‘Hands off our schools’

The demo in Market Square
The demo in Market Square

A primary school governor says he is “horrified” by the governments’ plan to turn all schools into academies as teachers, parents and students gathered in Lancaster to protest against the proposals.

Over 150 people gathered to demonstrate in Market Square on Wednesday March 23 in protest against the plans.

The rally, timed to coincide with many others taking place at 5pm up and down the country, was organised jointly by the Lancaster and Morecambe National Union of Teachers and the Association of Teachers and Lecturers.

Chris Holdsworth, chair of governors at Nether Kellet Community Primary School, said: “As Chair of Governors of a small village primary school judged ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted in November 2014, I’m horrified at the prospect of our school being forced to become an academy.”

The government announced plans for all schools to become academies by 2022, in its White Paper on schools earlier this month.

The government said the academy system “empowered” teachers and leaders.

An academy is an independent but state-funded school. Currently, there are about 5,800 of them in England, most of which are secondary schools.

Last week, the Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan, said all schools would become academies, ending any role for local authorities in running schools.

Gina Dowding, Green Party County Councillor representing Lancaster Central said: “The Green Party believes that education is at the heart of our communities and we believe schools should be run by the local authority which has local democracy at its heart.”

Hilary Chuter, from the NUT, told the crowd that out of 596 schools in Lancashire only 26 had so far converted to academy status.

She said: “The move to force all schools to become academies has nothing to do with improving educational standards. It is about destroying democracy.

“Academies do not even have to have parent governors. They will have far more control than any local authority has now.

“This is about putting our schools into the hands of business leaders and private academy chains which will pay their chief executives huge salaries while employing unqualified teachers for our children.

“We are here today – teachers, governors, parents, students, pensioners, all of us to defend our schools and our children’s education.”

The rally ended with chants of “Hands off our Schools”.