Outraged councillors and parents have vowed to fight government plans to force all Derbyshire schools, including in Chesterfield, to become academies.
If the proposals are to go ahead, it would mean schools across the county would no longer be governed by Derbyshire County Council and would become independent, state-funded schools.
The county council says the government’s new proposed compulsory academy programme could have a negative impact on schoolchildren.
For more on the council’s stance see here
However, supporters say academies improve standards and allow teachers to have more freedom away from the National Curriculum.
Derbyshire County Council’s cabinet member for children’s services, Councillor Jim Coyle, said: “There’s absolutely no evidence that academies improve outcomes for children, so it mystifies me why the Government insists on pressing ahead with this stance.
“There’s no appetite for it in Derbyshire and we will do all we can to support parents and schools opposing the move.
“Local schools will lose accountability as well. At the moment, schools are governed by local people, parents, staff and community representatives. Academies do not have this. They are completely unaccountable.”
Chancellor George Osborne announced the proposals to turn all schools into academies by 2022 during the budget last month.
All schools in special measures or with serious weaknesses must, by law, be issued with an academy order and compelled to academise. But the latest proposal for compulsory academisation has raised fears about the standard of education children in Derbyshire will receive.
Councillor Coyle said: “It is a huge concern.
“Academies do not have to appoint qualified teachers.
“It is a very hard time for kids in schools. They only get one time in school so they need to get the best education possible.
“I am sure that there are certain schools that have improved but I can’t find any evidence anywhere.
“There is only a short percentage of schools in Derbyshire that have changed to become academies voluntarily. So if all schools wanted to academise they could have done but they have chosen not to do it.”
Previously, academies were often associated with improving ‘failing’ schools, but successful schools, both primary and secondary, can also now apply to become academies.
Academies are overseen by charitable trusts and receive their funding from central government.
Nationally, academies make up 22.4% of schools – 14.5% of primary schools and 61.4% of secondaries.
However, in Derbyshire, the numbers are much smaller – 4.3% of primaries and 44.4% of secondary schools are academies.
Coun Coyle added: It is thought that rural schools in Derbyshire would be worst hit if compulsory academisation is introduced, as the new funding formula for schools would make small schools unviable.
“Already Derbyshire parents are showing their opposition and have set up action groups to fight the move and we’ll do whatever we can to support these groups.
“We’re proud of Derbyshire schools and committed to fully supporting them to give children the education they deserve. This move is not in their best interests.”
The county council says it now plans to fight the proposals by lobbying government, supporting schools to resist academisation if they’re ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ and support parents groups working to oppose academies.
One of the campaigning groups, called Matlock and Derbyshire Anti‐Academies, which was set-up by parents, has organised a rally in Hall Leys Park, Matlock, on Saturday (April 23) at 2pm.
Parent Alice Lockett, who set up the group, said: “The more I talk to the people face to face and online the more I realise how horrified people are about this policy. It not only puts the education of our children at risk through the upheaval it will cause, but is also essentially handing over publicly owned assets to the private sector.
“Add to this the removal of education from the control of locally accountable representatives and we see an erosion of democracy which should worry us all. Our children’s education is not for sale.”
Christine Blower, general secretary at the National Union of Teachers (NUT), said many schools have chosen not to turn into academies because of the support they received from local councils.
She said: “This Government is ploughing ahead with a policy that is based neither on evidence or popular demand.
“We know that academisation in and of itself does not improve education.
“At a time of huge teacher shortages, budget cuts and difficulties around curriculum and testing these are entirely the wrong priorities from a Government that is losing its way”.