Emma Lewell-Buck: We must fight to defend our schools

Sir Michael Wilshaw
Sir Michael Wilshaw

The Conservatives have recently announced that all state schools by 2022 should become academies, self-governing institutions funded directly by central Government.

George Osborne used his budget to announce this forced academisation even though it was nowhere to be found in their manifesto at the last general election.

For more than a century local authorities, answerable to locally-elected councillors, have been the providers of primary and secondary education for our children and I continue to believe that they are in a better position to oversee the working of their local schools.

It is more likely that Government, operating from a distance, will not pick up early signs of failure simply because of the sheer number of schools involved.

Where children have needs, parents rely on their local authority to address them. The Tories want to shut parents out of having a say in how their children’s schools are run.

There is a crisis in our schools now with rising class sizes; a shortage in teachers and many parents facing a crisis in school places.

Pressures of work has forced more teachers than ever before to leave the profession.

Last year alone, over 50,000 left, the largest exodus since records began and the Government has now missed its teacher recruitment targets for the last four years in a row.

This has resulted in half a million children now being taught in classes of over 31 in primary schools who are having to use more supply teachers; non-specialists to cover vacancies and are also having to resort to using unqualified staff to teach lessons.

Sir Michael Wilshaw, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector, recently wrote to the Secretary of State for Education concerning the Government’s announcement to make local authorities running schools a thing of the past and reporting that seven multi academy trusts were simply not doing a good enough job and were not delivering to children, parents and teachers a system they deserved.

Seven trusts had £111 million in the bank - vast cash reserves of hard-earned tax payers’ money that should be spent on children’s education.

The practice of forcing schools into academy status is deplorable and Labour will work with teachers, parents, pupils, local authorities and our local communities to defend education and stop these plans for forced academisation.