Islington academy plans raise fears for primary school education
PUBLISHED: 16:53 18 May 2011
»Three Islington primary schools have taken the first steps towards becoming academies – sparking fears over the future of education in the borough.
* The coalition Government last year passed legislation allowing primary schools, as well as secondary schools, to become academies.
* Academies are independent of their local authority and funded directly from central government. They have greater control over their budget and curriculum.
* Islington Council provides a host of services to its schools, including improvement programmes to raise teaching standards, finance management, behaviour support, transport, and school library services.
* Academies lose this support – but get money from the council’s education pot instead, which they can spend as they wish.
* They would also be left out of Islington Council’s flagship - though controversial - policy of providing free school meals to all children.
* The decision to go for academy status ultimately falls to a school’s governors.
William Tyndale Primary School, in Upper Street, Islington, was this week revealed as the latest to consider leaving Islington Council’s control, and has launched a consultation asking staff what they think.
But the council’s schools chief said the move would be “risky” – and could damage other schools by taking money away from shared services.
Councillor Richard Watts (Labour), Islington Council’s executive member for children and young people, said: “I think it’s risky and I’m sceptical about whether it’s in the best interests of the kids. I would implore the governors at all of these schools to think very carefully.
“Schools get a lot from being part of the local authority – William Tyndale has itself recently benefited from building work paid for by the council. It would take money away from the central pot of cash that lots of schools benefit from.”
Pooles Park Primary School, in Lennox Road, Finsbury Park, and New North Community School, in Popham Road, Islington, have also started consultations with teachers, parents and pupils in recent weeks.
Islington Council provides many services for the borough’s schools – but academies would simply get a slice of the education pot instead.
Ken Muller, assistant secretary of the National Union of Teachers’ Islington branch, said there is no evidence that academies improve attainment.
He added: “It threatens to break up and undermine the education authority.
“The heads think they are going to make money out of it because they will get a lump sum from the council, but it will be at the expense of other schools – and they’re going to have to buy the services in from somewhere anyway.”
Mr Muller also said there would be a lack of accountability to the local community as there would be no link to the democratically elected council.
A parent of two children at William Tyndale, who did not want to be named, said: “I’m really upset about it. At the moment, if I have a problem with the school I can take it to the council, but if it becomes an academy, where do I go? All headteachers should answer to someone.”
Nobody from the three schools was available to comment.
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