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£18m to be wasted converting school status's say Wiltshire Lib Dems

April 24, 2016 3:00 PM

Wiltshire Council will debate whether to adopt a policy of opposing the forced conversion of its schools to academies at its meeting on 10th May. A notice of motion put forward by Melksham councillor Jon Hubbard identifies that over £5.5m of public money has been spent to date on converting the status of schools and it will cost a further £12.5m to force the remaining schools to change.

Cllr Jon Hubbard commented, "These changes make virtually no difference to the day-to-day running of the schools, there is no tangible impact on the quality of the teaching and no massive investment as a consequence of the change in the resources available to the schools.

"Instead we have an unbelievable amount of public money being spent on changing the legal status of perfectly good schools being run by, often, outstanding head teachers and staff who have been starved of the resources they need to run their schools better - simply because this money is being spent on lawyers and consultants to force them to convert to academies.

"The Conservative government's power-trip approach to education, where they want to steal control of schools away from parents and local communities and put them into the hands of the Secretary of State for Education demonstrates just how wrong and corrupt this government has become.

"Our children's education is not something to be privatised or centralised. It is something to be be cherished, supported and invested in.

"In fact, if this money had been, and most of it still could be, spent in our schools rather than the Secretary of States power-grab, then we would see considerable investment in Wiltshire's schools.

"In my own community in Melksham we have seen an estimated £690,000 wasted so far on paying for legal fees and conversion costs for removing 7 local schools from the local authority to be run directly from Whitehall. £690,000 that could have been spent on improving the education of the 2,500 children who attend those schools.

"It's time to stop this nonsense and instead spend the remaining £12.5 million still earmarked for paying to convert the remaining schools in the County on improving education, not on lawyers, consultants and ministerial power-trips."

Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group on Wiltshire Council, Glenis Ansell, commented, "I absolutely support Cllr Hubbard. This is a further example of a plan that hasn't been thought though. Once again the Conservative Government are arbitrarily taking decisions and substantial amounts of money away from local people."

The text of the motion submitted for inclusion on the agenda of Wiltshire Council on 10th May is shown below. The Excel spreadsheet attached to this release shows the calculations used and the estimated investment that could have made on each school in Wiltshire had the cost of converting Wiltshire's schools been instead invested in schools on a per pupil basis.

Notice of Motion - Forced Academisation of Wiltshire Schools

Proposer: Cllr Jon Hubbard
Seconder: Cllr Glenis Ansell

Central Government have announced plans to force every school in Wiltshire to be forced to convert to an Academy, even if the headteacher, governors and parents would prefer the school to remain within the Local Authority Family.

These forced changes to how schools are run have been condemned by teachers, parents and politicians alike - the Conservative chair of the influential 1922 committee in Parliament recently commented that the plans could lead to the creation of "new and distant bureaucracies" rather than delivering greater freedom and autonomy for schools. *

Wiltshire Council has estimated that the average cost for converting each school in the County to an academy is £10,500. These costs include legal fees, accountancy, staffing issues and other costs such as changes to estate management.

Figures recently released by the Department for Education also confirmed that the average cost per school to central government for the conversion of a school from Local Authority control to being an Academy was just under £66,000. **

The Secretary for State for Education has also confirmed that it is her intention to scrap the position of 'Parent Governors'*** as part of her reforms to England's schools.

Council Notes:

So far in Wiltshire 71 schools have converted to academies; indicating that an estimated £4,815,000 has been spent by central government on converting the schools and potentially a cost of £766,500 to Wiltshire Council.

With 165 schools still to convert this would mean an additional cost to Central Government of almost £11m and a bill for Wiltshire Council of over £1.7m.

Council Believes:

The estimated £12.5m that will be spent forcing the remaining schools in Wiltshire to convert to academies would be better invested in delivering local services for residents in the county and providing additional resources for schools in our communities.

That Schools in Wiltshire would be worse off without the insight and local knowledge brought to the County's Schools Boards of Governors by parents and local residents.

Council Calls On:

Wiltshire's MPs and Peers to actively lobby in Parliament to protect Wiltshire's schools from unnecessary and unwanted reform being forced on them and for Wiltshire to instead be given the estimated remaining £12.5m of funding for a fairer funding for Wiltshire Schools or for investment in our communities.

Officers at all levels to ensure that this Councils opposition to forced academisation to be reflected in any consultation responses submitted by the council.

* The Guardian, 2 April 2016 (http://www.theguardian.com/education/2016/apr/02/backbench-pressure-on-osborne-academy-scheme)

** Written answer to Parliamentary Question provided by Department of Education to Jess Phillips MP, 16 March 2016 (http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-question/Commons/2016-03-16/31449)

*** The Guardian, 17 March 2016 (http://www.theguardian.com/education/2016/mar/17/parent-governor-role-scrapped-schools-teacher-qualifications) and The Daily Mail, 17 March 2016 (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3497639/Schools-allowed-scrap-elected-parent-governors-plans-focus-skills.html)