Today, at Cornwall Council’s Full Council meeting, Councillors debated a Motion on the principle of the Government’s plan to force all schools to become academies by 2020. This motion was proposed by Tim Dwelly, seconded by myself, and supported by a group of cross-party Councillors which include Councillors Atherton, German, Kenny, Kirk, Long, Andrew Mitchell, Olivier, Hanna Toms, James and Frank.
The motion is as follows:
- This Council disagrees with the Government’s plans to force all schools to become academies. It also notes widespread opposition to this proposal among parents and education professionals;
- The Council welcomes the excellent work Cornwall’s schools in who are working co-operatively and believes some small schools will struggle to survive if such a system is imposed as proposed in the White Paper;
- This Council believes that transferring supervision of all Cornish schools to Whitehall is centralisation and is at odds with the Cornwall Deal agreed with government;
- This Council is also opposed with the proposal to remove the valuable role of parent governors from the schools governance structure;
- The Council against the forced transfer of council-owned assets and land to Whitehall;
- It resolves to ask the Secretary of State for Education to allow Cornwall’s schools and their parents to decide for themselves whether they wish to remain with the local education authority or become academies.
I seconded this motion on the principle of the Government forcing schools to convert is based on a seriously flawed White Paper. The government say changing the legal administrative status of a school will improve standards is not backed-up by evidence.
Furthermore, the White Paper allows Academy Trusts no longer be required to reserve placed for parent governors on their governor boards. These governors play a very important role (as do all governors) in a school structure. This is a retrograde step, and again has no evidence to back up the justification this role to be removed.
I also have a serious concern over the lack of accountability in the White Paper proposals. Accountability is an important part of the educational system. With LA schools, parent have a direct mans of raising issues after they have exhausted talking to the head teacher and governors. In the academy system, parents concerns are dealt via the Regional Schools Commissioner, and then the DFE. This was highlighted in the recent All Party Parliamentary Group report on the role of the Regional Schools Commissioner.
After a debate, the a staggering 95 Councillors voted in favour of the motion of opposing the Governments place to force schools to convert to academies, with three Councillors voting again and one abstaining.
To put the icing on the cake, both the Leader, Deputy Leader, Cornwall Council Chairman and vice, all the Council’s Cabinet voted in favour to oppose the Governments plans
This sends a clear message to the Government about its plan to force schools to convert, rather than leave it to parent and governors who know their school and what is best for the young people who attend.