Academies and Accountability

This morning I blogged about Academies and Local control - the great confidence trick? I was secretly hoping that on my way home from work I would be saying it wasn't as bad as I thought. Now that there is more detail about the process for existing schools to become academies the situation is even worse than I feared.

You can read the FAQ from the Department for Education, but here are the main points that concern me:
  • Schools are not required to consult with anybody before they become an academy, not their local authority, not parents, not the local community, not their staff (save the statutory TUPE consultation)
  • Schools with a religious character (or some other foundation) however do have to consult with the diocese or other appropriate faith group but with nobody else
  • A simple majority vote of the Governing Body is all that is needed to apply to become an academy
  • For schools graded "outstanding" by Ofsted approval is automatic (save for serious deficit budgets) no due diligence, no chance to appeal against the decision
  • Schools converting to academies are given £25 000 each to pay for "legal" and other costs. If 2000 schools become academies that is £50 million enough money to save the 1:1 tuition scheme scrapped in cuts earlier this week
  • Headteachers can be paid anything the Governors like, this could be £140 000 or more. To put this in perspective a teacher at the top of main scale gets paid less than £31 000. Teaching assistants can take home less than £10 000
  • Schools get to agree the composition of their new Governing Bodies when the academy is created. The Secretary of State agrees to this but there is no requirement that an academy governing body has a single parent, staff or community representative and in practice to date many academies have had one parent governor
  • Governors are appointed by a "trust" set up when the academy is created. It is not apparent how this trust is accountable to anybody
  • As things stand academies although publicaly funded are exempt from the Freedom of Information Act so are at liberty to keep secret most of their affairs from parents and the local public.
Personally I am supportive of Schools having a high degree of self-governance but in return for this there must be accountability. The academy framework has very weak accountability, no consultation is needed to create one and once an academy is created it isn't accountable in any meaningful way to parents and the local community it serves.

It is the worst of all worlds, independent but accountable to nobody other than the Secretary of State personally yet paid for completely by public funds.
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