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Academies - Opposition grows


The Goverment isn’t having everything its own way. A report presented to Dudley Council’s cabinet on Wednesday 18 March recommended that the authority does not proceed with the provision of two new academies in the borough.

At the end of February, Sheffield council decided to “actively discourage” schools from becoming academies. Councillor Andrew Sangar said: "… local authorities should have a key role in being accountable for education in the local area … Sometimes local schools see the academy route as the only way to get the investment that they need. So although we will be actively discouraging schools going for academy status, our policy of carrying out a ballot with local parents on any academy proposal remains."

Back in 2000 the government launched the academies project claiming that the aim was to drive up standards by replacing “failing” schools by independent schools run by private sponsors – but funded by taxpayers (typically about £25 million) – outside of any local authority control. There have been a number of changes since the project’s inception not least the waiving of the £2 million upfront sponsorship payment – the government now accepts “payment in kind” instead.

Under the Blair administration the original sponsors included many millionaires and city businessmen who won honours from the Prime Minister. Now it is religious groups, independent schools and universities who are the majority sponsors. Private schools include Wellington College, Dulwich College and Winchester.