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Scrapping academies could 'bring more uncertainty'

Those in the education industry are speaking out against Labour's plans to scrap the current academy system, saying it will undo good work

Posted by Jo Golding | October 25, 2018 | People, policy, politics

With the BBC reporting that the Labour Party has shifted to a more hard-line policy on schools, with plans to scrap the current academy system, those in the education industry are worried that this will only bring more uncertainty.

As the BBC reported, Angela Rayner, Labour's Shadow Education Secretary, has a policy to stop the creation of any academies. She said: “We'll start by immediately ending the Tories' academy and free schools programmes. They neither improve standards nor empower staff or parents.”

Currently 66% of secondary schools and 29% of primaries operate as academies, with more than 1,000 more conversions in the pipeline.

Baljinder Kuller has over 15 years’ experience in education recruitment with local authorities and private sector agencies and is now Managing Director of online supply teacher portal, The Supply Register. “In our experience, teachers are increasingly seeing the benefits of working for academies and I fear that this move has the potential to bring more uncertainty to an already volatile market,” said Kuller.

“While we certainly support the Labour Party’s intention to ‘improve standards’ and ‘empower staff’, we must be careful not to curtail the great work many Academy Trust HR and resourcing teams have done in building attractive employee value propositions which have both promoted education as a career of choice and helped retain teachers in the profession.

“Skills shortages within education are well documented and many Multi-Academy Trusts (MATs) are building systems where they share talent pools to overcome staffing challenges. Academies continue to be destinations of choice for many teachers, and the workforce remodelling work which has been done to create MAT values and cultures over the years risks being undone if under-resourced local authorities are tasked with rebuilding services without the resources they need.”

What schools need now is more money in order to retain the staff they currently have, and a period of sustained stability to enable them to do what they know is best for their pupils without constant, often damaging, political interference

Had you asked Fiona Todd, Executive Headteacher of The Rural Church Schools Academy Trust, whether she agreed with Angela a few years ago, her answer would have been very different than it is now.

She explained: “In the early days of the academy agenda, as a former Acting Headteacher in a school undergoing a forced academisation, I would have agreed with Angela Raynor that it did not empower staff. However, almost two years after forming a multi-academy trust (MAT), I strongly oppose her view and have unequivocal evidence to prove that standards have improved and staff and parents are empowered.

“Our small MAT, the Rural Church Schools Academy Trust (RCSAT), has successfully nurtured improvements in outcomes for all pupils, including those accessing pupil premium funding. The Trust nurtures the development of the whole child and provides an environment where every child is valued, supported and encouraged to succeed. Success to us means more than data outcomes measured at a random point in a child’s education.

“Pupils frequently comment that they ‘love learning’ and consistently demonstrate the qualities expected of lifelong learners, preparing them for their future beyond education. Parents build strong relationships with staff in order to support their child and provide unfailingly positive comments when surveyed. This affirmation has been sustained by the collaborative working practices made possible by becoming part of an academy family.

“Whilst I acknowledge that not all Trusts work as effectively as RCSAT, neither did all schools under the former local authority system. What schools need now is more money in order to retain the staff they currently have, and a period of sustained stability to enable them to do what they know is best for their pupils without constant, often damaging, political interference. It is time that our government (whichever political party that may be) trusted school leaders to do their job, and to focus on ensuring the best outcomes for all pupils.”

Do you have an opinion on the Labour Party’s plans to get rid of academies? Get in touch with me at jo.golding@wildfirecomms.co.uk.

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