All schools in Richmond which are not yet academies are consulting about converting to academies. Here's my response:
I can no longer find details about the academy consultation on the
school website. I think there was an FAQ issued after the single open meeting
which I was unfortunately unable to attend but cannot locate it or the questionnaire. Although you put a link to the DoE website for the
information in support of academies you have put no links to
organisations who are against academies or even just trying to
ascertain the facts ( like Local Schools Network, the Anti Academies Alliance or the NUT). The law requires that "Adequate information should
be given to enable consultees properly to respond" (Lord Justice
Stephen Sedley QC, in the Court of Appeal) and this has not happened and
is not happening.
Will the collated results of the consultation be made public, i.e.
numbers for and against, with arguments and comments made public. If
stakeholders cannot be made aware of other people's arguments during the consultation period, how can
they decide whether they are important or not. There is no way back as
the conversion is irrevocable so governors,
staff, parents and children must be sure and how can they be sure when
the facts aren't made available to all the stakeholders.
Again, I cannot refer back to the website, but who is considered a
stakeholder, who is being consulted? It's not just the current parents
but also the existing staff and parents of primary school children as
well as the local community and council.
The principle argument for
conversion seems to be increased finance but it is unclear, once all the
changes in provision of services have been sourced and budgeted,
whether any financial benefit is either real or long lasting. As a
parent I cannot judge this and so cannot make a reasoned decision. The
NUT says "The government has confirmed that academy status should not
give schools a financial advantage".
What is the evidence for any claim that the school will be better funded as an academy?
any such claim take into account the fact that we will be unable to
achieve the economies of scale possible for the local authority? If so,
how has this been assessed?
How do we know the school will be better
funded when we don’t know details of the future academy funding changes
planned by the Government?
Is there a business plan that has been put
together by the head and governing body, to show how our finances will
be affected in the short, medium and long term?
I note that all the secondary schools in Richmond are either converting to academies or consulting on converting.
What changes will be made to the services offered by the borough if all schools convert?
What is the long term impact?
What happens to those specialist services like SEN needs and all the other support services for vulnerable children?
In the long term, funding is shifting towards academies rather than
local government support services. This is quite simply unfair and
How will we ensure that the school is able to access
support services of a similar quality to those provided by the local
authority, given that the private market for such services is
How can we be sure that, in an undeveloped market with
few providers locally, we won’t be tied in to a poor deal with one
How long will any fixed price contracts with a service
supplier last and what guarantee will there be against future price
rises after any loss-leading period is over?
What plans have been put in place to ensure that we can replicate the services we currently receive from the local authority?
a needs assessment been made of services that we will require in the
future, including details of how we can access such services outside the
local authority family of schools?
The facts, as they are to
date, speak of academies quietly getting rid of, or not admitting those
children with statements of special need; academies are no longer
representative of the community. How will they be protected and what
recourse will parents have?
Does the governing body have the
technical expertise or the time it will need to take on its new
responsibilities to protect the school in areas such as finance, the
law, personnel and other technical areas?
Who will pay for training of the governing body once conversion has
happened. What will be the constitutional change; how will the role and
responsibilities of the governors change?
If parents are not
satisfied with the governors after conversion, what recourse do they
have as the council is no longer able to step in?
school guarantee not increasing costs of items like school meals once it
has the power to do so? What other hidden costs may rise?
There is no evidence that academies deliver higher standards of education.
the council no longer acting as back up in case of emergencies, what
happens in case of major fire for example, how would the school cope.
information is there about the insurance costs we will face as an
academy to cover the significant risks posed by potential emergencies
such as fire, flood, pupil accidents, major crimes etc?
insurance costs be higher, either in the short or longer term, once we
move out of collective insurance arrangements for the local authority
family of schools?
What start-up costs will the school face on transfer to academy status?
will no longer be protected by national collective bargaining and will
not have the same rights in terms of working hours, maternity and leaves
of absence. New staff joining the school will have different contracts
to that of existing staff. How does conversion affect their pensions?
Will you guarantee to maintain the same rights and rates of pay as
stated nationally? How will this affect your ability to recruit and keep experienced staff?
How will academy status affect our ability to mentor and support NQTs? Will the school take on fewer such staff?
In addition to all these practical queries, I think the further
stratifying of the school system does nothing to improve English
education as a whole or community cohesion. There has not yet been time
to show useful data about the impact of academies on non-academy
schools. There is already a total lack of choice re secondary schools,
even in London with its greater density of schools. Furthermore if I had
know this consultation
was planned I would have thought harder about sending my children to [my schoool] .The short of it is that I am against the principles of
would rather not convert.
If we want to really improved the quality of education given to children
we need to improve the resources available, from finance to staff
across all different types of schools, not change the type of school.
I appreciate that I have asked a substantial number of questions, but
these all need answering before a reasoned decision can be made. I do
not have the specific technical expertise, let alone the time, to
research all the information and data available. In essence, I feel I'm
being asked to buy a product because the box is pretty, and I don't do
I am also publishing these questions on my blog to increase awareness of these issues.