Concern over academy plans and education funding after Queen’s speech

Queen Elizabeth II. Photo: Alastair Grant/PA Wire
Queen Elizabeth II. Photo: Alastair Grant/PA Wire
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A member of the National Union of Teachers has warned schools will have to make redundancies in order to balance their budgets in the face of funding shortages.

Regional secretary Paddy Marshall spoke after legislation likely to see more schools become academies was announced in the Queen’s speech.

At the State Opening of Parliament today (May 27), the Queen said: “Legislation will be brought forward to improve schools and give every child the best start in life, with new powers to take over failing and coasting schools and create more academies.”

The announcement was branded an “extended and accelerated” privatisation of the school system, by the NUT.

Local authorities, such as West Sussex and East Sussex County Councils, have no say over the running of schools which convert to academy status.

Mr Marshall said creating more of them was an “ideological aim” rather than a response to any particular problems within the education system, and added there was no evidence academy status resulted in improvements at the schools.

Mr Marshall’s main concerns lay with the issues of funding, recruitment and school places.

Funding, he said, was going to become a major problem nationwide with schools facing some tough choices as they attempted to makes ends meet.

He added: “We’re quite likely to see redundancies.

“A commitment to the proper funding of education is what underpins it all. We have a crisis of school places, a growing crisis of teacher recruitment and what was said today does nothing to address these two issues.”

The legislation referred to by the Queen – the Education and Adoption Bill – would remove red tape to ensure schools rated ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted could be swiftly converted into academies.

It would also give new powers to regional schools commissioners enabling them to bring in “leadership support” from “excellent schools and heads”, while any schools which were deemed to be “coasting” would also face the prospect of becoming academies.

The exact specifications of what constitutes a “coasting” school have not been made clear – just that they have not performed as well as they could – but Christine Blower, general secretary of the NUT, said such schools should be assisted by their local authorities rather than being forced into academy status.

She added: “The Government justifies this extended and accelerated privatisation of our school system by claiming that it cares about standards.

“Yet there is now a mountain of evidence which shows that there is no academy effect on standards in schools.”

David Simmonds, chairman of the Local Government Association’s children and young people board, called for councils to be given more power to oversee the performance of any academies in their area.

He said: “Four in five council-maintained schools are rated good or outstanding by Ofsted, a higher proportion than for other types of schools, and this demonstrates that councils know what they are doing and can be trusted to drive school improvement.”

He added: “Councils know what works best for their local areas and are ambitious for all children in their communities.

“We want to be able to intervene quickly in any school without having to wait for permission and we need the powers to be able to do this.”

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