Academies and Free Schools Report

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Academies and Free Schools Report

Commenting on the Education Select Committee report, Academies and free schools, Kevin Courtney, Deputy General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, the largest teachers’ union, said:

“This is an utterly damning report which shows that children’s education is being run in an incoherent and unaccountable fashion.

“Free schools and academies are clearly not improving education in themselves. This has been obvious from the start, yet the Coalition Government have persisted in championing them as the solution to education in England.

“Evidence to the Committee’s inquiry suggests that the pressure to expand the academies programme rapidly, and the associated need to identify an increasing number of sponsors, has led to inadequate vetting by the DfE of potential sponsors prior to authorisation. This is a scandalous revelation. Those parents whose schools have been forcibly converted to academies, often against their wishes and those of the staff, will rightly question just whose interests the Government has been pursuing in the last five years.

“We welcome many of the recommendations of the Education Committee, including their call that all chains should publish within their annual accounts the salary and other remuneration of senior leaders within bands. However, as the NUT argued in its evidence to the Committee, in the interests of transparency we also want each individual school within an academy trust to publish its accounts (currently accounts are published at the trust level). The fact that academies and free schools  have been allowed to be so secretive speaks volumes. There should be no question that public money be accounted for and inconceivable that a Government should not insist on such.

“Where the NUT differs with the Education Select Committee’s conclusions is over the future role of local authorities. The NUT is clear that the role of democratic oversight of state funded schools is better exercised by local authorities, rather than by an expanded role for Regional School Commissioners. Local authorities are directly accountable to voters and can provide local mechanisms for parents who are dissatisfied with aspects of their child’s schooling and provide appropriate school improvement support at local level. They are best placed to encourage school collaboration and to secure sufficient pupil places.

“While parents and carers across England are worrying about whether their child will have a place in their local school, schools desperately in need of rebuilding and renovation have been neglected, young people have lost the support of the Education Maintenance Allowance, and the Government has been squandering money on an ideological programme for which there is simply no evidence.

“Whichever Government comes into power after the next General Election should stop throwing taxpayers’ money at this failed experiment and return all state funded schools back to the oversight of local authorities.”

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