“Hands off our school” was the rallying cry of parents, teachers, unions, school governors, MPs, local councillors and the Labour Party.
There has been strong and sustained opposition to the academisation of Moulsecoomb primary school over 2 years, a school which faced many challenges, but was making steady progress with the support of the local authority to overcome them. Recent Ofsted monitoring visits demonstrated extremely positive improvements made by the school and the local community should be proud of their efforts to fight academisation and their positive work with teachers and governors to make improvements.
The Labour Party has also been honoured to stand alongside the community’s efforts throughout and did all it could to oppose the academisation. But no chance of moving forward was given to the school and the government’s process of forced academisation is now complete. The new academy opened its doors on Monday 1st November. This was a gloomy day for democracy.
Forced academisation essentially means privatisation of a community institution, the new owners don’t even take on any outstanding debt. However, concerns are growing, about the stability of the academy system, with evidence that a rapidly increasing number of primary schools are being passed from one trust to another after conversion, causing long-term disruption and uncertainty. Analysis of DfE data shows that the number of primary schools transferred between academy trusts following conversion has tripled in just three years, from 39 to 121. Since 2013-14 more than 300 primary academies have been rebrokered or moved between trusts – hardly a stable environment.
In fact, in 2018 the Department for Education’s top official – Permanent secretary Jonathan Slater admitted that it is impossible to prove that forcing schools to become academies offers better value for taxpayers’ money than leaving them with local authorities.
The most striking aspect of the situation in Moulsecoomb was that despite such deep resistance from the heart of the community there was no way to prevent the academisation, it was essentially a diktat from a government that doesn’t listen sending a clear message to the people of Moulsecoomb the clear message “that their community doesn’t matter” by forcing academisation on the school against the expressed will of the community. In addition, it inevitably affects the ‘family of schools ‘ in Brighton and Hove as academisation moves Moulsecoomb somewhat apart from them.
However, I do send our good wishes to the children and staff at the school with hope that they do have a bright future ahead of them and will encourage the Council to work with the school constructively.