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Why do we oppose Academies?

This statement was sent as a letter to The Guardian newspaper in 2006 from the late Steve Sinnott, General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, author and journalist Melissa Benn, Professor Steven Ball, author and journalist Francis Beckett, Ken Muller, Islington Campaign Against Academies, Geoff Holmes, County Secretary NASUWT Northumberland, Tracey Moreton, parent at Northcliffe school in Doncaster

The 400 academies proposed by the prime minister in December 2006 - at an average cost of £35m each - will lead to a transfer of more than £14bn worth of publicly owned resources into the hands of private sponsors. Local authorities currently face an invidious choice. If they include an academy in their bid for funding under the Building Schools for the Future programme, it will be built with no charge to the authority but at a £35m cost to the taxpayer. It will also trigger much-needed funding for other schools in the authority through BSF. So a new school comes "free" to a local authority if it is an academy, but at a huge cost if it is not. Headteachers and local authorities have made clear that they do not want academies, but they are being pres- sured and bribed into accepting them. Why? Tony Blair and Andrew Adonis constantly claim that academies work, using parental demand for places as evidence. But there are no control samples in the academies experiment, and any GCSE science student would see through this claim. There is no genuinely fair test. We therefore wish to put the following proposal. The government would like to see improving schools, such as Islington Green school in London and Hirst High School in Ashington, Northumberland, closed down and replaced with academies. A fair test would be to give each of those schools the £35m - the cost of an academy - and compare their success with those of existing academies. Then it would be possible to evaluate fairly what leads to school improvement. Is it the involvement of private sponsors and academy status that really raises pupil achieve- ment and makes schools popular with parents? Or would a massive injection of state funds have the same effect? We challenge the government to take up this proposal

For essential up to date information on Academies, go to
A major reason for there being a crisis in school places is the failure for Lambeth Council to have any long term plans to use their resources over a longer period of time- sites have been sold to please auditors, rather than kept to please the community.

Since the mid-eighties, the following schools have closed and their sites taken out of LEA use for schools:

Kennington Boys (part), Priory Park, Beaufoy, Henry Thornton, Orchard Centre, Santley, Caldecot, Haselrigge, Vauxhall Girls, Lawn Lane, Tulse Hill, Dick Shepperd, Ashby Mill and Effra Primary have been sold to developers. (This list does not cover all school closures)

There are also sites - possibly the old Lilian Baylis - that will be sold as there are no long term plans, but the present plans for Fenstanton take the biscuit.

Latest on Lambeth's madcap schemes -what's happening about Fenstanton?
Academies in Lambeth
Fenstanton latest
Lambeth Academy

Lambeth Academy was the first Academy to open in Lambeth as a new build in 2004. It is run by the United Learning Trust.(ULT)

ULT is based in Northampton. To be fair, they do have a background in education, and do recognise the unions. We are aware of serious concerns in other ULT academies and of disputes that the union have with ULT.

ULT have recently offered a pay increase ever so slightly higher than the government has elsewhere, but given the hours that teachers work in academies, it is cannot be said to be significantly higher

In Lambeth, we do have a fairly good relation with the Academy and we have on site union reps.

Although we would describe our relationship with Lambeth Academy as 'normal', we insist that education should be organised by those accountable to communities, not shareholders and remote bodies.

ARK - who's behind them?

Evelyn Grace school opened in September 2008, admitting Year 7 pupils on a temporary site in Breixton.

The sponsor for this Academy is Absolute Return for Kids - (ARK). You are given the impression that there are philanthropic entrepreneurs out there who are just waiting to help the deprived inner city children. This claim is dubious. Experience has shown that these sponsors nominally have to provide £2 million (often they don’t even do that) then they are in control of a multi-million pound site, managing a colossal budget.

ARK is a US based charity – they all seem to be – who want to get into education in this country. They have no previous experience of education in Britain. ARK we find have among their millionaire trustees one Jennifer Moses. Jennifer Moses was till recently a senior director of the investment bank Goldman Sachs, which was recently fined $110 million by the US Securites and Exchange Commission for being involved in “the worst financial scandal for a generation”.

It was also the bank which allowed Robert Maxwell to fleece the Mirror pension fund and whose senior vice-president was recently imprisoned for three years for fraud. Moses herself and her husband, Ron Beller, were reported earlier this year to have been robbed of over a million pounds by their secretary Joyti DeLaurey without even noticing. Hardly surprising when you consider her husband’s recent annual wine bill came to £18,000! Are these really the kind of people we want running our children’s schools

More alarming is the fact that the banks behind ARK are all linked to Hedge Fund speculation - financiers who had built up huge financiang of the world's banking system. Had the reserves thesl empires based purely on speculation - that is leechie outfits have built up been invested, we would not have seen the financial mess worldwide that we now are experiencing.

Which begs the question: if these people contribute to the disaster we are suffering in the world's private banking system, why do we want them involved in state funded projects?

Are academies really popular?

Given that the government trumpeted their accademies as if they were the salvation of western civilisation as we knew it, it's hardly surprising that in the early days they seemed popular. ewspecially if they had brand neew buildings, opposed to the ramshackle alternatives of local authority schools.


However, parents may be fooled once, twice, but not for ever. Contrary to the myths spun by ministers and certain council leaders, the truth is somewhat different. Whereas local authority schools in September 2008 were oversubscribed - in some case well over, it was not the case with Lambeth Academy and Evelyn Grace.

Lambeth Academy did fill up on second preferences, but Evelyn Grace still hadn't reached 180 at the same stage.

Which just goes to show - just as people arfe finding out with banking - private doesn't necessarily mean better, often means something quitre different.
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