Anyone else experiencing Academy 'blackmail'?
08 Jan 2009
A parent in Tamworth has contacted me about proposals to reorganise schools there to create new Academies. The issue has national resonance as it goes to the heart of government plans to use Building Schools for the Future (BSF) funds to promote City Academies. As is often the case, there is a fear that if the plans for the Academy are not approved, the much-needed money will be lost to the schools in the area.
Under the plan, worth £100 million of BSF money, the 5 schools in the area will be reduced to 4, each losing its 6th form. A new 11-16 Academy sponsored by Landau Forte will be opened and a 6th Form Centre will be opened, governed by the Academy Trust.
The consultation period for these dramatic changes was very short, running only from 10th November 2008 to 15th January 2009, a period which included Christmas and New Year.
Below you will find the views of parent Carolyn Lang. The official answers to questions about the plan can be found at: http://www.staffordshire.gov.uk/education/schoolsandcolleges/BSF/FAQ/Tamworth/#one
I would be interested in other views and experiences.
'Carolyn Lang writes:
'I am a parent of a current Year 7 pupil and a Year 5 pupil and unfortunately we are near the end of our consultation period for Staffordshire's changes under the BSF programme.
I believe my family is one of 1000's affected nationally by BSF and the governments push to have 400 academy schools by 2012.
Our consultation process has also been handled very badly and as parents we have nowhere to go to demand that this be remedied. Our consultation process began on November 10th with Christmas in the middle and ends on 15th January. Government guidelines recommend 12 weeks minimum, plus extra to be added on if a holiday period is within the consultation period. We have only had 8 and a half weeks, including Christmas. Our consultation document says that Academies are 'state' schools - even though it is a legal requirement that they are entered on the independent schools register and are a private company limited by guarentee. Staffordshire CC is pushing for 2 academies in Tamworth purely on the "fact" that they raise standards when this is clearly not the case, as stated in Price Waterhouse Coopers 5th annual report. Why as parents are we not allowed to be told the truth. Staffordshire CC have also stated that no academy means no 100 million pounds for Tamworth - blackmailing parents I feel.
As parents we have only had one consultation meeting of 2 hours duration for each high school, where no questions were properly answered and no detail given as to what will happen to our children. The county are also "selling" this proposal on increasing choice and diversity for parents, in our Town we will only have a 6th form academy and an FE college - no state run 6th form to send your child to how does that increase choice? The Academy has also stated that it will give priority to "internal" applicants from the 11-16 academy therefore reducing choice for the rest of the 3 high school pupils.
I have been following the stories from other locations across the country, many of whom are fighting their changes under BSF proposals, alot of which seem to include merging schools to release school site's - for redevelopment perhaps - is this the great school playing field sell off under a different title?? In the Tamworth case - the high school that is under threat of closure is the largest site, only to have a 6th form building for the least number of pupils in one corner and as stated on the expression of interest document they plan to dispose of the rest of the site - I assume more houses will be built on the site and we will have no schools to send the children to.
The proposal is not due to be completed until 2013 at the earliest by which time my eldest will have completed all but one year of her secondary education conducted through massive disruption., Are we all happy to sacrifice a generation of children's education for a few shiny buildings and no improvements in results. As no-one has explained to me how BSF will improve my children's education, I feel this is too great a risk.
We will have 3 brand new schools built in Tamworth, 2 of which will be given away for nothing to Landau Forte and a generation of children educated in portacabins and across 3 secondary schools - is this acceptable?'
Please post your comments below.