Anger at plans to force all Sunderland schools to become academies

Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne delivers his Budget statement to the House of Commons, London. Picture by PA Wire
Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne delivers his Budget statement to the House of Commons, London. Picture by PA Wire
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Plans to force all schools to become academies have been met with anger by teaching unions.

Chancellor George Osborne used his Budget speech to say all schools in England will become academies by 2020 or have an academy order in place.

He also stated there would be an extension to the school day with new funding found to offer extra activities, such as sport and art.

Sunderland City Council’s Portfolio Holder for Children’s Services, Councillor Pat Smith, said the authority is committed to the children.

She said: “We will take time to consider the latest Government proposals outlined in the Budget, and what the long-term implications might be for all schools across our city.

“In the meantime, our long-term commitment remains the same. We will continue to work closely with both schools and academies across all sectors, to improve achievement outcomes for all children and young people in Sunderland.”

Joe Waddle, a regional spokesman for the NUT, which covers Wearside, said the union is firmly against the move to force schools to become academies and would fight the plans.

He said: “At the moment we have a crisis in education that this Government has caused through funding cuts, and there is also a recruitment crisis.

“Instead of addressing these issues, the Government has decided to remove the local nature and accountability of schools.

“The aim is just to create competition among schools rather than provide the education that children deserve.”

Mr Osborne’s announcement means for any school that fails to have an academy plan in place, the Government will take on radical new powers to intervene and ensure conversion takes place.

Academy status, introduced by a Labour Government, was originally reserved for schools in urgent need of improvement, but since 2010, schools have been encouraged to convert and have been given extra funding for doing so.

In Sunderland, Academy 360, Red House Academy and Castle View Enterprise Academy were the first to open as the city’s flagship academies.

Since, then several schools have followed in their footsteps and converted to academies, including Southmoor Academy and Farringdon Community Academy.

The majority of the city’s special schools also now have academy status, but many of the primaries are still run by the local authority.

Mr Osborne said: “It is simply unacceptable that Britain continues to sit too low down the global league tables for education. So I’m going to get on with finishing the job we started five years ago, to drive up standards and set schools free from the shackles of local bureaucracy.

“I also want to support secondary schools that want to offer their pupils longer school days with more extracurricular activities like sport and art. So we’ll fund longer school days for at least 25% of all secondary schools.

“Now is the time for us to make the bold decisions and the big investments that will help the next generation, and that is what my budget will do.”

Russell Hobby, general secretary of the NAHT, the National Association of Head Teachers, said: “The shift to universal academisation will probably not produce the benefits that the Chancellor hopes for and the price paid for the change will be high.”