CALLS are being made to stop turning schools across Worcestershire into academies – with some politicians claiming the “disadvantages” outweigh the good points about them.
County Hall’s Labour group has accused the Conservative leadership of trying to “privatise” schools and has asked for a pause in converting any more.
But the plea was rejected by the ruling party – which insisted schools are still free to make their own choices.
There are 27 academies in Worcestershire, made up of 19 secondary schools, six primary or infant schools and two middle schools.
The county council’s ‘corporate plan’ blueprint says it “embraces the Government’s agenda” in “supporting the creation” of academies.
Labour councillor Richard Udall said: “There are many disadvantages to being an academy – including of selection for pupils, the cutting of pay for staff, the risk of appointing unqualified teachers, and the taking on of debt and pension liabilities.
“There is also the loss of local authority control. Will the schools be warned of these disadvantages?”
Councillor Alan Amos, Labour group deputy leader, said: “All we hear is how well schools in the county are doing, so I don’t understand why we want to turn them into academies – it makes no sense to me.”
A report before the meeting revealed how permanent exclusions for schools across Worcestershire totalled 59 last academic year, compared with 83 the previous year.
Attendance levels are now at 94.5 per cent, the highest ever figure, and better than both the national and Midlands average.
Councillor Jane Potter, the cabinet member responsible for education, said: “The academies programme is up to individual schools and their governors, that’s what we support.
“I am not forcing schools to do anything. We’ve got 27 academies out of 243 schools – we are not a nanny state, we’ve got to allow schools to make their own decisions.”
She also said all the schools which had made the conversion adopted the “same wages and pensions” as County Hall did.
“They want happy and contented staff, I don’t see why any would want to reduce them,” she added.