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Statement: Inkersall Primary School

Many parents have recently contacted me to protest against the forced academisation of Inkersall Primary School.

I completely understand their concerns that the process laid out was unclear, unhelpful and unaccountable.  Parents, teachers and governors did not get any real chance to have their say and rightly have no confidence that the decision was taken with their opinions in mind.

I can therefore confirm that I have written to Rt Hon Nicky Morgan MP, the Secretary of State for Education about this decision and the process attached to it. This letter focused on the following points:

  • That Inkersall only fell into special measures in February this year, and that this academisation seems to be a hasty reaction to the problem, particularly as the first inspection meeting since this time reported “improvement” at the school and a new head teacher was found and in post within 19 days.  Action seems to have been taken to address problems at the school but the government do not seem to want to give these any time to succeed.
  • I asked the Secretary of State to specifically list what discussions she has had with Derbyshire County Council (the local education authority) about this school and the steps they are taking to improve it.
  • I also asked her to specify the basis upon which she came to this conclusion and to list the evidence which indicates that this is the way forward.
  • More specifically, I asked why the principal of Spencer Academies Trust (the academy chain who wishes to take over Inkersall and expand into Derbyshire) is on the Interim Executive board running the school, when apparently no final decision on the academy provider has been made.  I stressed how this would suggest to many parents looking in from the outside that the transfer to Spencer is already a done deal.

I have also requested a direct meeting with Ms Morgan so I can explain the parents’ concerns to her face-to-face.

I will keep parents informed of the responses I receive, but unfortunately I believe the actions of this government over the last four years give a clear demonstration that they are not interested in listening to the concerns of parents about academisation.

Toby and the SpireLabour’s academy programme was aimed at schools which needed a fresh start – by directing new funds and new leadership to the schools in the country’s most deprived areas.  They were a pragmatic way of getting funds to those areas that urgently needed them.  But the views of local people were always taken into account and Labour’s academies always remained part of the Local Government family, with a line of elected accountability to the local authority.

The ConDem Government’s reforms removes this as schools no longer have to consult with the whole local community before converting as now school governors have the final say on whether or not a school should become an academy, a situation we have all seen to our cost in Inkersall.

I believe that this is too narrow a group to decide upon such a fundamental change, particularly as moving toward an academy can disenfranchise parents who can no longer complain to their local authority about their school.

Under Labour, funding for schools was allocated to local authorities through a formula taking into account local costs, needs and deprivation. This money was then dispersed by a local schools forum with some funding retained by the Council to pay for services provided to the schools.

Tory academies receive all of their existing per-pupil funding as well as their share of the local authority’s central funds which are currently retained to fund this central support. They are then able to decide individually whether to “purchase” these services from the local authority or not. This creates a two-tier system and is deeply unfair on pupils in schools which already perform less well than their neighbours.

More broadly, the absurd position we find ourselves in at the moment, whereby the only new schools which the Secretary of State will allow to open are free schools must come to an end.

The next Labour government is committed to lifting the ban (imposed by Michael Gove) on Local Education Authorities opening their own new school.  Local authorities in some areas across the country are facing a chronic shortage of school places.  They want to open new schools to resolve this but are not allowed and are therefore forced to simply wait around for someone to come along to set up a free school of their own.  Gove promised that free schools would fill gaps where need was most.  They have had exactly the opposite effect.

It is also clear from the highest performing school systems around the world that the quality of teaching and the status of the profession hold the key to success. Labour understands this, but David Cameron has presided over a downgrading of teaching, by allowing unqualified teachers into our classrooms and by talking down teachers as ‘the enemies of promise’.

So, there is no doubt that Gove’s ideological experiment has utterly failed.  However, it would be irresponsible to close schools and disrupt children’s education because we didn’t like the model they were set up under.  So, a future Labour government would not force any free schools or academies set up since 2010 to close their doors.  This would be counter-productive.

However, if Labour are elected in May, the ConDem’s experiment will come to an end and no more free schools will be opened.  We will also take political meddling out of the equation and allow local communities a greater say on the future of their children’s education.

By Toby Perkins, Labour Member of Parliament for Chesterfield 

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Welcome

I am Toby Perkins, Labour's Member of Parliament for Chesterfield. If you would like to get in touch with me, my office is open and can be reached by phone on 01246 386 286. I also hold regular surgeries in Chesterfield and Staveley so that constituents can meet me and I can take up their concerns. If you would like to make an appointment then please do contact my office. Thank you for visiting.

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