Campaigning for Local Schools for Local Children

Motion to the Borough Council asking for support for the Parliamentary Education Select Committee recommendation that Local authorities are enabled to develop their own schools.

This is a motion about schools, failing schools, failing academies, the need for more schools and the Parliamentary Select committee’s recommendations about the way forward. Parliamentary select committees are cross party committees-just like our scrutiny groups. The education select committee is chaired by a conservative MP, has 6 conservative members, 4 labour and one SNP member.

I will not be impressed if the administration throw this motion out on the grounds that education is a county issue, and I shall tell you for why. We have cross party agreement that we will become a Unitary authority. Ghandi said- we must be the change we want to see and I agree. We need to take every step we can to prepare ourselves for Unitary status. We need to prefigure Unitary status as much as we are able. We can do that in various ways. We can set up mechanisms to develop policies, strategies and partnerships. We can look ahead and think about what we need in place to support us.

This recommendation is one of those. Why is it needed?

To put it bluntly schools in Northampton need our help. The children. The parents. The staff and the communities need our help. We have two schools, Thorplands and Blackthorn that are part of a failing Academy chain which wants to hand their schools back. They have gone broke. There is no-one to hand back too. If the Parliamentary select committee has its way then LAs would be able to take on schools that have been let own by their academy Trusts. As it is Thorplands and Blackthorn are having to wait for another sponsor to come on the scene. We have other schools –part of the David Ross Academy Trust- which are having to lose really important support staff because of budget difficulties.

Teachers cannot teach well if they have to do the support work too. There is a funding squeeze on schools. More Academies will want to hand their schools on when there are no longer rich pickings to be had. The Trust which had our two schools had been heavily criticised for employing family and friends without advertising. For spending money on educational trips-£45000 to New York.

There has been the most enormous transfer of schools between Academy Trusts- for different reasons- some because they were required to transfer by OFSTED. This causes great anxiety and destabilises the functioning of the schools. We need lots more school places in Northampton.

We are a growing town. We need at least two more secondary schools and up to nine more primary schools. It is becoming ever more difficult to attract sponsors. It is clear that most sponsors do not want to take on schools in disadvantaged areas. Academy schools do not, by and large, want to take on young people that will depress their results. But achievement is another issue.

Our schools in Northampton are not doing as well as they could be or should be. The issues around our schools is not going to go away. We need mechanisms in place to support us in becoming a Unitary and that we will need in place when we are one. We need to be able to support our children, our schools, our communities.

The Education Select committee made clear in their report that there are issues with Multi academy trusts. There are issues to do with financial probity. With governance. With achievement. With OFSTED - Parents report they do not understand Academies and feel excluded by them. The select committee further reports that Academies have been encouraged to expand too quickly over too large a geographical area and recommends that schools should operate in close proximity to each other in order to share resources, expertise, best practice.

There is a crisis in teacher recruitment and retention. There is a crisis in head teacher recruitment. The select committee suggests that recruitment and retention may be improved by improving job satisfaction- improving pay. Improving conditions. Improving CPD- Continued Professional development.

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