Hampshire education leaders voice concerns over government's bid to scrap council-controlled schools

TOP-PERFORMING schools across The News region should not be forced to become academies.

Thursday, 17th March 2016, 6:03 am
CRITICISED Chancellor George Osborne wants all schools to become academies
CRITICISED Chancellor George Osborne wants all schools to become academies

That’s the message from education leaders concerned by the government’s bid to scrap council-controlled education and instead see schools run by private sponsors .

Delivering his Budget speech in the Commons yesterday, chancellor George Osborne declared he wants to strip away ‘bureaucracy’ in local education.

Schools must become an academy by 2020, or have plans in place to change their status.

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Mr Osborne is to also provide incentives to schools to lengthen the school day to drive up standards.

But there are big concerns over the proposals.

Cllr Peter Edgar, the Gosport councillor who is Hampshire’s education executive, said: ‘This would be a massively costly exercise – and 84 per cent of our schools are good or outstanding.

‘It is totally illogical to take a quality education authority and try to destroy it.

‘I have never received so much interest from people – I suppose if you take on your party when you are a life-long Conservative, that’s what happens.

‘It will be incredibly disruptive to force schools along this route. Schools that are achieving and are outstanding should not be forced to become academies. The headteachers I speak to are horrified by this prospect.’

Portsmouth education boss Councillor Neill Young is sceptical but supports academies in principle.

Around a quarter of the city’s schools are academies.

He said: ‘We have seen some positive steps being taken through the academy process.

‘Some schools have seen dramatic improvements, but there are other areas where we haven’t seen the pace of improvement that we would have liked to have seen.

‘But I do think academies are a positive way forward.’

Steve Labedz, executive headteacher of Admiral Lord Nelson and Trafalgar schools, run by Sultan Education Academy, says turning schools into academies wouldn’t necessarily lead to better results.

He said: ‘The positive thing is the government wants to drive standards higher.

‘They believe the closer you take leadership and accountability of the schools, the more likely that is going to happen.

‘Academies free of local authority control, with good leadership in place, will drive standards higher.

‘Because there isn’t a big body taking on the responsibility.

‘The down side is, in cities like Portsmouth, we need the schools collaborating and working together for the good of the youngsters.

‘The risk of releasing schools from local authority control and turning them into academies is you lose that connectivity.’

The chancellor said there would be extra money for at least 25 per cent of all secondary schools ‘that want to offer their pupils longer school days with more extra-curricular activities like sport and art’.