THE GOVERNMENT'S plans to encourage 'outstanding' schools to take a fast-track to 'academy' status are a threat to the future of comprehensive local authority schooling. They could introduce a fragmented two-tier education system where 'successful' schools opt-out of the local authority, taking money with them as they go, leaving cash-starved councils with the schools - and pupils - that need most help.
The ability of outstanding schools to continue with high quality teaching and learning will not be enhanced by becoming an academy. Research on existing academies presents a very mixed picture of their educational performance.
The government has made it crystal clear that they wish to remove national pay and conditions arrangements from teachers. Allowing individual academies to set their own arrangements is intended to be one of the mechanisms to achieve this aim.
Fortunately, many schools have held back from rushing into becoming academies this September. In fact only 32 schools have reopened after the summer break as independent academies. But Tidemill school in Deptford, south London, is pursuing academy status.
The school hit the headlines when it was revealed that its headteacher, Mark Elms, was paid around £250,000 in 2009/10.
Under pressure, the government has conceded that parents should be consulted over plans to become an academy - but Tidemill's timetable shows how limited that 'consultation' can be.
As last term drew to a close, Tidemill children were handed a letter for parents on 19 July saying that the governors were consulting for two months (ie over the summer holidays) before they make a decision early in September!
But some parents were not prepared to accept this sham consultation. An inaugural meeting of 'Tidemill Parents Against Academies' was held over the summer and, with the support of the NUT and Anti-Academies Alliance, leafleting has already taken place in Deptford with a lot of support from local residents and parents. A subsequent campaign meeting on 6 September was informed that the deadline has now been extended into October.
Local councillors are now beginning to ask questions - but time is tight to put enough pressure on the governors to hold back.