Opposition mounts to St Albans academy schools proposals

PARENTS who went along to a meeting about the prospect of a St Albans school opting for academy status last week were picketed by objectors to the scheme.

Around eight pickets spoke to parents as they went into the meeting at Sandringham School on The Ridgeway to hear about the academy proposals which at least six schools in the district are understood to be considering.

The pickets came from several pressure groups and the National Union of Teachers.

Being awarded academy status means schools not only come out of direct local authority control but they can also deal with their own admissions and set their own admission arrangements if they wish.

They have to continue to provide free education for students who are wholly or mainly drawn from the surrounding area.

Sandringham, as an Ofsted-graded outstanding school, would be in the second wave of schools granted academy status if they went down that road.

One of the pickets, Jon Berry of the NUT, said the reaction of many of the parents at the meeting was interesting because they had gone along to hear what it was about but admitted they didn’t know anything about what academy status meant.

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He said that academy schools would take money away from the general funding pool for education and destabilise the provision across the remainder.

He went on: “What it will mean is that economies of scale which are used to make provision in schools will no longer exist,” citing such areas as Special Educational Needs and training and support for teachers.

Mr Berry said that academy schools would no longer be obliged to obtain services from local authorities and could go to the cheapest provider, leaving the door open for some subjects or specialist fields not being provided.

And he pointed out that academy schools could also forego nationally agreed terms of teachers’ pay and conditions and teachers’ jobs could go if they needed to save money.

He added: “When schools become academies they are no longer accountable to anyone other than their own governing body and they are not democratically elected.

“The vast majority of schools are cautious and anecdotally, a significant number of schools have registered their interest purely as that and a great many are waiting, watching and considering.”

n Registrations of interest in academy status by schools in the district have also come under fire from Josh Molloy, newly-elected chair of the national students association ESSA, English Secondary Students Association.”

Josh, a 15-year-old pupil at Marlborough School, said that under the new Academies Bill, resources would be targeted at schools enjoying excellent performance as opposed to those struggling to maintain standards as was originally intended.

He warned that it would happen at a time when the overall education budget was to be slashed by 25 per cent and the bill would widen the gap of attainment between the most and least advantaged creating a two-tier school system.

Describing it as, “a blatant attempt to segregate the state schools system” he called on the St Albans schools that had registered interest in the scheme to “think again” before pursuing the proposals.