Anger over plans to force all Hartlepool schools to become academies

Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne delivers his Budget statement to the House of Commons, London. Picture by PA Wire
Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne delivers his Budget statement to the House of Commons, London. Picture by PA Wire
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Plans to force all schools to become academies have been met with anger in Hartlepool.

Chancellor George Osborne used his Budget speech to say all schools in England will become academies by 2020 or have an academy order in place.

He also stated there would be an extension to the school day with new funding found to offer extra activities such as sport and art.

However, Coun Chris Simmons, joined leading teaching union, The National Union of Teachers, in hitting out at the plan.

The councillor, who is chairman of Hartlepool Borough Council’s children services committee, said: “This is a very sad day for education as the announcement will bring an end to 100 years of local authority control and local accountability for schools.

“It flies in the face of the concerns recently expressed by Sir Michael Wilshaw, Chief Inspector of Schools in England and Head of Ofsted, about the failure of huge multi-academy trusts to have a real impact on standards.

“Indeed, some of them are performing poorer than the local authority schools they were intended to replace.

“I believe that there is a place for a mix of schools including those under local authority control and academies, because the governors make their decisions in the best interests of the children taking account of local circumstances.

“In Hartlepool this mixed approach has worked well and we are a local authority that has, in partnership with our schools, made huge strides in improving outcomes for our children and young people.

“As a council, we will continue to support and challenge our schools and colleges whatever the ever changing educational landscape brings.”

Joe Waddle, a regional spokesman for the NUT, said the union is firmly against the move to force schools to become academies and would fight the plans.

He said: “At the moment we have a crisis in education that this government has caused through funding cuts, and there is also a recruitment crisis.

“Instead of addressing these issues the Government has decided to remove the local nature and accountability of schools.”

The union representative said: “The aim is just to create competition among schools rather than provide the education that children deserve.”

Academy status, introduced by a Labour government, was originally reserved for schools in urgent need of improvement, but since 2010 schools have been encouraged to convert and have been given extra funding for doing so.

Mr Osborne said: “It is simply unacceptable that Britain continues to sit too low down the global league tables for education. So I’m going to get on with finishing the job we started five years ago, to drive up standards and set schools free from the shackles of local bureaucracy.

“I also want to support secondary schools that want to offer their pupils longer school days with more extracurricular activities like sport and art. So we’ll fund longer school days for at least 25% of all secondary schools.

“Now is the time us to make the bold decisions and the big investments that will help the next generation, and that is what my budget will do.”

Where schools fail to have an academy plan in place, the government can use new powers to intervene and ensure conversion takes place.