The parents’ group Save Our Schools in Louth, Lincolnshire, has exposed just how far Michael Gove’s new rules for academies and free schools are able to lead to wholesale removal of schools from the remit of local authorities.
Since 2002, Lincolnshire’s school improvement services have been outsourced to CfBT Education Trust, a “not for profit” consultancy (formerly the Centre for British Teachers). The county’s head of school improvement, Andy Breckon, is also the director of CfBT in Lincolnshire. Earlier this year, Breckon sent a letter to all primary heads and chairs of governors (leaked to the parents), setting out proposals for their schools to leave the local authority and become academies run by CfBT Schools’ Trust.
The letter explained that schools would pay a membership fee to CfBT, but would be better off financially than if they stay with the local authority. It also claimed that senior county councillors were supporting the proposal. Parents were not informed or consulted. Louth Save Our Schools understands that the proposal has not been approved in a council meeting either. There has been no public discussion. Although governors have to consult on plans to become academies, Gove allows them to wait until after the application and approval process has been completed!
Local primary heads and governors appear to be afraid that CfBT is implying that they will be unlikely to continue if they do not comply with the proposal. NUT rep Sally Lockren said “it looks like we are looking at the end of state education in Lincolnshire”.
Until 2010 a proposal such as this coming from an outsourced company with a contract to run local authority services would have been deemed a conflict of interest. Not so now. The 2010 Academies Act enabled schools themselves to choose to become academies – the local authority has no say.
Organisations like CfBT grew massively under the last government. CfBT had an income in 2009-10 of £151 million. It employs 2,400 people worldwide. It runs seven private schools and academies in Oxford and London. It runs school improvement services for Lambeth, Ofsted inspections, school support in Abu Dhabi, Singapore and Brunei, and teacher training in India. ■