The Government’s programme for Academy schools has been taken up by a number of Bromley schools. However, as the new school term started, many schools that are still attached to Bromley LEA and wish to stay as LEA schools face an uncertain future.
They are concerned that the Conservative administration on Bromley Council no longer wish to support them as LEA schools and are keen to relinquish responsibility for them. A large number of local schools still consider it to be an advantage to be part of the LEA and not all schools are appropriate for conversion to Academies.
In a recent response to Labour Party councillor Kathy Bance, Cllr Stephen Wells, the Portfolio Holder for Education, denied that he wanted all schools to become Academies. However, the Labour Group and many Head teachers are concerned that this hides the real agenda.
A report of a meeting held on 24th July between Cllr Wells and some Head teachers was distributed to schools. It reported that the:
“Local Authority will proactively support schools move away from local authority control and will provide information to schools to help this process. The message will be sent clearly to Governing Bodies on the Council’s long term strategy – Academy for All.”
A recent Bromley scrutiny committee was told that the Portfolio Holder had also said that he was not planning to intending to do anything to help schools that to stay with the borough.
It seems clear that Cllr Wells would prefer all schools to become Academies.
There has been no public or council debate on what is essentially a change of policy. Furthermore, this is causing great concern amongst many of our schools, especially the smaller primaries, that they may be forced to become Academies because the support from the council will be allowed to wither away.
A number of schools have contacted us with this concern.
Head teachers and Governing Bodies were anxious at the end of term, feeling unsupported and “left out in the cold” to find their own way. Schools feel their views have not been sought or listened to. One Head asked us “Do we not have any say in this?”
Labour councillors have always been sceptical of the advantages of Academies. There is no doubt that some schools benefit from a new start and some schools feel strong enough to go their own way. However, that does not mean that education in Bromley, historically one of the better performing authorities, will improve for all students. There is no real evidence that Academies benefit everyone and we believe the Local Authority needs to maintain an interest and responsibility for the education of children in our Borough. Leaving schools in this position of uncertainty can only have a detrimental effect on the education of our children.