I rose at 6.02pm
Kate Osamor (Edmonton) (Lab/Co-op): I would like to focus my speech on the announcements in the Budget that all schools will be forced to become academies by 2020. This will lead to a fundamental shift in the way education is managed in this country, turning education into a business. I am concerned that, like most businesses, it will benefit the richer, and leave behind those who most need educational reform. This is a concern echoed by the public. More than 100,000 people have signed a petition to hold a public inquiry and a referendum on turning all schools into academies.
I have a history of campaigning against forced academisation. Before becoming an MP, I campaigned against forced academisation in Haringey. The experience taught me how much community support there is for the state sector in Britain, and how much people care about their schools having the right priorities for their children. Forced academisation is a costly exercise. The timing of this move appears highly questionable. At a time when councils, especially Labour-run councils, are having their budgets cut by 79%, and when they are having to make severe cuts to valuable front-line services, money spent on forced academisation seems like a political exercise, rather than money well spent.
Roy Perry, chairman of the Local Government Association’s children and young people board, stated:
“With mixed evidence about academisation improving standards and when public spending is facing significant cuts imposing academisation on schools regardless of local opinion cannot be an appropriate use of public money.”
This policy was not in the Conservative manifesto. There needs to be proper debate and scrutiny, looking into the cost and how the policy will affect local communities.
Academies do not solve the big problems facing our schools—problems of a shortage of teachers, a shortage of head teachers, and increasing class sizes. Until we look at all those aspects, we should not proceed with academisation.