Cornwall Council rejects forced Academies

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Cornwall Council rejects forced Academies was a motion debated last week. Although press reporting has been dominated by a Labour slant I did play a significant role in strengthening and broadening the wording. As a result we ‘disagreed’ with Government rather than just ‘note’ it’s policy as Labour had preferred and also that we rejected the idea of getting rid of Parent Governors something that Labour felt over complicated the motion.

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Earlier on in the meeting I asked a question of the Portfolio holder on Academies and the minutes are below:

Councillor James expressed concern that if the Government persisted with forcing schools to become Academies there would inevitably be a surge of applications over the next four years. She therefore requested to know whether the Portfolio Holder for Young People anticipated whether this would place additional pressures, both financial and staff time, on Cornwall Council.

In response, Councillor Wallis confirmed that it would put significant pressure on the Local Authority and was already doing so. There had been a surge in the number of schools in Cornwall making the move to Academy status following the White Paper and this was putting unprecedented demand on Education, Legal and Human Resources services.  The question of resource was already being considered by both services.  At the moment local authorities were not able to charge for the costs of transfer and therefore had to meet them.

Below is the full minute of the motion discussion and agreement which unlike my Labour colleague, does acknowledge I had a role!

In moving an amended version of motion contained in the agenda, Councillor Dwelly welcomed the cross-party support that it had received and highlighted the changes to the original motion.

In seconding the motion, Councillor Wallis further thanked Councillors James and Frank for their input to the amended motion. He emphasised that it should be down to schools to administer themselves and not for the Government to dictate. He expressed the view that the Government forcing schools to convert was based on a flawed White Paper. The Government argument that changing the legal administrative status of a school would improve standards was not backed-up by evidence.  Furthermore, the White Paper allowed Academy Trusts to no longer be required to reserve places for parent governors on their governor boards. He expressed the view that parent governors played a very important role in a school structure, and again, no evidence was forthcoming to back up the justification for removal of this role.

He also raised concern over the lack of accountability in the White Paper proposals. With Local Authority schools, parents had a direct route of raising issues after they had exhausted talking to the head teacher and governors. In the Academy system, parent concerns were dealt with via the Regional Schools Commissioner, and then the DFE. This was highlighted in the recent All Party Parliamentary Group report on the role of the Regional Schools Commissioner.

During the debate Members largely expressed support for the motion. It was noted that in some areas a transition to Academy status had been a retrograde step; it had posed a risk to some small schools and threatened democratic accountability.  Conversely, some small schools had thrived in clusters via Academy status and arguably it was too late to prevent schools becoming Academies as the majority had already converted.

In accordance with Council Procedure Rule 16.4, a recorded vote was taken on the Motion.

On a vote, the proposal was won (95 for, 3 against and 1 abstention)

Those Members voting for the motion:

Andrewes, Austin, Bastin, Batters, Biscoe, Malcolm Brown, Bull, Burden, Buscombe, Callan, Candy, Chamberlain, Cole, Coombe, Curnow, Deeble, Dolley, Dolphin, Duffin, Dwelly, Eathorne-Gibbons, Egerton, Ekinsmyth, Elliott, Ellison, Evans, Farrington, Flashman, Frank, French, George, German, Greenslade, Hannaford, Harding, Harris, Hawken, Herd, Heyward, Hobbs, Holley, Holmes, Hughes, James, Jenkin, Jenkinson, Jewell, Keeling, Kenny, Kerridge, King, Kirk, Long, Maddern, Mann, Phil Martin, Tony Martin, May, McHugh, McKenna, McWilliam, A Mitchell, P Mitchell, Mustoe, Moyle, Nolan, Olivier, Parsons, Pascoe, Paynter, Penhaligon, Penny, Pollard, Robinson, P Rogerson, S Rogerson, Rotchell, Rowe, Sanger, Saunby, Scrafton, Seeva, Sleeman, Taylor, I Thomas, A Toms, H Toms, Trubody, Wallis, Watson, Webber, White, Williams and Wood.

Those voting against the motion:

Fitter, Nicholas and Pugh

Those who abstained from voting:

Lambshead

RESOLVED that

This Council disagrees with the Government’s plans to force all schools to become academies. It also notes widespread opposition to this proposal among parents and education professionals.

The Council welcomes the excellent work done by Cornwall’s schools which are working co-operatively and believes some small schools will struggle to survive if such a system is imposed as proposed in the White Paper.

This Council believes that transferring supervision of all Cornish schools to Whitehall is centralisation and is at odds with the Cornwall Deal agreed with government.

This Council is strongly opposed to the proposal to remove the valuable role of parent governors from the schools governance structure.

The Council is also against the forced transfer of Council owned assets and land to Whitehall.

It resolves to ask the Secretary of State for Education to allow Cornwall’s schools and their parents to decide for themselves whether they wish to remain with the local education authority or become academies.

 

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