Voice changes policy to oppose more academies

14 Jun

Until this weekend, Voice's policy on academies was that, while supporting its members in whatever type of setting they worked in, it was not against the existence of established academies or the opening of new ones but believed that the consultation and other processes required to establish them must be followed correctly and rigorously.

Voice had concerns about the way academies were being promoted by both the previous and current governments as some sort of panacea that would magically transform education. We have said many times that changing the way schools are organised and governed is not a guarantee of success or better education, and the mixed results from the academies established so far supports this. The key to the success of a school is the quality of the leadership, along with investment and a positive ethos and relationship with local communities.

We have expressed our alarm at the "breakneck speed" with which the current Government is rushing ahead in allowing more schools to become academies, calling for a 'less haste, more speed' approach and urging the Government to implement its programme within a practical and fair timescale, allowing a proper period of consultation with staff, parents and local communities before schools decided to change their status.

Voice's General Secretary wrote to the TES, outlining Voice's views, and our concerns about attempts to create new academies by September were supported as an impact assessment (as reported by TES and Mike Baker) threw doubt on the Government's policy.

Now Voice's Council has decided to change the union's policy to oppose the creation of any new academies.

Voice continues to support its members wherever they work but does not want to see the creation of two-tier education system which damages the ability of local authorities to deliver central support services to maintained schools.

Voice is particularly concerned about the long-term provision of support to pupils with special needs and emotional and behavioural problems and those excluded from school, and how school transport and psychology, cultural and sports services will be affected.

Voice is concerned about pay and conditions at academies. When an academy is set up to replace an existing school, staff transfer to the board or governing body of the academy with their contracts intact, including national pay and conditions, unless any contractual variation or dismissal can be justified for economic, technical or organisational reasons. On opening, academies have two sets of staff until harmonisation is reached transferred staff from the previous school and new staff recruited to the academy. As transferred staff remain protected by their exiting terms and conditions of employment for a certain amount of time while new staff are immediately subject to the academy's rules, there is scope for discontent.

Levels of pay and methods of progression are variable compared to the maintained sector, so staff may be better or worse off financially. The working day is often longer. There is sometimes a contractual obligation to remain on site when lessons are over. The meetings load can be greater. All these can contribute to increased levels of stress.

Other terms and conditions of employment for example, sick pay entitlement and notice periods may be less or more favourable.

Increasing the number of academies and the uncertainty over the future of national pay and conditions both for teachers and support staff are all potentially divisive and demotivating. They could also damage recruitment and retention, particularly in those schools not able to offer higher wages, and disrupt the movement of staff between schools.

Teaching assistants and other support staff, who are generally paid considerably less than teachers, may be particularly badly affected by the loss or erosion of any system of national pay and conditions.

Voice believes that families should have access to good-quality local education system that guarantees a good school for all, and all schools should receive the levels of investment they need to deliver that quality education.

Choice and therefore competition is not the way to produce an education system in which high-quality provision is available to all.

Let us know your views and experiences…

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9 Responses to “Voice changes policy to oppose more academies”

  1. Andrew Broadhurst 15. Jun, 2010 at 1:06 pm #

    This should leave everyone in no doubt where we stand and enable us to campaign alonside the other teacher Unions where necessary. People need to be aware that the massive lumps of money earmarked for capital spending on new academies has just about dried up and that there is a real danger that the terms and condidtions for staff in academies could be significantly worse than what could be expected in non academy schools.

  2. Maurice Turnpenney 12. Jul, 2010 at 9:34 pm #

    Bad mistake Voice. The founding Fathers of PAT would have been dismayed by this decision. Take a look at how Academies are enhancing the education of the children in their care. It takes time but the problems within our inner city schools were so deep rooted that radical action was (is still)required. Look at Manchester Academy from 4% 5(ACEM)in 2003 as Ducie High School to 39% 5(ACEM) in 2009. Likely to be 45% in 2010. An Outstanding School according to the last Inspection and now FULL instead of half empty when Ducie. Parents know what to do even if Voice doesn’t. These children would never have achieved this in the old Ducie under Manchester LA. A rushed decision not well thought through or researched by your people. Rather like some of the other Unions – out to protect their own interests at the expense of those of the students. One less member from January I think but then, of course, nowhere else to go now.

    • Philip Parkin 14. Jul, 2010 at 12:45 pm #

      Voice's Council did not take this decision lightly or in haste. Yes, there are some excellent academies with excellent results but others are less successful. Voice took a more neutral stance on academies in the past it was not against the existence of established academies or the opening of new ones but believed that the consultation and other processes required to establish them must be followed correctly and rigorously. However, the speed with which the Government is rushing forward in its attempt at a mass conversion of thousands of schools without consultation prompted the change of policy.

      Voice is not about protecting its own interests but those of its members as any trade union should. Yes, we are concerned about the effects of more academies on members' pay and conditions and the long-term impact this will have on recruitment, retention and the delivery of education but also about the direct impact on pupils for example, how the long-term provision of support to pupils with special needs and emotional and behavioural problems and those excluded from school, and how school transport and psychology, cultural and sports services will be affected.

      I hope you will remain in membership.

      • Maurice Turnpenney 01. Sep, 2010 at 9:10 am #

        In view of the excellent GCSE results in 2010 via a large number of Academy schools I wondered if your Council might now consider reversing its decision in not supporting the Government policy of establishing more Academies. As reported in the press, 3 major sponsors (Harris, Ark and ULT) saw massive improvements in both GCSE and A level results this year. ULT is the largest Academy Sponsor and has 17 Academies, all of which are in relatively deprived areas and with all them now achieving results higher than the National Challenge figure of 30% (securing 5+ passes at Level 2 (G.C.S.E) including English and Maths). Results for Paddington Academy show 34% gaining 5(ACEM) in 2009 with 62% gaining the standard in 2010 (The Prime Minister might now consider sending his older children to this school rather than pay for them to go privately!), Barnsley Academy saw results in 2009 of 19% 5(ACEM) and figures for 2010 of 51%, Stockport Academy saw 25% 5(ACEM) in 2009 and 51% in 2010, Salford City Academy saw figures of 34% 5 (ACEM) in 2009 and 50% in 2010, Walthamstow Academy saw figures of 32% 5(ACEM) in 2009 and 49% in 2010.

        By any stretch of imagination these are tremendous results and show what can be done with radical thinking. The children benefit and if "Every Child Matters" this is of paramount importance. Since the first publication of the league tables Stockport Academy (as its predecessor school Avondale school) had always been bottom of the Stockport League (consistently 14th out of 14 secondary schools from a relatively "good" authority as far as results are concerned). For the first time in its history it is now off the bottom (12th out of 14) with one student securing a place at Cambridge in order to read Natural Sciences after gaining 3 A* grades at A level. I could go on but feel I have made my point. Academies are beginning to turn round poorly performing schools that Local Authorities have attempted to change over many years and failed. Even the Times and the Spectator are now enthusiastic for more to be created and have praised the previous governments decision in introducing them!

        I write in a personal capacity as a member of Voice (almost since its inception in the 1970's) who feels strongly that Council's decision was not sufficiently thought through prior to implementation. In that I wholeheartedly support the Cardinal Rule of Voice I suppose I would find it hard to seek membership elsewhere but I did feel that that the change in position of the Council towards Academies was one that could lead me to consider such an eventuality.

        • Philip Parkin 01. Sep, 2010 at 9:35 am #

          There is no doubt that a number of existing academies have produced excellent and greatly improved results – though not all. There is increasing concern that those improved results may be leading to changes in the intake of those academies as more “middle class” parents decide to opt for them.

          Voice’s Council was quite happy to continue the union’s “neutral” stance on academies until the coalition government changed the policy by making the establishment of new academies an attack on both local authorities and, to a lesser extent, on trade unions.

          Allowing outstanding schools (outstanding under local authority control) was a step too far for Council which continues to support a maintained education system delivered, in the main, through local authorities and with democratic local accountability.

          The government is doing itself little good by its lack of dialogue with the unions. There is a resounding silence from Sanctuary Buildings. We have only the second consultative meeting since the election this Thursday and the agenda is determined by the government. The concept of partnership has gone.

          The last government did some ridiculous things with which we and other organisations strongly disagreed – but at least we had a dialogue about it. They could achieve more by trying to take people with them.

          The government has complained about unions not reflecting the views of their members – and I guess there’s an element of truth in that in some cases. Here at Voice the policy change on academies was driven by the Council members themselves and not by officers.

          I will distribute copies of your comments to members of Council when they meet in 3 weeks’ time.

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    • Maralynn 27. Jul, 2011 at 12:18 pm #

      That addresses several of my concerns actually.

  3. Richard Fraser 16. Jul, 2010 at 11:10 am #

    Confirms our concerns about Government’s rush over academies and lack of consultation:
    http://www.tes.co.uk/article.aspx?storycode=6050381

    • Subham 14. Jul, 2012 at 6:35 pm #

      This is really good news and a well-deserved omucote for everyone in the Kimberley School community who has been involved in the campaign. It should also offer food for thought to others, including in local political parties, who wrongly say that more academies are inevitable and that there’s nothing anyone can do to stop them. The Kimberley campaigners have shown that it can be done if people put their minds to it.

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