Union considers strike threat over academy plan

Standish High School
Standish High School
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Controversial plans to force academy status on Wigan schools could lead to industrial action, a teaching union has indicated.

Earlier this year the government set targets for all local authority schools to be in the process of becoming academies by 2020.

The move has been criticised by education representatives in the borough and Standish High is the latest seat of learning to be considering a move away from local authority control.

At a conference of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) last week, members voted overwhelmingly against the proposals leaving an option to take strike action as a last resort.

Russell Hobby, general secretary of the NAHT, said school leaders had “huge concerns” about the academy plans and there were also issues with testing. He said: “I think the gap between the profession and the Government has never been wider than it is at the moment. We don’t only have assessment, we also have an enormous number of mistakes, delays and confusions around testing at the primary level as well and to be frank I think that’s making people more angry than academies at this point in time.

“A Government that talks about professional autonomy and delegating the control to the front line really needs to listen to that.

“They have not yet heard a case to convince them of the merits of converting every school to an academy. What they want to do is focus on teaching and learning in the classroom, not on all the logistics, admin and legal changes that will be a distraction for them.”

The Department for Education said it was “disappointing” to hear of a union considering strike action which it said “holds back children’s education, disrupts parents’ lives and damages the reputation of the profession”.

A spokeswoman said: “The academies programme is at the heart of our reforms which have raised standards for children across the country, including many schools that stagnated under local authority control.

The controversial plans have been criticised by Leigh MP Andy Burnham and Wigan Council’s cabinet member for children and young people. A joint statement said: “Our school leaders, regardless of the status of the school, are bound together in partnership and with the council to raise achievement and aspiration.

“What will forcing these good or outstanding schools to academise actually do to improve the experience and outcomes for children?”