Academies April 2016

Thank you for contacting me recently regarding the Government's plans for all local authority maintained schools to convert to academies.

I know that this is an issue of concern to many people, particularly parents and teachers and I note that two petitions opposing the Government's proposals have each received over 140,000 signatures. I am also aware that several organisations have expressed their opposition to the plans. The Local Government Association and Councillors from across the political spectrum, for example, have voiced concerns about local needs and accountability, while the National Union of Teachers, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers and the National Association of Head Teachers have argued that the Government's proposals will distract schools from their core functions of teaching and learning.

I share many of these concerns. While there are some great academies, there are also some excellent community schools. Indeed, the vast majority of non-academy schools affected by these plans will be primary schools, over 80 per cent of which are already rated as good or outstanding. Of course, there are also extremely poor examples of both academy schools and local authority maintained schools. I am concerned that the evidence suggesting that academy status leads to improved standards is mixed. A report by the House of Commons' Education Select Committee during the last Parliament (in January 2015), for example, found that current evidence does not prove that academies raise standards overall, or for disadvantaged children. Ofsted have also reported recently that the academies programme is not bringing about rapid improvement and, in some cases, has led to decline.

I believe the focus should be on improving standards across all types of schools and I am very concerned that the Government's plans will divert resources, time and effort away from this task.

Our schools are currently facing a number of difficulties, including reduced budgets, a shortage of teachers and not enough good school places. The Government's plans will not solve these serious problems and constitute a costly and unnecessary reorganisation of the school system.

However, it is important to note that factors outside the classroom remained hugely important to how children preform in school. I know this from my own experience as a number of schools in my patch has been transformed into academies and yet Nottingham North sends the fewest kids to higher education and sadly ranks first in education, skills and training deprivation table.

That’s why my charity Rebalancing the Outer Estate is focusing on helping to the pupils form the most deprived families ensuring that all kids regardless of their background will get the same chances. The RTOE charity in partnership with ThinkForward has recently received £60,000 from the Careers and Enterprise Company towards funding ThinkForward’s Progression Coaching programme across four schools in my patch. The programme will support 200 of the most disengaged young people to ensure they successfully transition from school to higher education or sustained employment.

Thank you once again for writing to me about this important issue.

I can assure you that I will oppose the Government's plans and will do all I can to ensure that parents, children and communities are at the heart of decisions on our schools.