Recently Sharon has had many constituents contact her regarding the complete and forced academisation of all schools in England.
From the many numbers of constituents who have contacted me directly on this issue, and have signed various online petitions for the Government to reconsider these ham-fisted plans, including parents and teachers, I am all to aware of the mounting pressure for these plans to be scrapped.
From the Local Government Association - which represents all councillors from across the political spectrum, to the National Union of Teachers and the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, the argument has been made that these plans distract schools from their core functions to teach the next generation.
This complete and forced academisation is not needed nor wanted, and for the Government to push ahead with their costly top-down reorganisation of the school system here in England is deeply wrong.
The roll-out of academies as the norm in our education system is not a panacea on it’s own to help address the widening in educational outcomes gap here in the UK. As the Chief Inspector of Schools, Sir Michael Wilshaw, recently highlighted there are ‘serious weaknesses’ within academy chains. Instead of listening to this recommendation, the Government are now ploughing on with the wholesale academisation of all schools.
The Government’s recently published White Paper, which predominately looks at this issue, should have been about the real issues that are facing our schools right now, from teacher shortages, a crisis in school places, the widening gap between disadvantaged children and their more affluent peers, and the exam chaos with the haphazard roll out of the new SATs and GCSEs. It is clear with over 446 secondary mainstream academies and Free Schools requiring the need for improvement, the Government should be focusing on this issue along with the other issues mentioned previously, rather than pushing forward on an agenda which has not been asked for by parents or teachers. This is also not required for the education of those pupils who we all should be thinking about as the central part to any reforms to our education system.
There are many unknowns with this roll-out of academisation, especially when it comes to the fate of children with SEND who, as evidence has shown, are more often than not the ones who are side-lined or excluded from some academies. As the Shadow Minister for Children with responsibility for our policy on supporting children with SEND, this will be something I will look at closely with my colleagues in the Shadow Education team to make sure these children get the same education as their peers, as they rightly deserve to.
On Wednesday 13th April 2016, the Opposition raised these concerns in a debate on the Government’s White Paper and called for the Government to put its proposals on hold. As an education spokesperson, I was on the frontbench at the beginning and end of the debate. Unfortunately the Labour Party’s motion did not pass on this occasion, but it was clear from the speeches and interventions from the Conservative benches that they are uncomfortable with their own party’s proposals on academisation. If the Secretary of State for Education won't listen to the abundance of voices opposing these plans, then she must listen to her backbenchers who have joined the wider public in standing up against these plans.
Along with my fellow Labour MPs, and as a member of the Shadow Education team, I will hold the Government to account on these proposed changes to our education system ensuring that the priority always remains that of children and young people currently going through our education system.