Anger at plans to force all schools in South Tyneside to become adacemies

Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne delivers his Budget statement to the House of Commons, London. Picture by PA Wire
Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne delivers his Budget statement to the House of Commons, London. Picture by PA Wire

Plans to force all schools to become academies have been met with anger on South Tyneside.

 Chancellor George Osborne used his Budget speech to say all schools in England will become academies by 2020 or have an academy order in place.

He also stated there would be an extension to the school day, with new funding found to offer extra activities such as sport and art to a number of schools.

Councillor Joan Atkinson, lead member for children, adults and families at South Tyneside Council, said: “This latest announcement from the Government is very disappointing news.

“There is a lot of evidence which shows that academies are proving to be no more effective, yet grossly more expensive, than the local authority-maintained model of schooling.

“School governing bodies already have significant control over their budgets, staff, pupil numbers and almost all policies. Local authorities only offer additional support and guidance when requested.

“In South Tyneside the current model is extremely effective, with 95% of council-maintained schools rated as good or outstanding by Ofsted – well above the national average of 82%.

“It is, therefore, hard to see how this announcement is based on evidence of how the current system actually works in practice.

“Indeed Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector has recently drawn the Secretary of State’s attention to a number of academy chains where performance is poor, despite the very high rate of pay of their chief executives. In contrast, there are some very highly effective local authorities such as South Tyneside.”

Joe Waddle, a regional spokesman for the NUT, said the union is firmly against the move to force schools to become academies and would fight the plans.

He said: “At the moment we have a crisis in education that this government has caused through funding cuts, and there is also a recruitment crisis.

“Instead of addressing these issues, the Government has decided to remove the local nature and accountability of schools.”

The union representative said: “The aim is just to create competition among schools rather than provide the education that children deserve.”

Mr Osborne’s announcement means that for any school that fails to have an academy plan in place, the government will take on radical new powers to intervene and ensure conversion takes place.

Academy status, introduced by a Labour government, was originally reserved for schools in urgent need of improvement, but since 2010, schools have been encouraged to convert and have been given extra funding for doing so.

Mr Osborne said: “It is simply unacceptable that Britain continues to sit too low down the global league tables for education. So I’m going to get on with finishing the job we started five years ago, to drive up standards and set schools free from the shackles of local bureaucracy.

“I also want to support secondary schools that want to offer their pupils longer school days with more extracurricular activities like sport and art. So we’ll fund longer school days for at least 25% of all secondary schools.

“Now is the time us to make the bold decisions and the big investments that will help the next generation, and that is what my budget will do.”