Opinion Former Article

NUT: It's absurd to justify spending £8.3bn on academies in two years while warning of dire economic situation

Commenting on the report Managing the Expansion of the Academies Programme, published today by the National Audit Office (NAO), Christine Blower, General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, the largest teachers’ union, said:

“The National Audit Office report specifically warns against deeming the academies programme ‘value for money’. Unsurprising when 10% of the Department for Education’s total budget has been expended on this project, with a staffing increase of 133% in those posts focusing on this work.

“Michael Gove’s priorities are entirely wrong. It is absurd for the Government to justify spending £8.3bn on academy conversions in two years while at the same time warning of a dire economic situation. Meanwhile, many good state schools are told there’s no money as they stand in a state of disrepair with ever-diminishing support services.

“Schools have suffered as the DfE has transferred funding from other budgets to stay within its spending limits. Furthermore, the NAO shows that some groups – academy super heads and insurance companies for example – are getting rich out of the academy programme at the public’s expense.

“While academy converters told the NAO they applied for academy status to gain greater ‘freedoms’, it is telling that half of academy leaders ‘feel less free from bureaucracy’ than expected. The same survey is also critical of the quality of service provided to academies by the DfE’s own support agencies.

“The NAO’s report raises serious questions about transparency. The Government has effectively reduced accountability of governance to little more than an act of faith based on self-reporting. This gives taxpayers scant assurance of sound financial management.

“The Chair of the Education Select Committee recently told Michael Gove to ‘stop taking the urgency pills’, and this report proves him right. The speed of conversion has been one of the Department’s own making and has led to the rest of the education budget being drained in pursuit of a numbers game. Another 400 ‘forced’ academies were announced last week, a further instalment in the saddening tale of coercion and bullying which has characterised some aspects of the academies programme.

“High quality teaching drives up standards, not academies. The Prime Minister and the Secretary of State should instead be investing in teachers and supporting all schools.”

                                                            END                           PR185-2012
For further information contact Caroline Cowie on 0207 380 4706 or 07879480061
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