Cat Smith MP

Working for Lancaster and Fleetwood

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Academies

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I believe the local schools in the Lancaster and Fleetwood Constituency are fantastic with strong leadership and local support. Parents must have a say in the future of local schools, and it is wrong for this Government to impose academies on all schools. That will weaken the standards of the national curriculum, lessen accountability to local people through councils, and restrict access to freedom of information requests. It is also a hugely hypocritical act from a Government that claims to champion localism.

As you may be aware Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has condemned this appalling proposal as asset-stripping and a step towards privatisation. I challenged the Ministers on this in the House of Commons during the debate on the budget and alongside Labour colleagues will continue to look for opportunities to raise this matter in Parliament

I will fiercely oppose the programme a move which is a top-down, costly reorganisation of our schools, which nobody wants and schools don’t need. The anger from parents and teachers against these plans is growing.

There is little evidence that academisation in and of itself leads to school improvement. We need to build an education system that helps provide an excellent education for all children rather than pitting one type of school against another as the Government are doing.
 
The Tories’ obsession with schools structures, at the expense of what really matters in classrooms – the quality of teaching – completely misses the point. The vast majority of non-academies affected by this policy will be primary schools, over 80 per-cent of which are already good and outstanding. These plans for forced academisation of all schools are evidently ideological and not about school improvement.
 
This approach to education risks fragmenting vital community links with our schools. Ministers are silencing the voices of parents, school governors and the local community. Their plans to remove parent governors is deeply concerning.

There are real concerns about the accountability of some academy chains as Ofsted have warned. The government have repeatedly failed to give Ofsted the powers to hold academy chains accountable for financial management and standards.

At a time when schools are facing budget cuts for the first time since the mid-1990s the plans to force all schools to become academies will cost £1.3billion, money that could be better spent driving up standards.

The Government has failed to address the real issues facing our schools, be it the shortages of teachers, the mounting pressure on school places, the widening attainment gap between disadvantaged pupils and their better-off peers, or the real-terms budget cuts that schools are facing. At the same time, teachers and parents are trying to navigate their way through huge changes to exams and assessments, and the government is already way behind schedule on delivering GCSE and A-Level specifications due to be taught from this September.

The white paper does nothing to address these big challenges facing education and shows just how out of touch the government are.

I will stand up for children and parents and oppose these plans. With Labour I will seek to build an alliance with parents, heads, local Government leaders, both Labour and Conservative, against these plans. Rather than cutting parents out of the picture, we want to put local parents and communities at the heart of decisions when it comes to their children’s schools.