In your report on the conversion of six more of Peterborough’s primary schools into academies, you quote the council cabinet member responsible for education, Cllr Lynne Ayres, as saying, “Regardless of whether a school is under local authority control or part of an academy, there is a need for everyone in education in Peterborough to pull together to offer children and young people the best education possible”. (“Schools convert into academies”, 27 June).
This wishy-washy and essentially meaningless statement just about sums up the absence of an evidence-based justification for moving schools from accountable local authority control to remote and unaccountable control by multi-academy trusts, and it suggests that Peterborough City Council’s offloading schools in this way has nothing to do with educational attainment or value for money.
In 2018, the Education Policy Institute published research showing that academy chains were “disproportionately represented” amongst the worst performing groups of primary schools, with 12 making it into the bottom 20.
Also in 2018, when the permanent secretary at the Department for Education, Jonathan Slater, was asked by the Commons public accounts committee whether there was “quantifiable, tangible evidence” that academisation provided better value for money for schools rated “inadequate” than did local authority support, he replied, “I can’t prove that … nobody could.”
It seems to me that Peterborough City Council’s handing over schools to multi-academy trusts has nothing to do with evidence-based policy, but everything to do with an ideology that believes things automatically fare better when managed by the private sector.
This is particularly surprising in view of the council’s own experience of outsourcing services, for instance refuse collection, which it has had to take back in house.
In the absence of convincing evidence that academisation improves standards, the council’s policy of handing over primary schools to multi-academy trusts looks like a gamble, which is hardly a responsible approach to educating the city’s youngest pupils.
The council’s enthusiasm for the academisation of primary schools should therefore be of great concern to the parents of the children affected.