Viewpoint: Academisation of Catholic schools - if it ain't broke, why fix it?

Cllr Paul Donovan

Cllr Paul Donovan

A few weeks ago parents at Our Lady of Lourdes Primary school in East London held a meeting to discuss the proposed academisation of their school by the Diocese of Brentwood. The Bishop of Brentwood Alan Williams has decided that the Catholic schools of the diocese are going into a multi-academy trust linked to the Church.

In the Our Lady of Lourdes case, the consultation process was done over three weeks, including half term week. Many parents were unaware what's going on. It was only following the parents meeting of 30 October that questions began to be asked.

A meeting between the parents and the Diocese was held on 15 November. This seemed to have resolved little.

The whole academisation process needs to be discussed in full. It takes the schools outside of local authority stewardship. The funding link is then direct with the government.

Ownership of the school property passes into the trust, a contentious move for many Catholic parishes, where the parishioners often provided the funding for the building of the school in the first place.

Academies employ their own teaching staff so they can increase or reduce teachers pay accordingly. They control their own finances and curriculum. Term times can also be set independently.

On results, there are good and bad academies.

What is for sure is that the Diocese of Brentwood could have been a bit more open and consultative about the whole process. The parents at Our Lady of Lourdes school have forced the process into the light.

Neighbouring St Augustine's in Gants Hill knew nothing of the process at their own school until reading about what was going on at OLL in the local paper.

Not all Catholic schools are going into the trust, though the diocese is talking about two waves of academisations.

Redbridge Council opposes academisation." I am proud of our schools and the fantastic level of education they provide to our children. These high standards are the result of many years of co-operation and hard work between our schools and the council. Why put these achievements at risk?" said Elaine Norman, Cabinet member responsible for children and families. "There is no guarantee that a multi-academy trust will continue to maintain these standards and the council will have no oversight of these schools."

In reality academisation is about privatisation of education, handing over this most precious gift to outside interests.

But perhaps it is time the Church listened to its people, who seem to be saying if it ain't broke don't fix it - the Catholic schools in this area of east London have enviable academic records. People are clamouring to get their kids into the schools -why change things?


Tags: Academy School, Brentwood, Redbridge Council, Paul Donovan,

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