The case against the Prendergast Academy plan

Last month, the governors of the Prendergast federation of schools voted to apply for Academy status, prompting protests by unions, parents and students.

The schools are generally well-run, which is both an argument to trust the judgement of those running them and a reason not to fix what ain't broke. Likewise, the educational advantages (which are all that really matters) of the Academy model are relatively unproven, but if the worst that can be said about it is that the upside may not be all it's cracked up to be, that's not much of an argument against Academy status.

So here is an article by Prendergast parent Meredith Eddy from campaign group SAIL (Stop Academies in Lewisham), who summarises the case against the plan:

"For parents, what is happening at their child’s school is very stressful. It is something over which you have little control but seems like a huge chunk of your precious one’s life and future. The reality is, whether State or Independent, we all rely on the teachers to know their business and do the very best they can.  This should be vital to those in the community without children as well, since the children of today are the citizens of the future, looking after all of us in our old age.

"Academies seem to offer us a way to have a bit more control over what happens within a school. However, there is little evidence to support this claim. Any new academy can choose how it governs itself, and they are under no obligation to include more parents or teachers in that equation. Further, the current governors are under no obligation to consult parents, teachers or the wider community (whose taxes still pay for the schools).

"What about academic performance?  There is unequivocally no evidence that there is any impact on performance by changing the status of schools to academies.  This is true also of charter schools and free schools in other countries – the USA and Sweden – for example.  Further, Prendergast Hilly Fields is one of the best performing, most improved schools in the country – this without the ‘benefit’ of being an academy.

"Surely, though, it’s just good business sense to manage a school locally and not rely on the council, who cannot be counted upon to manage things efficiently.  However, even when it comes to simple economics, the numbers are vague at best.  Currently, schools report to the local authority – Academies report to the even bigger bureaucracy of central government. Further, non-academies use central council facilities, like accountancy, legal and human resources.  An academy could not provide these services on its own as effectively.

"And finally, who educates our children, but the teachers that make up the school.  We all might have ideas as to how they could do it better, but at the end of the day, they are professionals, just like your GP. If any of us are faced with an uncertain future at our place of work, we are likely if we’re any good, to look elsewhere.  So will our good teachers.

"The anti-academy group in Lewisham is not just a bunch of radical activists looking to poke one in the eye of the Government.  We are simply a cross section of parents and citizens who want the best for our children, for our community and for our future – over which we are being given absolutely no say."