Academies must be accountable

Any parent in Peterborough who watched the BBC Panorama investigation into academy trusts last week will have been appalled.

Sunday, 23rd September 2018, 12:00 pm
Fiona Onasanya column
Fiona Onasanya column

The government has continued to sell a free market solution as part of their education reforms, but if this expose is anything to go by, then we must realise that the market cannot be granted the privilege of shaping Britain’s youth.

If public money is going to be handed out to academy trusts on whim then they must be accountable to both the state and to parents.

At this time, they are accountable to neither.

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Instead, academy trusts can often get away with underinvesting in their schools and avoiding the tough questions that parents deserve to ask. Not only that, but government are unwilling to challenge academy trusts.

While some academies can cite impressive attainment figures, I would posit that this is more than likely a result of incredible teachers working in very tough circumstances – as opposed to a privatisation miracle, especially as there is no proof that academies actually raise standards. The desire to make a profit at the expense of our children, the pupils, is deeply disturbing.

It is baffling how our government is currently allowing many academy trusts to turn our schools into companies.

Simply put, if there is no accountability to parents and the wider community, as the Panorama expose inferred, then we must be asking serious questions about the legitimacy of the academy model.

The reality is that local councils running our schools under a unified banner will ensure that both parents and pupils have more of a say in how they are run. Our children are the future, and if we let the profit motive trump all else, then we are doing them and wider society a huge disservice.

Off the back of revelations into the workings of academy trusts - there should be a full, independent inquiry into the regulation of these organisations. There are serious concerns to be addressed, and at the moment, both academy trusts and the government are failing to tackle them.

Instead, our government seems too focused on arguing over the machinations of Brexit rather than focusing on the bread and butter issues that people care about, particularly education.

While they bicker between themselves, they are failing Britain’s youth by failing to confront academies that are undermining the future of generations to come.

The solution is simple: an emphasis on investment, accountability, and inclusion of parents and pupils in the decision-making process will make a huge difference. Instead of forcing schools into the academy rigmarole in search of profit, we should be taking back control of our children’s future.