Academy schools – what we think of them

We keep being asked our opinion of ‘Academy Schools’ – the government’s scheme (started by the Labour government) to allow schools to opt out of local council control.

Academy schools are basically state-funded private schools. We are against them in principle. We believe we should be improving the quality of every local school for all children, rather than deepening divisions between schools.

However, as the Government is forcing Surrey County Council to go down the Academies route, we must ensure that these schools are run on ethical grounds.  

As a minimum, we ask that they:

  • follow the regular Surrey County Council admissions policy and are not exclusive
  • have proper representation of parents and teachers on the governing body
  • follow union rules for staff pay and conditions
  • make information such as minutes of governance meetings and financial accounts available (academies are not covered by Freedom of Information legislation).

Bad value

Academies are proving very expensive.

A National Audit Office report* has found that the first two years of the academies programme cost an estimated £1 billion. As it stands, the cost will be borne by the education budget.

That’s £1 billion that could have gone on new school buildings, recruiting new teachers or creating new school places, such as are needed here in Redhill.

If the government is so committed to austerity, why is it happy to find money to fund untested pet projects like this?

Battlebridge Lane

Last week an Academy supplier was chosen to run the new school planned for Battlebridge Lane in Redhill.

What school? We were very surprised.  Especially as I asked a question about this at last month’s Council meeting and was assured by Reigate and Banstead’s Executive Member for Planning and Development, Cllr Miller, that “the County Council has not yet reached a decision on which site to progress”.

Clearly a decision has been reached. We continue to ask how and by whom it was made and for evidence that a proper evaluation of all potential sites was carried out.

It is intolerable that the school Redhill families so badly needs has been delayed so long, and is now being forced onto an unsuitable site, on the Green Belt, because of the lack of timely planning.


*The National Audit Office report ‘Managing the expansion of the academies programme’ can be found here: http://www.nao.org.uk/publications/1213/academies_expansion.aspx

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