Teacher ‘outrage’ at academy plan

Linda Pye, head teacher of Ryelands Primary School in Lancaster.

Linda Pye, head teacher of Ryelands Primary School in Lancaster.

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Head teachers have blasted a Government plan to turn all schools into academies.

George Osborne confirmed he wants all schools to become academies by 2020 or have official plans to do so by 2022 as he unveiled his latest budget.

Mr Osborne said it would “set schools free” from local bureaucracy.

But Linda Pye, head at Ryelands Primary School in Lancaster, said: “It is devastating news.

“I think there will be outrage amongst teachers, parents and the wider public.

“Lancashire is very strong as a local education authority and this move would remove their support and involvement from schools.

“We currently get a lot of support from our advisory service and we (local schools) buy into that. We work very well together as clustering schools. As academies, that support network would go too.

“The Ofsted judgements across our authority are better than they are across others.

“The agenda appears to be the privatisation of our education service and this is another step along that road.

“It won’t improve matters or outcomes for pupils, there is no evidence that it will. The implications for the pay, conditions and morale for staff within our schools is also of great concern.

“There is a meeting of all local primary heads (today) and the government’s plans will be discussed. A further meeting is scheduled for next week. Headteachers and staff across our schools are prepared and ready to oppose government policy.”

John Ross, head teacher at Great Wood in Morecambe, agreed that academies were a bad move.

Mr Ross said: “The support services schools get in Lancashire are excellent and valued, but as academies we wouldn’t have access to that.”

County Councillor Jennifer Mein, Leader of Lancashire County Council, said: “All pupils deserve an excellent education, and helping schools to deliver that is our prime concern, regardless of whether they are maintained schools or academies.

“Over 90% of Lancashire’s schools are good or outstanding. In Lancashire a lower proportion of schools in the county have chosen to become academies than is the case nationally. Around 25% of our secondary schools are academies, compared with 60% nationally.

“Schools in Lancashire work incredibly hard to deliver the best outcomes for all their children and young people. The local authority provides excellent support to assist this work. An indication of this is that 95% of our schools in Lancashire, academies and maintained schools alike, choose to buy in our services.

“Education is too important to be treated as a political football and so this kind of radical change needs to be considered very carefully, and based on solid evidence, to make sure that it is in the best interests of all children and young people.”

Also in the budget, Mr Osborne announced the Government would look at whether maths should be compulsory until the age of 18 and set out plans to extend the school day.

He also said an extra £500m would be made available to ensure a “fair funding formula” for schools.

Mr Osborne said: “Providing schooling is the single most important thing we can do to help children from a disadvantaged background to succeed.”

He said that any school that failed to put plans in place to become an academy would be forced to do so under new government powers.

Since 2010 schools have been encouraged to convert to academies and have been given extra funding for doing so.

Currently, 2,075 out of 3,381 secondary schools are academies, while 2,440 of 16,766 primary schools have academy status.

The concept was originally brought in by a Labour government for schools in urgent need of improvement.

Also in the budget speech on Wednesday, the Chancellor also unveiled a new sugary drinks tax but stopped short of raising fuel duty as he blamed the “dangerous” global economic situation for derailing his fiscal plans.

Mr Osborne was forced to admit that government debt will rise as a proportion of GDP (Gross Domestic Product) this year and growth forecasts have been sharply revised down.

But he insisted the UK was “well placed” to handle the worldwide slowdown and the deficit would still be wiped out by 2019-20 - thanks in part to another £3.5 billion of spending cuts. Mr Osborne said he was able to give tax cuts for millions of hard-working families - with the personal allowance rising to £11,500 next year and the higher 40p rate going up to £45,000.Fuel duty will be frozen for the sixth year in a row and beer duty has also been put on hold, while corporation tax will fall to 17 per cent by 2020 and there will be tax incentives for smaller businesses.