I have an interest in this matter not just as a former pupil, but now as a parent. These decisions are very difficult and finely balanced.
The first thing to say is that I don’t want any good school to feel like they have little choice but to become an academy. As Labour’s Education spokesperson, I have been really clear that I believe the government's focus on academisation at all costs and as the only route to school improvement is wrong-headed. Moreover, I believe the balance in our school system of wholesale academisation with little or no local accountability or regard for place has gone way too far in one direction – towards Whitehall.
That’s why I have been really clear that Labour policy will be for all schools, whether academy, free school or maintained school – to come under greater local government oversight ensuring better collaboration, provision of places, fairer treatment of excluded or SEN children and local accountability.
However, it is four and half years until the next election – the earliest possible point we can change policy. Indeed, with the Education and Adoption Bill currently passing through Parliament, it is clear that the government are determined that the majority of secondary schools will be academies by the end of the Parliament. Previously, it was that one bad Ofsted would lead to imposed academisation. Soon, with the new Bill, it will be one set of results without year on year improvement or what the government loosely describe as “coasting” which will lead to forced – usually through a preferred chain – academisation.
Furthermore, they are removing the need to consult with parents and teachers in such circumstances. It is therefore this context and this hostile environment which leads me to understand and respect the decision of the Parrs Wood’s governor’s.
It is a matter I have discussed thoroughly with members of the Governing Body particularly with Suzannah Reeves.
I have been very much reassured that motivations and desires of the move is to protect the ethos of the school and strong working relationship with Manchester City Council. This is about the school protecting itself from being one Ofsted or one set of results away from being forced into an academy chain which may not share the school's, the parents' or the community’s values.