Association of Liberal Democrat Councillors

Essex County Council unites – No to national control of all schools

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Thursday, 12th May, 2016

Essex County Council unites – no to national control of all schools.
Essex County Councillors from all parties yesterday (Tuesday 10 May) united to oppose the forced conversion of Essex schools into academies.

Members from all parties voted for a Liberal Democrat motion which opposed government plans to:

force all “coasting” schools to become academies, irrespective of each school’s wishes remove elected parent governors leave local councils with responsibility for issues such as school places without the full powers needed to discharge them expand the use of unqualified teachers.

The government announced last week it would no longer force every school to become a academy by 2022. However it is still committed to forcing every school in specific categories to convert.

Liberal Democrat Group Leader Mike Mackrory (county councillor for Springfield), who moved the motion, said:

“The government’s U-turn is only partial. Many schools are still at risk of being forced to convert to academies against the wishes of teachers and parents. I am very pleased the county council backed the Liberal Democrat view today and will continue to lobby the government to change its mind.”

Epping and Theydon Bois Liberal Democrat councillor Jon Whitehouse, who seconded the motion, added:

“Most teachers, parents and school governors want schools to focus on teaching, learning and making sure children get the best start in life. We don’t want the distraction of unnecessary and damaging government-imposed structural changes which will make schools more remote from their communities.”

ENDS

Note: The full text of the motion is:

This Council notes:

the high quality of schools in Essex, where 84% of academies and 85% of maintained schools are now good or outstanding;
the excellent relationship between the Council and schools, all focused on delivering the best education possible so that each of the young people of Essex can attain their full potential; the invaluable role of elected parent governors and local authority governors, acting as “critical friends” to both support head teachers and hold them to account; and the relatively small number of Primary/Junior/Infant schools in Essex that have thus far chosen to become an academy. This Council therefore welcomes the recent announcement by the Education Secretary that the forced academisation of all schools by 2022 will be removed from the recently published Education White Paper “Educational Excellence Everywhere”.

However the Council remains concerned that the following proposals remain:

to force all “coasting” schools to become academies, irrespective of each school’s wishes;

to allow the excessive transfer of land and buildings not required for educational purposes to 125-year lease holdings by academy trusts;

to remove the requirement for schools to elect parent governors;

to leave local authorities with the responsibility for various aspects of the education system, including provision of sufficient school places, whilst apparently “freeing schools from local authority control”; and to allow head teachers more flexibility in relation to using unqualified teachers.

This Council believes that the Education White Paper as originally drafted was seeking to force onto Essex schools the choices which the Central Government believes are best for them but which they are not choosing to take for themselves, when there is no evidence that academy status always helps schools to deliver better education outcomes.

This Council further believes that forcing schools to become academies against their wishes is undemocratic and should be left to local people and local councillors to decide, and that the resulting education system will become ever more contrary to the goal of localism.

This Council therefore welcomes the constructive representations made by the Cabinet Member for Education and Lifelong Learning to the Secretary of State, along with those made by other counties such as Hampshire, Oxfordshire and West Sussex, asking her:

instead to design a system which allows academy and non-academy schools to co-exist in a sustainable way, to ensure school places and education quality can be delivered for all our young people;

to think again about allowing schools to remove elected parents from their governing bodies when we should be encouraging them in their role and influence in school management;

to think again about all of the other measures which collectively put at risk the quality of teaching and education outcomes.
This Council further resolves to ask the Leader of the Council to write to all Essex MPs and Working Peers requesting their support for the representations made to the Education Secretary by the Cabinet Member for Education and Lifelong Learning.

ALDC