A packed Stop Academies in Lewisham (SAIL) meeting on Monday 8 December heard that Lewisham NUT has begun indicative strike ballots in 5 secondary schools which are considering going for academy status.
The meeting also heard from school students who are planning walk outs and have already organised petitioning of their fellow students in the schools affected.
Parents were also present and explained how they were attempting to put pressure on the governors of the schools, local councillors, the local authority’s education department and the directly elected mayor.
At Sedgehill School, which seems to be the trail-blazer, the local education authority is trying to dismiss the Governing body and appoint an Interim Executive Board. This is against the wishes of the the students, the parents, the teaching staff and the leadership of the school.
The purported reason for the move is a dip in the school’s exam results, following a previous Ofsted inspection grading of Requires Improvement. However, in the aftermath of the Ofsted inspection the school was given time and was addressing the issues raised by the inspection. The fall in results was in line with other local secondary schools and a fall in exam results across the country.
The real reason for the attempted academisation is financial and ideological. It is an attempt by the council to cut costs and also to get some of their mates’ snouts in the trough. These motives are underlined by the council giving the governing body only one week to make the case why they shouldn’t be disbanded.
In response to the attempt to impose an Interim Executive Board, there will be a lobby of the council on Friday 12 December at 4pm at Lewisham Town Hall, where a petition will be handed to the council by students, parents and staff at the school.
£22m spent on academies
A recent study by the Local Government Association has revealed that the cost to local authorities as a result of academy conversion could be well in excess of £22 million.
Only 150 authorities provided data, suggesting that the real figure could be as much as double. The costs were largely generated by a combination of legal fees and budget deficits within the converting schools, which were met by the authority concerned.
A statement from the Independent Academies Association suggested that this was the result of bad management on the part of the authorities concerned, with the strong implication that the academy programme (and, by definition, the creeping privatisation of education) was the only possible solution. Given the slashing of education funding to local authorities and the discontinuation of school rebuilding and renovation projects, this is a point of view and a "solution" utterly disconnected from the realities that face education workers every day.
The Department of Education commented that "Local authorities are only required to cover a school's deficit costs if it has become a sponsored academy after a prolonged period of underperformance."
Needless to say, "underperformance" is very much in the eye of the beholder, as anyone who has suffered under an Ofsted inspection will confirm.