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Let failing academies come back under council control, says campaigner

PUBLISHED: 13:30 10 July 2019 | UPDATED: 15:26 10 July 2019

County and city councillor for Norwich Emma Corlett, who has started a petition to allow schools which have converted to academies to come back under local authority governance. PICTURE: Jamie Honeywood

County and city councillor for Norwich Emma Corlett, who has started a petition to allow schools which have converted to academies to come back under local authority governance. PICTURE: Jamie Honeywood

Jamie Honeywood Archant Norwich Norfolk

Schools which have been converted into academies should be allowed to go back to being governed by councils if they are failing, a Norfolk campaigner says.

Great Yarmouth Primary Academy is one of the schools in Norfolk currently rated inadequate by Ofsted. Picture: Angela Sharpe PhotographyGreat Yarmouth Primary Academy is one of the schools in Norfolk currently rated inadequate by Ofsted. Picture: Angela Sharpe Photography

Emma Corlett, a county councillor for Norwich, has launched a petition calling for academies which fail or struggle under the leadership of their sponsoring academy trust to be able to request a return to local authority governance.

In her petition, launched on Tuesday, Ms Corlett said the current process was undemocratic and gave little chance for parents or schools to have their say.

Government policy states that local authority-maintained schools judged inadequate by Ofsted have to become academies.

But according to Ofsted data, as of June 2019, 42 of the 56 schools in Norfolk judged to require improvement were academies as were nine of the 12 schools judged to be inadequate.

Downham Market Academy is one of the schools in Norfolk currently rated inadequate by Ofsted. Picture: Ian BurtDownham Market Academy is one of the schools in Norfolk currently rated inadequate by Ofsted. Picture: Ian Burt

Currently the only option for a failing academy is to be handed over to another academy trust, with the new trust selected by the regional schools commissioner.

In her petition Ms Corlett, a member of Norfolk County Council's former children's services committee, called on the education secretary Damian Hinds and the government to change policy so academised schools could reverse their conversion.

She said: "Parents, teachers and the local community have no say. There is no local democratic oversight or scrutiny.

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"The office of the regional schools commissioner (RSC) is powerful but unelected and unaccountable to local communities.

"It is undemocratic that the RSC can influence or instruct a change of academy sponsor without parents, teachers and the local community having any say."

According to Norfolk County Council, 164 of the county's 351 primary, junior and infant schools are academies and three are free schools. Of the 51 secondary schools, 46 are academies and three are free schools.

Nationally, more than 50pc of children in state schools attend academies or free schools.

While academy trusts are funded by the government, have to publish annual accounts showing their financial activities and are subject to the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act, which allows members of the public to request information from public bodies, many concerns have been raised about their accountability and transparency.

A Department for Education spokesperson said: "We are striving for a world class education for all children regardless of background and take swift and robust action wherever a school is seen to be underperforming.

"This includes cases of academy failure and in a tiny number of cases this has involved the school's transfer to another academy trust.

"We have no plans to allow academies to be taken back into local authority control. The academies system supports good teaching and deliver good outcomes for pupils. We know multi-academy trusts can do this by allowing stronger schools to support weaker schools to improve."

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