Lancashire council leader allows heads to ban officials

Lancashire County Council leader Geoff Driver
Lancashire County Council leader Geoff Driver
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Lancashire’s county council leader has told schools to ban government “academy” brokers” from their premises.

In the latest battle over government attempts to force more schools to become academies Coun Geoff Driver has told headteachers the officials have no right to enter schools.

The leader of ther Conservative controlled council has written to education secretary Michael Gove, calling for urgent talks to discuss the affect attempts to force schools into converting to academies is having on pupils’ education.

He protested to the minister last year but attempts to arrange a meeting have so far failed.

The latest outburst was prompted by claims from school inspectors that attempts to drive up standards at Leyland Methodist Junior School were hampered by the amount of time the headteacher and governors had spent on fighting government plans to force them to become an academy.

The school was plunged into special measures last year

Coun Driver said: “I have been concerned for some time that the tactics employed by these brokers will have an adverse affect on the management of schools and therefore the education of our children.

“We’ve now got that quoted by Her Majesty’s Inspector,which spells it out and I think it is time we met before things escalate.”

Coun Driver said he has told schools that academy brokers, employed by the Department for Education to try to pursuade schools to convert “have absolutely no right of access to schools.”

The Tory council leader believed schools were being intimidated by the officials and suggested that anyone who does want to speak to them should only do so with a representative of the schools support team present.”

A similar message has been sent out by the National Association of Headteachers.

Preston headteacher David Fann is the association’s national spokesman for primary education.

He said: “We are in total unison with the county council. It is marvellous the way the local education authority, heads and teacher associations are in unions on this .

He added: “What we have in Lancashire works and that’s why schools don’t want to convert. We are very much a Club Lancashire and work together to support each other and that support id not available to those that become academies.

Simon Jones, Lancashire’s national executive member for the National Union of Teachers added: “I welcome Coun Driver’s stance on this.

“He is absolutely right about the bullying tactics from the Secretary of State and I’m glad the council is standing up to him.

Chairman of governors Coun Matthew Tomlinson has told the DfE that standards are improving rapidly and the school community is “totally opposed” to academy status.

A Department for Education spokesperson said:“We cannot just stand by if a school is failing children. If a school is in special measures, we have the power to step in and make sure schools improve. Banning representatives from the department is not in the interests of pupils.

“Ministers are clear that the best way to improve under-performing schools is using help and advice from academy sponsors with a strong track record in raising standards. Academies have already turned around hundreds of struggling schools across the country. Results from 2012 show sponsored Academies improving faster than the national average.

“We will continue to talk to Lancashire about how we can improve schools.”