Why the forced academies programme is wrong


Birmingham has a number of primary schools on Michael Gove’s ‘hit list’ for conversion into academies.

It’s sometimes difficult to find out exactly which they are. Not surprisingly the schools themselves are reticent to have such information published. You can understand their fear of being stigmatised as ‘failures’, even though they will not necessarily have done anything to warrant being on it.

But they still get to find out that they are on that hit list. Sometimes they may be invited to a meeting. Sometimes it may be a visit from an officer of the local council wringing their hands and saying that academy status is the way the government wants the school to go and there is not much you can do about it.

It’s appalling to see this happening to schools in Birmingham. Worse than this, very little of what is said to schools is ever put in writing.

In the meantime, dedicated heads and governors are left in an invidious position. Some will resist what is being foisted on them and rightly so. As a local MP, I have backed schools which have made that decision.

In other schools, circumstances may be different. We should not condemn heads or governing bodies whose genuine judgement is that the interests of children will be best served by going down the academy road. It is always important they continue to operate as part as a local family of schools rooted in communities but at least some may judge that they are as likely to be able to do that as an academy.

They should have the right to make those judgements, in consultation with the communities they serve. But it should be a local decision. Not one forced on them by covert ministerial bullying.

That’s why the government’s forced academies programme is wrong.


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Richard Burden

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I was Labour Member of Parliament for Birmingham Northfield between 1992 and 2019 and a former Shadow Transport Minister. I now chair Healthwatch in Birmingham and Solihull, and the West Midlands Board of Remembering Srebrenica. I also work as a public affairs consultant. I am an effective community advocate and stakeholder alliance builder with a passion for human rights. I am a trustee of the Balfour Project charity and of Citizens Advice Birmingham, and a former Chair of Medical Aid for Palestinians.

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