"The Government’s plans to force all schools to become academies is a costly reorganisation of our schools from the top down and I know so many people in York are totally opposed to them. It is believed that it will take £1.3bn out of the education budget which could be used to support and improve the life chances of our children. At a time when schools are facing huge challenges caused by falling budgets and shortages of teachers, this is unnecessary and, I believe, it will harm standards in our schools. The vast majority of non-academies affected by this policy will be primary schools, and over 80 per-cent of these are already good and outstanding. The Government has not provided any evidence that schools are better off without the support of the local Authority, and all authoritative inquiries have said that there are no overall gains to being an academy.
“In York our schools are successful because they are supported by an excellent Local Education Authority, parents and local communities are involved in the work they do and all the teachers are all have recognised teaching qualifications. If the Government’s plans go ahead all of this could be undermined. At a time when Local Authority’s and Government departments are facing huge budget restrictions this is a costly use of precious resources and there are no proposals in the White Paper to reimburse councils for the significant costs that they will face in the conversion.
“Local parents and communities should be at the heart of decisions when it comes to their children’s schools and rather than pitting schools against each other, the Government should be channelling all their efforts into driving up standards. These reforms could result in an end to parent governors.
“I do not understand why the Government are pressing ahead with this. It wasn’t in their General Election manifesto and the Local Government Association which represent councils from across the country many of whom are Conservative led are opposed to the plans. The proposals also include the transfer of significant powers relating to education to unelected civil servants who parents and residents are unable to hold to account at the ballot box.
During a debate this month about schools policy, Rachael Maskell spoke up to say "Don't break what doesn't need fixing" - This is how Hansard recorded Rachael's contribution:
“Thank you for squeezing me in, Mr Speaker. I want to talk about the excellence that has been built in York’s education system—a partnership between the local authority schools and the local authority itself. It is an excellence recognised by this Government—it is a top performing local authority across Yorkshire and Humber and has the top 14% of GCSE results in the city. The Government have recognised it to pilot its childcare strategy.
That excellence, which is threatened by this policy, has been built on the close partnership, the interdependence and collaboration between the local authority and local schools. It is those schools that are saying, “Leave me alone.” There is a strong relationship between parents and their school, and that partnership makes things work. Standards in education in York have been built up over decades. It is a fantastic story of triumph and it does not stop there. The York Challenge is modelled on the success of the London and Greater Manchester Challenges, to drive that excellence in partnerships between schools, the local education authority and parents.
One MAT has been created in York. The schools involved said that they had jumped before they were pushed because they were offered £100,000. It has fundamentally changed the relationship between the parents and the schools. It has also meant that the head did not have time to sign off the reports for the children, and that more teachers have moved into admin and headship roles, away from direct input in children’s education, leading to more irregular classroom cover. What I would say to the Secretary of State is, “Don’t break what doesn’t need fixing.”