Academies Are Designed To Smash Free State Education

Pimlico School anti-academy protest outside Westminster council in March this year
Pimlico School anti-academy protest outside Westminster council in March this year

Academies are private companies and will be in charge of education in local areas, the Labour government makes clear in its document Building Schools for the Future.

The move to Academies is designed to smash free state education, replacing it with the lowest ‘Victorian variety’ of charitable schools.

The document makes clear ‘Academies are set up as companies limited by guarantee with charitable status.

‘Members of this Company (Trust) include the sponsor, the chair of the governing body, other members and a representative of the Secretary of State.

‘Legal Framework:

‘The Academy is owned and run by the Academy Trust (which is the Academy company) the two names are synonymous in this context’.

It states: ‘The Members of the Trust have limited liability up to £10 in the event of financial difficulty. (All emphases in bold are those of News Line)

‘They delegate the management of the school to the governors (Directors)’.

The Department for Children, Schools and Families’ (DCSF’s) new gloss-speak document, clearly lays out that the running of schools will be placed in the hands of ‘sponsors’, who will not be governed by laws which apply to the ‘predecessor school’, the new name for state-controlled schools.

The government ‘is committed to establishing 400 academies and regards the scaling up of the programme as a national imperative’.

Labour has promised more than 50 new schools this year, with £21.9bn due to be spent between 2008 and 2011.

The document says Academies are state-funded schools, ‘established and managed by sponsors from a wide range of backgrounds’, – not qualified teachers but – ‘individual philanthropists, businesses, the voluntary sector, and the faith communities’.

The government says: ‘Some are established educational providers, and all of them bring a record of success in other enterprises which they are able to apply to their Academies.’

Sponsors, the document says, ‘challenge traditional thinking on how schools are run and what they should be like for students’.

Sponsors of the early Academies were required to provide 10% of the capital costs of a new building, capped at a maximum of £2 million. These sponsorship funds were not payable ‘up-front’, but over the lifetime of a building project.

All sponsors joining the programme now as the norm, will establish an endowment fund worth £2m, with a minimum of £500,000 payable in the first year. Payment of the endowment will normally be over five years.

With its reference to working class areas, the document says: ‘They seek to make a complete break with cultures of low aspiration which afflict too many communities and their schools’.

It adds: ‘Unlike maintained schools, governance procedures are not prescribed in primary or secondary legislation’.

Rather, this is set down in a ‘model Memorandum and Articles laid down by the Department as part of the Funding Agreement. . .

‘As independent schools, Academies are set up as charitable companies to give sponsors and governors broader scope and responsibility for ethos, strategic direction and challenge in order to tackle the entrenched low standards in what are some of the most deprived areas of the country’.

Schools Secretary Ed Balls claims pupils are getting classrooms ‘fit for the future’.

Balls states: ‘We are now turning the corner on decades of under-investment and it’s children and young people who are seeing the benefits.’

Rubbishing state-run comprehensive schools, the government goes on to say that ‘Academies are established in disadvantaged areas where generations of pupils have been denied access to a first class education.’

Somewhat disingenuously, the document states: ‘Academies are set up with the backing of their local authority (LA)’.

But the LA will have only ‘one’ seat on the Academy’s governing body unless the LA co-sponsors the Academy, in which case it will have ‘two seats on the Governing Body’.

The DCSF makes clear that Academies will not be accountable to anyone other than the Secretary of State for their running of schools.

‘Academies are not maintained by the local authority, but they collaborate closely with it, and with other schools in the area.

‘In order to determine the ethos and leadership of the Academy, and ensure clear responsibility and accountability, the private sector or charitable sponsor always appoints the majority of the governors.

‘This is the case even when a local authority is acting as a co-sponsor for wider purposes.

‘The number of governors on an Academy governing body is not prescribed, but the expectation is for the body to be relatively small.’

The government says that ‘The Secretary of State must, by law, formally consult the Local Authority if it is likely that a significant proportion of the pupils who might attend the new Academy live there.’

This is a recipe for taking students away from state-run schools, and then closing them.

The only legal document binding an Academy Trust is The Funding Agreement – a ‘binding contract between the Secretary of State and the Academy Trust for an Academy to open on a specified date’.

The document adds that ‘the most noticeable feature of this stage. . . will be the building works, creating a visibly different school and contributing to the establishment of a new ethos . . .

‘New buildings will also . . . demonstrate the investment that is being made in the local community.’

A reduced curriculum will apply to Academies.

‘Since the summer of 2007, all newly signed Academy funding agreements require Academies to follow the National Curriculum, in the core subjects of English, maths, science and ICT but will retain flexibility beyond this, to address the needs of particularly low achieving pupils.

This will be a curriculum for those who are judged to be only suitable for low-paid jobs!

Under the Academy schools programme, the government goes on: ‘Sponsors appoint the majority of governors to the governing body, which agrees the Academy’s admissions arrangements with DCSF’, and each Academy will be ‘under the control of its governing body’.

It adds: ‘Most Academies also have a teacher governor (either elected or appointed), a staff governor (either elected or appointed) and many include community representatives.

‘Academies governing bodies employ all Academy staff.

‘Terms and conditions and numbers of teachers will be under the control of the Governors’.

This would allow Academies to hire unqualified support staff in place of qualified teachers or to pay teachers less than union-agreed contracts.

The ‘governing body is responsible for agreeing levels of pay and conditions of service with its employees, as well as policies for staffing structure, career development, discipline and performance management. . . flexible staffing structures will allow Academies to attract and retain the very best staff’.

Because Academies receive the ‘bulk of their funding direct from the Government’, governors have the ‘opportunity to manage a higher proportion of the budget than maintained schools. They can direct funds to the priorities of their Academy, encouraging greater flexibility and innovation. . .

‘Decisions about the capital project will take account of the sponsors’ views as well as expert advice commissioned by the Department for Children, Schools and Families’.

Further on, the document states, ‘Sponsors cannot make profit’ but there is little to stop them awarding themselves luxurious salaries and leaving teaching up to teaching assistants.

In ‘addition to the grant from the Secretary of State, Academies are eligible to receive Standards Fund grant and Leadership Incentive Grant, which are routed through LAs, on the same basis as neighbouring maintained schools’.

An Academy Trust will be responsible for the building and running of the Academy and ‘has control over the land and other assets’.

The government says around half of the ‘100 most deprived Local Authority Districts in England will have at least one Academy in them by September 2008. (Deprivation based on the rank (extent) of the 354 Local Authority Districts in England as listed in “The English Indices of Deprivation 2004” ’

The document continues: ‘Academies are not selective schools. In line with maintained schools with a specialism in a particular area of the curriculum, they may opt to admit up to ten per cent of pupils each year on the basis of their aptitude for certain specialisms.’

Instead of a National Curriculum and fully-funded state education, we are told:

‘Every Academy will have its own view as to how it should best organise itself to achieve its targets and within the framework of what is stipulated in the Articles of Association, and bearing in mind the ways in which it is accountable, it has the freedom to do this. . .

‘The Articles of Association stipulate that the Academy should have meetings at least once per term.’

Decision making has to be taken by ‘a majority of the governing body, although this decision making power can be delegated to a sub-committee of the overall governing body’.

The government document is a challenge to the entire labour movement.

The Brown government intends to privatise state education, and it must be defended by the trade unions bringing this capitalist government down and going forward to a workers government that will carry out socialist policies as far as education and every other need is concerned.