Gary's News and views

Gary Streeter MP for South West Devon

Gary writes a weekly article which appears in the Plympton Plymstock and Ivybridge News in South West Devon. The articles are published here.


Thursday, 8 July 2010

In the next few months parents in this area will be consulted about whether the school attended by their little darlings should become an Academy. If there is a flagship policy of the Coalition Government (apart from getting the deficit sorted out and the economy back on track) this is it: allowing schools to become academies.
The first wave is open to any school that has been deemed outstanding by Ofsted, and we have plenty of those in this area both at primary and secondary level.
What are the advantages of becoming an academy school? As the name suggests, this is all about quality. The government wants to give schools the freedom to make many more of its own decisions without the mandarins of Whitehall interfering, on the basis that parents and teachers know best what works for their pupils. Academy schools will float free from any more local authority control, will have the right to decide what it does with its own land and buildings, can borrow in the private banking sector to build and buy the things it wants, will have much more freedom over the curriculum to suit their own community and will have the ability to pay their own teachers and get the best, rather than be stuck with national pay scales. They will have the freedom to pursue their own route to excellence.
For most schools this new policy has many advantages. Self-confident organisations that are the masters of their own destinies tend to make better decisions and produce more with the responsibility thrust upon them. I have rarely seen much benefit from local council interference in our schools. Academies will be able to buy in legal, financial or human resources advice from experts rather than having to live with whatever the council shovels their way.
The plan is also to introduce a pupil premium for those from disadvantaged areas which should encourage the best schools to accept students from all over. This will help raise standards across the board as well as giving children from poorer backgrounds a chance to aspire higher.
I worry about the schools left behind and the provision for special needs and intend to raise these concerns with ministers when the bill, currently chugging through the House of Lords comes to the Commons. I am sure this can be sorted. If you get the chance to have your say, I hope you will go for it!

posted by Gary @ 17:50