risk that running a school as a deliverer of education is overshadowed by running the school as a business.


Annette Pryce- Buckinghamshire National Union of Teachers




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