Education for all! Let’s keep schools public
Academies are replacing the public education system as we know it – and we’re losing control of our children’s future. And whilst we are told this improves standards – the evidence just doesn’t prove it.
Education should be public. We need schools that are accountable to local communities. We need properly funded schools, and properly trained teachers. There aren’t any shortcuts.
"Academies are a complete red herring. If the billions that have been thrown at this programme had been invested in providing teachers with decent, evidence-based training which is “on-the-job”, then standards would have sky-rocketed and we would be vying with the best education systems in the world, such as those in Finland and Singapore." Francis Gilbert, The Guardian
Academies were brought in (allegedly) to improve standards. To start with this may have been true, as only a few poorly performing schools were made into academies.
But what was a trickle turned into a flood. More than half of children and young people in state funded schools are now taught in academies. Over 70% of secondary schools and 27% of primary schools are now academies. The government's aim is full academisation.
"This is the most profound change to our education system in our lifetimes…and it’s all very wrong." Andrew Baisley, Teacher and Secretary Camden NEU
There’s no evidence that academies improve standards. The Education Select Committee, the National Education Union and various academics and research bodies like the Local Schools Network have all said the same thing: being an academy doesn’t improve standards. In fact, there’s evidence that academies improve more slowly than state run schools and that council-run schools do better than academies.
- Two thirds of multi-academy trusts (MATs) have performed below the national average for disadvantaged pupils.
- Financially, 8 out of 10 academies are in deficit.
If they don't improve standards, these changes are more about taking the 'public' out of the education system and replacing it with private bodies.
"It has always been clear to the NUT that the creation of academies and free schools was about creating a market in education, not about school improvement. In this we have been proved correct. (...) the Government has been squandering money on an ideological programme for which there is simply no evidence." Christine Blower, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union (formerly NUT), Class
Academies = losing control
Academies and academy trusts are completely unaccountable to local communities and parents. They don’t have to have elected parent governors – or any governing body at all. And because they’re out of the control of local authorities, the people you vote for have no oversight either.
If you were worried about something at your child’s school wouldn’t it be better if it was run locally, with oversight from democratically elected councillors and governors? Wouldn’t it be better if teachers ran your school, not a distant academy chain?
Academies have the freedom to set their own admissions procedures, set their own curriculum, recruit teachers how they want (often with less training or worse pay and conditions), and decide how to use the money they receive from central government for teaching our children.
“The extraction of schools from local authority control seems to have created a series of fiefdoms whose self-made princes are almost totally unaccountable.” The Secret Teacher
Academies of scale
Now, many academies are part of ‘multi-academy trusts’ (MATs). MATs are the fast-food of the education world, offering standardised curricula and teaching to schools in huge variety of areas, regardless of what the community, teachers or parents want. MATs are often run by businessmen and hedge fund managers, rather than education experts. And now they exert a greater control over your child’s education system than any local authority.
The Observer ran a huge investigation into Mike Dwan, who ran a 12 school academy trust in the north of England, and found millions of pounds being paid to companies he owns.
Even headteachers aren’t that powerful in many academies, as their decision making powers are reduced by micro-managing academy trusts.
"I guess it’s one of the great joys of being a teacher is feeling that you’re at the heart of the community, so for us to be pulling up the drawbridge and cutting everyone off around us and becoming more like a company or a private institution…that feels very wrong." Andrew Baisley, Teacher and Secretary Camden NEU
Academies don’t work for all children
Recent research suggests academies in effect pick and choose their pupils – which they’re allowed to do because they can set their own admissions criteria. Some of the criteria are long and confusing – one school’s ran to SIX pages!
This means that some schools end up having many fewer pupils on free school meals than they would have if they were really representative of their community. This could create a two tier education system and worsen social segregation. But don’t all children deserve the same education?
The not-for-profit cash cows
Academies don’t improve standards, but they do make a lot of money for those running them, even if they’re technically ‘not for profit’.
- One academy trust paid out £700,000 to a company owned by its chief executive.
- Another academy trust paid a company set up by one of its trustees £3,000 a day in consultancy fees.
- More than £21 million is spent on the salaries of top-paid academy employees.
- The Conservatives challenged 87 academies to justify the pay of their CEOs in 2018, and 28 trusts in 2019.
"Is the corporate world supporting the academies through sponsorship, or are we in danger of allowing state schools to become subsidiaries in business empires?" The Observer
Of course, none of this is necessarily illegal, but if you were setting up an ideal education system, funded by taxpayers, would it look like this? Do you want your academy trust to be making money out of your child’s education?
We need to end academisation and free schools
We want an education system that works for everyone. This means a democratically accountable and transparent education system, where no child is left behind.
Education is not a business, and no one has the right to profit from our children's education.
We need to focus on teacher training and funding our schools properly. We need a public education system.
Stay up to date with the latest news on academies through the National Education Union.
Join the campaign: Anti-Academies Alliance