Academy status: Heads for and against


The coalition government is pushing ahead with its Academies Bill, under which all schools in England will be able to opt out of local authority control. It wants to enable schools rated "outstanding" to convert to academy status by September. Two head teachers of such schools explain their opposing views.

In favour - Lorraine Heath, Uffculme School, Devon

For us it's as much about preserving what we've already got, as it is about thinking what we can develop and improve in the future.

We know there are some cuts coming, we don't know how far they're going to go and when they're going to come, but opting out of local authority control gives us the opportunity to make some decisions ourselves about what we can preserve, what we can improve and where, perhaps, we can make savings.

I don't think it is true that academies take resources away from other schools.

The local authority receives money from central government for the education of all the children within the local authority. They make a decision as to how much they're going to top-slice that money. In Devon it's 8%, in some areas it's as little as 2 or 3%.

And they make decisions over how that money's going to be spent. Now that's our money, and all we're doing is asking for our share of that money so that we can make those decisions ourselves and not be dictated to by the local authority.

I think it will help academically. If we are are going to get additional resources and we decide to spend them on teachers in classrooms, that's going to help us to improve and preserve the really high standards that we've already got - rather than the money being spent on peripherals.

For me, the most important thing is having my teachers in the classroom teaching children, and to not be facing a redundancy situation, which a lot of schools are doing at the moment.

The passage of the Bill [to enable schools to convert by September] is quick. I have to say there's a lot to do.

We're a foundation school, which means we're already in a sense half way there - we already employ all our own staff, we already own our own land, so it's not as rushed for us as it might be for a community school.

But actually, knowing where you're going to be on 1 September is really important. I think there's a rationale for rushing it through, because schools need to know and need to make their plans for September.

If we were to become an academy, it would in essence take money and resources from all the other Rotherham schools - and schools across the nation, and simply give it to us.

I am head of an outstanding, high-performing school. I'm already doing very nicely, thank you very much, so why give me extra money at the expense of other schools that need it?

What we've got in this country is an attempt to get, at the very least, within two or three miles of every child, a state secondary school that is good or outstanding. That's every child - not just my child or your child, but every child.

But if this present government is going to follow a "best and the rest" type policy, then we're going to have a situation where we have the haves and have-nots, which is what we used to have. They're busy dismantling all the good work that's been taking place in education over recent years.

In education, we collaborate. We compete with ourselves. I'm interested in the fortunes of all children, not just the ones I happen to teach.

They have been disingenuous in the naming of these new schools. The old academies were about giving failing schools a leg up. The data suggests it hasn't been particularly successful, but was a laudable attempt, and the intent was right and proper.

These are not academies in that sense, these are grant-maintained schools, they were around in the 1980s, the last time the Tories had power. They failed and these new schools will fail also. The two types of academies are very, very different.

I have canvassed all the staff and all the governors in my school in a secret ballot. We found that 83% of staff were against, 2% were for and 15% didn't know. The governors were unanimously against.

[Prime Minister] David Cameron says he wants to hear what parents have to say, and yet [on this issue] parents don't get a vote.

One minute we can ask the parents - but when we think that they may disagree with us, all of a sudden we don't ask. The government can't have it both ways.

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