Academies plan turns schools into businesses, says union chief

ATL leader Mary Bousted tells conference forced academisation will not boost educational standards

Mary Bousted
Mary Bousted said academisation was an attempt to dismantle national pay scales. Photograph: PR

Nicky Morgan’s plans to force all schools in England to become academies is an attempt to turn education into a business and destroy the public service ethos of teachers, according to the head of one of Britain’s teaching unions.

Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said the changes set out in the government’s education white paper, which would lead to 17,000 maintained schools being taken over by multi-academy trusts, contained a “big whopper – that the forced academisation of all schools will improve educational standards”.

“What is forced academisation of all schools really about? We know it’s not about education standards – it’s about running schools as businesses and it’s about breaking the public service ethos of teachers and school leaders,” Bousted told delegates at the ATL’s annual conference.

“Forced academisation is about taking parents out of the picture – no requirement for parent governors.

“And it appears parents share my concerns. Just go on to Mumsnet and see what parents think about forced academisation of their children’s schools – they’re not happy, not happy at all.”

The other main teaching unions, the National Union of Teachers and the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, similarly criticised the proposals at their annual conferences over Easter, and the NUT raised a threat of industrial action.

The changes in the white paper would also end requirements for school governors to include parents, although the Department for Education (DfE) insists that it would expect the new academies to retain some form of links with parents.

Instead of boosting achievement, Bousted said mass academisation was an effort to dismantle national pay scales for teachers and recruit unqualified staff.

“Well, making teaching a non-graduate profession is one way to solve the teacher recruitment crisis, isn’t it?” she said.

Bousted said Morgan had enough problems as education secretary – including an “insane” new curriculum for primary school pupils – without adding the latest proposals.

“The white paper is a very strange document,” she said. “It asks us to believe six impossible things before breakfast, including the big whopper – that the forced academisation of all schools will improve educational standards.”

Bousted said Morgan must be unaware of research by the DfE and Ofsted showing poor results in chains of schools run by multi-academy trusts.

“Either the secretary of state for education has not read the letter sent to her by her chief inspector of schools, where he tells her that the worst multi-academy trusts are now performing as badly as the worst local authorities … or her civil servants have kept the letter from her because it is too upsetting,” she said.

In response, a DfE spokesman said: “We are creating a dynamic, school-led system in which under-performance can be addressed swiftly and decisively, and where parents can play a more active role in their child’s education.

“The vast majority of schools which have become academies are now thriving. In the minority of academies that under-perform, we can take swift action to secure improvements.

The DfE highlighted comments by Michael Wilshaw, Ofsted’s chief inspector, who said that “there are some excellent [multi-academy trusts] that have made remarkable progress in some of the toughest areas of the country”.

Bousted also attacked what she called the DfE’s “farce” in introducing new key stage-two assessments for 11-year-olds.

“The government has really pulled off a coup here and should be given an award for the level of incompetence it has shown and the level of disarray it has created in schools,” she said.

“All over the country we now have writing lessons where children are given their writing back if it does not include a fronted adverbial, or an exclamation mark in a sentence beginning with how, or what, and other such nonsense. What should be a creative act is becoming a rule-bound chore.

“This is no way, no way at all, to develop children’s confidence and no way at all to encourage them to be confident speakers, listeners, readers and writers.”

The union published survey findings showing that 41% of its members believed pupils in their school were from families that had to rely on food banks.

[Source:- Gurdian]