Education and Adoption Bill

Written evidence submitted by St. Helens Council (EAB 27)

At a meeting of St Helens Council on 18th July 2015, Members unanimously agreed the following motion:

"This Council believes that the government’s proposal set out in the Education and Adoption Bill to remove any consultation with parents when academising a school graded Inadequate, to be totally at odds with their commitment to ensure schools are accountable by placing parents at the heart of the school improvement agenda.  It would appear that parents cannot be trusted to act in the best interests of their own children particularly when those views do not coincide with decisions that have already been taken in Whitehall.

The Education and Adoption Bill is currently progressing through the legislative process and the government has asked for written submissions to be made by the 14 July.  The Council requests that the Chief Executive be authorised to provide a written statement setting out our profound opposition to these anti-democratic and flawed proposals"

Elected Members of St Helens Council have voiced their profound opposition to the proposal in the Bill related to the removal of consultation with parents in the circumstances when the Secretary of State orders that a school judged inadequate should become an academy.

The Council believes that the proposal is totally at odds with central government’s commitment to ensure schools are accountable by placing parents at the heart of the school improvement agenda. It would appear that parents cannot be trusted to act in the best interests of their own children, particularly when those views do not coincide with decisions that have already been taken in Whitehall.

The Council has grave doubts whether academisation is the only solution for inadequate schools. It is not a universal panacea – it is only one option. Research published recently backs up this position. The Sutton Trust, for instance, published research last year on the performance of academy chains. It found significant variations in outcomes for disadvantaged pupils, both between and within chains. It also found that chains differ significantly in how effectively they were raising attainment. Some sponsor chains were managing to raise attainment significantly for young people with low prior attainment. However, others were highly ineffective across a range of measures, thereby failing to improve the prospects for their disadvantaged pupils.

In the light of that and other research, what particularly concerns the Council is the lack of consultation that the Bill envisages. Parents are rightly exercised about the quality of education that their child receives. But how can a parent have complete peace of mind if their views on what might happen to a weak school are to be ignored?

Ofsted has recently published its new inspection framework and guidance. Our Councillors recognise how important an inspection is in the life of the school. St Helens Council welcomes Ofsted’s professional scrutiny and the clarity of a team’s judgments. Within the new inspection guidance inspectors are required to take the views of parents into account. Ofsted does not turn a deaf ear to parents during such a critical event in their school’s life. In contrast, it is of grave concern that Ministers should deny parents’ views being heard in deliberations on a school’s future position. It is only reasonable that those who send their children to a school, that fund it through their taxes, that are part of the life of that school, should be permitted a voice on the future of such a school.

We look forward to the Bill being amended during its passage, so that the views of parents are taken into account during deliberations on a school’s future, in those cases where a school has been judged inadequate.

July 2015

Prepared 14th July 2015