No to Forced Academies. Yes to a Better System of Education in England.

Ironically, George Osborne may have done children, teachers, parents and educators a huge favour when he announced the government’s decision to convert all schools to academies.

Hands Off Schools

This budget announcement has galvanised opinion and action from those who are dedicated and committed to a fair and equitable education system.

Maybe this really is a tipping point – when educators, parents and students are no longer willing to stomach political interference bordering on dictatorship in education – from people who have no real idea about teaching and learning, schools and education. What they do have is their own limited experience of schools pre National Curriculum together with fixed opinions about Ofsted, micromanagement by central government, league tables, SATs, destruction of local education authorities, and so on.

Academy conversion for all schools wasn’t in the Conservative manifesto. []. It clearly stated that “coasting” and “failing” (according to their limited criteria) schools would be forced to become academies but not ALL schools. As Peter Wilby says in his article in the Guardian, this is as much about democracy as it is about the inequity of a system polarised by the introduction of academies and free schools.

“What should concern us about the move to academies is not so much the effect on educational standards, which is marginal, as the effect on our democracy. . . . . . . Schooling above all public services demands democratic accountability. . . . . . . . in education, everything is politically contestable.

What children should learn, how they should be taught, tested and disciplined, how the needs of the most and least able should be balanced – people disagree profoundly on all these subjects, often on ideological grounds. Even the details of how to teach children to read – through phonics or whole words – have become matters of political division.

For nearly a century such issues were negotiated and resolved through a partnership of central and local government, parents and teachers. The precise balance changed over time, with parents particularly playing a greater role, mainly through elected representatives on school governing bodies. . . . . . The Tories, however, have taken us into entirely new territory. They propose to destroy anything resembling a balance.”

This move to full academisation is wrong. Yes, it’s undemocratic but it’s also unnecessarily costly – at a time when the government constantly tells us all that we still need to be frugal. It doesn’t even achieve the intended aim to raise attainment, and wholly ignores the other important aims of education and schooling.

This proposal must be fought against and defeated. But there also has to be an alternative that will bring greater coherence to England’s system of education.

Some want a return to the oversight of schools by local education authorities. Others have concerns that there were significant shortcomings within certain local authorities that failed in their duties to support and challenge schools. Some say the cost of returning LEAs to a state that truly impacts on the lives of young people may be prohibitively expensive.

Imagine this (taken from a previous post on the unfairness of academies:

3Di Academies Spending

In the summer of 2014 Compass (thanks to funding provided by the NUT) produced a framework for change in education: “Big Education – Learning for the 21st Century”. Whilst it must be noted that the NUT favoured LEAs as their option for a return to local oversight of schools, they “hope it [the inquiry report] will trigger many more discussions during the 2015 election campaign and beyond about the type of education service that would benefit all children and young people.

Well, we are beyond 2015 and the outcome of that election is very clear to see.

A revisit to this inquiry report is therefore pertinent.

See Chapter One: Democratising the Governance of Local Education

The Compass report called for the establishment of Local Education Boards with Local Education Plans.

The following slides provide suggestions for the role of government, LEAs and these newly established local education boards.

The role of government.

Role of government

The role of local authorities.

Role of LA

The role of new education strategic bodies.

LEBs [1]


Role of LEB [2]

Compass asked, “Why Local Education Plans?

“Coherence will come from Local Education Plans that would perform several functions:

1. To focus resources on local priorities and objectives within a national framework.

2. To develop a joined up service.

3. To set out each provider’s contribution to achieving local goals.

4. To ensure that there are effective improvement initiatives in every area.

5. To provide a benchmark for system-wide improvement, year on year.”

And why have Local Education Boards?

“The design and implementation of local education plans would be the responsibility, as we have said, of local authorities and their partners. Overseeing the plans and holding to account education providers, including councils, would be the job of a new body, a local education board. These would replace the education scrutiny committees of the participating local authorities and would have a number of functions excluding service delivery:

  1. To provide strategic oversight and to promote joined up working but not to deliver services. 
  2. To ensure that plans are properly drawn up and implemented, problems tackled and that providers collaborate.
  3. To hold service users, including councils, to account.
  4. To provide public right of redress when things go wrong; where the buck stops.
  5. To advise government on necessary improvements and meeting local demand for places and services (pre-school, youth, careers, etc.).
  6. To report to local community and government on progress annually.

In their role of strategic oversight, they would be analogous to health and well-being boards without the responsibility these bodies perform of operational management. They would replace education scrutiny committees, carrying out this vital function with greater power.”

If, as Peter Wilby says in the article quoted above, “it is beyond dispute that we are seeing a wholesale transfer of power away from locally elected representatives and a loss of democratic accountabilitythen we have to act now and we have to have a viable alternative to what the government proposes.

Even if educators and parents fail to overturn this preposterous suggestion of academy conversion, we still need to define and determine the whole concept of “localisation” and “autonomy” to ensure there is some local cohesion and democracy in the system that allows for accountability and collaboration between schools, education, social services and health that works properly – for the benefit of children and young people.


See also,

Two more posts.

Superb article from @MichaelRosenYES

Another from @mehdirhasan


About 3D Eye

Gary Foskett and Clare Blackhall are educationalists, writers and consultants. We work with schools and other organisations who share our vision of how schools, businesses, etc should work in the 21st Century. We also run courses and contribute to conferences - speaking about our three dimensional model of intelligences and how schools, colleges and universities can develop the full potential of all their staff and students. We also offer consultancy for businesses and public sector organisations to support staff training and organisational change and development. For more detailed information read our blog at or see our website at
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