Sefton Central Labour Party members call for parents to have say

Bill Esterson

 

Labour Party members in Sefton Central made a clear statement on its opposition to the Conservative-Liberal Democrat Government's education policy and called for all parents to be given a vote before any school goes for academy status.

During their Constituency Labour Party meeting this week, members passed a resolution demanding that parents are balloted on whether they want their schools to go for academy status.

The resolution reads:  Sefton Central CLP opposes the Conservative-led Government's education bill and urges parents to demand a parental ballot for all schools considering becoming academies.

Sefton Central Labour MP Bill Esterson, who himself has called for a greater parental say on the creation of academies, backed the resolution.

During a House of Commons debate, Bill called on Education Secretary Michael Gove to ensure that parents, staff and pupil were given a say.

Bill asked Mr Gove: "Parents, staff and students across Sefton have raised concerns about the plans to create academies. Does the Secretary of State understand the need to gain support from parents, staff and students - and, indeed, the wider community - before converting schools to academies? Will he ensure that such major and irrevocable changes cannot be carried out by governing bodies without full consultation?"

Speaking after the Sefton Central Constituency Labour Party meeting, Bill said: "Parents need to be right at the heart of the decision making process on whether their schools go forward for academy status.

"It is the parents, the students and the staff within the community that are at the heart of a successful school - they need to be the ones who make the important decision.

"But before any decisions are made, we need to ensure that all of the factors are considered. For instance, will converting to academy status be the best thing for the school in the long term, will it be in the best interests of the local community and will it be in the best interests of current and future pupils?

"These are factors which we all need answering before schools are rushed headlong into one of the most important decisions they will ever make."

Schools in Sefton Central considering going for academy status include: Maghull High, Deyes High, Chesterfield High, Formby High and Range High.

Bill said he has been contacted by a large number of parents and staff who are concerned by the move.

Bill said: "The arguments which are being used against the academies are all very valid, ranging from concerns about future pupil selection to control for schools and their role as part of the local community of schools. Academies will have their own budgets but will have to buy support services like advice, behavioural support and special needs services which are paid for by local councils at present. The council will have less money to buy these services as the money is being given to academies directly so unless all schools agree to buy the services from the council, the council will have to close its services. The government does not say where academies will be able to buy services if councils stop running them.

"These are the issues which need to be openly discussed before the ultimate decision is voted on by governors and it is vital that parents, staff, students and the wider community have their say before such huge decisions are taken.

"It would also be a good idea if all of Sefton's schools were to meet to discuss this issue before a final decision. The decision taken by a few schools in our borough will have a huge long term impact on all our schools."