ACADEMIES have had a mixed press in Parliament ever since the concept was launched.
While the academy system is a central part of the Conservative party’s educational vision, and the idea of schools breaking away from local authority control and being given more independence was supported by New Labour, there remains fierce scepticism about the idea among many backbench Labour MPs.
Wigan MP Lisa Nandy is one such critic of the academy system.
She said: “I think the new academies programme, which has been running since 2010, is the wrong approach because it pushes resources towards schools already doing well.
“However, my fundamental objection to the idea of academies is it breaks up the local authority family of schools.
“Rather than working together within a common framework, it puts them into competition against each other and creates winners and losers.
“This means some children will lose out, and I think that’s the wrong approach.
“We ought to be pursuing a collaborative approach which pulls all children up, not allowing some to be left behind.
“To me, there are two major questions which haven’t been answered by proponents of academies.
“Firstly, who pays if it fails? With an academy the local authority no longer has the same oversight or the responsibility to provide places, so it’s going to be very difficult for councils to say they will step in and sort it out if it goes wrong.
“The other issue is it flies in the face of everything about what we know works in education.
“We know that in good schools teachers are well paid and well motivated, but the academies programme undercuts teachers’ pay and conditions.
“Accountability is crucial, particularly to the local community, and academies take that away and replace it with the Secretary of State, one man in an office in London, making decisions, which is not good for schools or communities.
“Schools should be part of the local community.
“We know from all the international evidence that is best for children.”
Ms Nandy also has a strong message for any Wigan schools considering following Abraham Guest and Fred Longworth down the road of receiving funding directly from the Department for Education.
She said: “I have said to headteachers to be careful about assuming that the funding that comes with the academy package will be enough.
“Academies have to fund everything themselves, and there are mixed views nationally over whether there’s sufficient money.”
Ms Nandy is also sceptical about some of the more elevated claims that have been made for academies’ ability to transform failing schools
She said: “When our schools are turned around and have dramatic improvements in a short space of time it’s usually, in my experience, because staff, parents and pupils work hard together to improve the school.”