Education International
Education International

UK: Private schools not improving education quality - report

published 30 January 2015 updated 6 February 2015

Academies and free schools in the UK are not improving education in themselves, according to a report from the cross-party parliamentary Education Select Committee, whose findings have prompted a strong reaction from teacher unions.

NUT: Call for transparency

“This is an utterly damning report which shows that children’s education is being run in an incoherent and unaccountable fashion,” said Kevin Courtney, Deputy General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers (NUT), affiliated to Education International (EI).

“Free schools and academies are clearly not improving education in themselves,” he added. “This has been obvious from the start, yet the Coalition Government has persisted in championing them as the solution to education in England.”

Courtney also said the NUT welcomed many of the recommendations of the Education Committee, including its call that all chains (a partnership between a group of academies) should publish within their annual accounts the salary and other remuneration of senior leaders within bands. However, in the interests of transparency, the NUT also wants each individual school within an academy trust to publish its accounts, he underlined.

Where the NUT differs with the Education Select Committee’s conclusions, he noted, is over the future role of local authorities. The NUT is clear that the role of democratic oversight of state-funded schools is better exercised by local authorities, rather than by an expanded role for Regional School Commissioners.

NASUWT: No surprises in report

Chris Keates, General Secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT), also an EI affiliate, echoed Courtney’s reaction. “Nothing in the report comes as a surprise,” she said. “The NASUWT has made the point consistently that there is no evidence that structural change raises standards. There are outstanding academies, just as there are outstanding community and foundation schools.”

Pupils, parents, and school staff have been put through over four years of unnecessary turmoil and uncertainty and schools have been subjected to a mixture of bribery and threats as the Coalition has obsessively pursued its marketisation strategy, she said.

Keates also highlighted that at a time of savage cuts and austerity, enormous sums of public money have been diverted to support this programme.

Education for all

Both unions insisted on the fact that, whichever Government comes into power after the next General Election in May, changes must be made to ensure that all schools are working together to deliver educational entitlements for all children and young people under the strategic direction of democratically accountable local bodies.