Academies: Flexibility and Freedom for Whom?

It seems that the Government intends to force all schools to become academies.

For years the trade unions representing the majority of school workers have valiantly resisted efforts to privatise our precious education system. On this matter, workers are well informed.

Despite the government’s actions, all the available evidence points to the fact that academies are less effective at providing quality education than schools run under the guiding hand of local authorities.

Nevertheless, forced academy conversions are considered the necessary tonic to pass education over from the public to the private realm.

Local National Union of Teachers’ representative Peter Flack is right: our schools “are being ruthlessly privatised, not because that is essential to sound learning or to tackling underachievement but because the government does not like the public sector” (First-Person, March 18, Leicester Mercury).

But vocal defenders of academies still exist, all the more so because of a dearth of evidence to support their creation. One locally-based academy booster is Peter Nutkins, the head of Humphrey Perkins School, in Barrow; which became an academy volutarily in 2012.

Mr Nutkins believes flexibility is key to the success of academies – an idea he put forward this week on both BBC Radio Leicester and within the pages of the Leicester Mercury.

Last year Mr Nutkins even co-signed a open letter to defend the Tories’ education policy which was published in the Daily Mail (April 8) to reaffirm his commitment “to the maintenance of current academy freedoms.”

The letter in question was created by the Freedom and Autonomy for Schools National Association – a Conservative Association that is committed to “smaller government” and “employer flexibility” — and is certainly not in favour of public services and the defence of workers rights won by trade union struggle.

When this so-called ‘Freedom’ Association was formally constituted in 2004 it was closely associated with the East Midlands based Landau-Forte Charitable Trust, and more specifically with the Landau Forte College in Derby, where the Association’s office was originally based for its first ten years or so.

The Landau-Forte Trust presently oversees the running of six academies, and a quick look at the credentials of the people running it is worrying to say the least.

For example, the Trust’s chairman, Mike Davies OBE, is a business magnate who served as a board member of the construction giant Taylor Wimpey plc from 2003 to 2010. His service at Taylor Wimpey coincided with a time when their management was actively involved in the blacklisting and dismissal of their employees who fought to improve working conditions through their activism in trade unions.

Another unsavory Landau-Forte trustee is David MacAlpine, who for some decades has been a leading board member of Sir Robert MacAlpine – a firm that (in 1993) funded the establishment of the organisation (the Consulting Association) that was tasked with organising a blacklisting database for the anti-democratic leading lights of the British construction industry.

Last but not least, another notable member of Landau-Forte’s board of trustees is the former president of the Confederation of British Industry, Sir Roger Carr, who is also a senior advisor to KKR – the world’s largest private equity company.

Little wonder that the members of the Freedom and Autonomy for Schools National Association and their local supporter, Peter Nutkins and the Landau-Forte Charitable Trust are so enamoured with the Tories government’s rush to privatise our education system! Their paypackets depend upon it.

This letter was emailed to the Leicester Mercury mailbox on March 18.

March 18 2016

Academies in the Media

Ian Leaver, branch secretary for Leicester’s National Union of Teachers (NUT) explained to the Leicester Mercury (March 17):

“This arrogant government is choosing to ignore the evidence from the HMCI, the Education Select Committee and the Sutton Trust’s own Chain Effects report, which clearly demonstrates that academy status not only doesn’t result in higher attainment but that many chains are badly failing their pupils, particularly their disadvantaged pupils.”

Councillor Sarah Russell, assistant city mayor for schools explained to BBC Radio Leicester (March 16) that the type of freedoms that academies bring include: “being able to employ unqualified teachers… and being able to remove locally accountable governing bodies”.

Looking forward to 2022, Councillor Russell said: “The worst case scenario is that our schools are picked off by regional and national [academy] chains, no longer work together, and fight for the best children and leave the children who are struggling and need extra support behind – that they end up being excluded to enable academy chains to thrive.” Academies “can change the admission criteria in terms of location and age-range; there are a number of academies now that are looking at cherry-picking their catchment areas, so their very deliberately drawing catchment areas that would only get them the best supported students.”




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