Private arrangements

January 17, 2008

Lord Adonis wants closer links between universities and schools ("We're building bridges to help tomorrow's scholars climb higher", 10 January). But partnership is one thing and sponsorship of academies by universities is another.

Academies represent a form of privatisation of state education. They are set up under private school legislation and controlled by private sponsors, who appoint a majority of the governing body.

They are unaccountable to local elected government because they are outside the local authority system. They are unaccountable to the local community because the number of parent governors, who represent one third of a local authority school's governing body, is reduced to a nominal one parent elected by right. They are unaccountable to their staff because, unlike in local authority schools, staff have no right to an elected member of the governing body at all.

Because academies are set up under private-school legislation, they are not bound by national agreements concerning pay and conditions for staff, or even to recognise trade unions for negotiating purposes. Finally, the so-called consultation process for establishing academies is a sham. Why should universities want to take over schools and run them as academies when the benefits of closer collaboration can be achieved by partnerships that do not entail colluding in the undemocratic privatisation of a public service?

Richard Hatcher, Birmingham City University.

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