Coronavirus: School Academisation should be put on hold during pandemic - LGA

“We want to work with the Government to ensure that schools are given the support they need over the immediate term, and this includes urgently placing a temporary pause on academy conversions during this time.”


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Academy conversions should be suspended to help over-stretched councils focus on supporting schools and nurseries to stay open, the Local Government Association says today.

The LGA is concerned that council time is having to be spent on 594 academy conversions in the pipeline, which involve the transfer of staff, assets, including land and property, and financial agreements.

This is undermining council efforts to coordinate sufficient school places for vulnerable children and children of key workers, as well as appropriate space for emergency food and medicine supplies.

Academisation also includes a legal requirement to re-negotiate contracts with suppliers, which goes against the Government’s current advice that schools continue to pay suppliers during the coronavirus crisis, and if a school has a deficit when it converts, the council will have to pick up the bill.

The LGA, which represents councils across England and Wales, has raised these concerns with the Department for Education and is urging the Government to temporarily suspend this non-essential work.

It says the Government should instead turn its attention to tackling more pressing concerns for schools, such as National Offer Day, which places children into primary school and is scheduled to go ahead next week, as well as ensuring there are sufficient school places available in September.

Cllr Judith Blake, Chair of the LGA’s Children and Young People Board, said:

“Councils’ number one priority is to help keep schools open and support families in need, including those with vulnerable children on free school meals, at risk of abuse or with disabilities.

“Council staff are working flat out at reduced capacity, and taking council teams away from their primary duty of care to see through applications for academy conversions is clearly not in the interest of either councils or schools during this unprecedented time.  

“We want to work with the Government to ensure that schools are given the support they need over the immediate term, and this includes urgently placing a temporary pause on academy conversions during this time.”

NOTES TO EDITORS

  1. Over the last decade more than 7,000 maintained schools have been converted into academies - with 72 per cent of secondary schools now academies and 27 per cent of primary schools.
  2. Department for Education guidance aims to convert maintained schools to academies within nine months, yet previous research by the National Audit Office revealed that almost two-thirds of these schools take longer than this to open as academies.
  3. The Government’s advice on academy conversions - updated in February 2019.