The Guardian is reporting that parent groups have been launching around the country to take on cuts, Sats, holidays, academisation and the curriculum, declaring ‘we won’t be pushed aside’.
There have been campaigns against academies since the policy of freeing schools from local authority control was launched by New Labour, and the Anti-Academies Alliance has been around for 10 years. But the government’s latest push, signalled by its schools white paper in March – combined with evidence of poor performance at some multi-academy trusts and publicity surrounding high salaries and financial irregularities – has led to a renewed surge of activism.
David James, professor at Cardiff University and editor of the British Journal of Sociology of Education, thinks parents were slow to realise the implications of a policy that took schools out of local control. “It changes the whole dynamic,” he says. “It happened slowly but inexorably, and people partly didn’t realise because New Labour were as responsible as anyone else.”
But more recent moves to reshape governing bodies along corporate lines and reduce the number of parent governors, or remove them altogether, seem to have woken fears among parents that their voices may in future be ignored. “There is an assumption that if you’re an accountant or a lawyer you have a better sense of what is needed,” says Natasha Steel, parent. “In my opinion the lollipop lady and playground assistant know more about the children in a school than anybody else, but they are to be excluded because they can’t manage data.”
Asked whether the weight given to parents’ opinions by Ofsted has changed, a spokesperson for the regulator highlighted Parent View, the online questionnaire launched in 2011, while a statement from the Department for Education said: “we want parents to be more involved in their child’s education, not less”, and that the “expectation that academies listen to the views and needs of parents” will be strengthened.
But despite evidence from the outgoing chief inspector, Sir Michael Wilshaw, and others that many multi-academy trusts are underperforming, and the reasonable inference that their governance model is not better than the local authority one, the government seems determined to press ahead with reforms that value skills over stakeholders.
Do you think that parents should have a greater say in the governance of their child’s school? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below or on Twitter. ~ Nellie
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