‘Forced academies will cost millions’ says Calderdale Councillor

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Calderdale Labour councillor Megan Swift is warning that the Conservative Government’s plans to force every school to become an academy could cost over £2million in the borough.

Academies are state funded schools which are run outside of local council influence with greater freedom over pay, conditions and what they teach.

Councillor Swift said: “I’ve already warned that the Government’s plans to make every school an academy have more to do with political dogma than with improving education – and this is just another example of the damage they will cause.

“Every school that applies to become an academy can get legal and other fees of up to £25,000 paid by the Government. But then there are further legal costs for the Council – and this can easily add up to £20,000 per school.

“With nearly sixty community and church schools that are presently not Academies, that could mean well over two million pounds of public money being spent in pursuit of an ideological obsession – with absolutely no evidence that this will have any benefit at all in terms of helping our children get a better education.

“The evidence is mounting up that this is a completely unjustified policy which we must hope the Government drops as quickly as possible”.

A leading union official from Halifax has also said that it will fight the Government’s plan to turn all state schools into academies “until we win”.

Members of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) will ballot for strike action after outright rejecting the academisation plan.

NUT executive member Ian Murch, from Halifax, told the union’s annual conference in Brighton that the measures would see “schools stolen from their local communities”.

However, the Department for Education has accused the NUT of playing politics with children’s futures.

Mr Murch, a former NUT Bradford branch secretary, said: “We will stand up for pupils, for patients and for teachers, and we will lead the campaign for sanity. We will fight the forced academisation of our schools. We will fight for what is right and we will fight until we win.”

Members voted against the Government’s education White Paper, and also agreed an amendment to ballot for strike action. This is likely to include proposals for a one-day strike in the summer, as well as potential for further strikes, should members agree. Fellow executive member from West Yorkshire Hazel Danson described the plans as “a wilful act of recklessness”.

The NUT’s collective defiance looks unlikely to result in a change in policy in Whitehall, after Education Secretary Nicky Morgan ruled out the prospect of a Government U-turn over academisation. She told the NASUWT conference, which was also taking place this weekend that there would be “no pulling back” and “no reverse gear” on the Government’s education reforms, including the controversial roll-out of academy schools in England.

A Department for Education spokesman said the NUT would rather “play politics with our children’s future than work constructively with us to deliver our vision for educational excellence everywhere”. He added: “We make no apology for our reforms, which have resulted in a record number of children now being taught in good or outstanding schools – 1.4 million more than in 2010.”

During the conference NUT members also agreed to consider industrial action over pressures driven by increasing student numbers, a growing teacher shortage, and reduced funding for schools.

Laura Fisher, a teacher from Wakefield, said the situation was so bad that pupils have asked her if she sleeps in work because of the amount of time she spends in the classroom. She said: “I know striking is a difficult subject, it is still the biggest debate within ourselves. People say, ‘I didn’t become a teacher to strike’. But every day I strike, I am teaching children the biggest lesson of all – that their education is worth fighting for.”

Members voted in favour of a motion “building a campaign to persuade members that national strike action will be necessary to bring about changes in the intolerable working conditions, and lack of work-life balance, created by current Government policies”.

The NUT has also published a poll claiming the majority of school leaders do not support Government education reforms.