Daniel Zeichner, MP for Cambridge, will slam the Government’s continued pursuit to academise local primary schools in a special debate in the House of Commons on Wednesday The debate, ‘Academisation of primary schools in Cambridge’ will be held in the Commons chamber on Wednesday 10th January around 19:00 on the same day as a meeting on St Philip’s CofE Primary School in Romsey to decide its future. Local parents and members of the community have been campaigning against the academisation of their school.
In the debate, Mr Zeichner will highlight the lack of both transparency and accountability of academy trusts, and the academisation process itself. He will say “A school isn’t a business – it isn’t privately owned, not yet anyway – it is a key part of the fabric of the local community and we all know that schools do better when they are a part of their community, with close parental involvement.” He will demand that parents have influence over the future of their children’s education, and that the academisation process is made more transparent.
Section 5 of the Academies Act 2010 states that if a governing body chooses to apply for academy conversion, they ‘must consult such persons as they think appropriate about whether the conversion should take place.’ This means that the board could consider if not necessary (and would have no legal obligation) to consult parents, staff or the local community over the change.
Daniel Zeichner will criticise Multi-Academy Trusts for lack of democratic accountability, as these trusts run schools with public money. Mr Zeichner will challenge the Government on why there is no councillor representation on academy trust boards nor in most cases parents or staff representatives, which he argues would ensure better local democratic accountability.
He will also comment on the lack of transparency surrounding academy practice and the way in which the Government allows them to diverge from standards maintained by local authority schools. He will ask, “Academies have different rules to local authority-supported schools, so let’s work out how different they are. I ask the Minister now, how many unqualified teachers are there in each MAT in my constituency? How have terms and conditions changed, and what impact has that had on pupils’ education? If the Minister cannot answer these questions? why not? Who can? And why are parents being kept in the dark?
Mr Zeichner says: “The division of resources between academy trusts creates competition, but with it comes fragmentation. To improve real collaboration between schools, we need to join up some of these trusts, and improve representation on the boards with parent governors, councillors, and staff representatives. We need to move from academisation for its own sake back to focus on the true purposes of education, not competition and self-promotion.”