I was at the Fabian Society Hustings last night in London on 14th June 2010.
Following a question regarding 3 things the contenders would rather Labour hadn’t done or had got wrong, Gaby Hinsliffe asked the audience for other suggestions. Someone shouted ‘SATs’ and I said ‘Academies’ as I don’t think Labour should have introduced academies. This raised a small cheer but then a woman in front got very cross and started raising her voice and pointing her finger at me in disagreement. I didn’t catch what she said but she sure liked academies. Ed Balls then had a little joke with her saying ‘you can be my campaign manager’ and something about giving her a fiver.
Teachers have moved away in their droves from supporting the Labour Party because of SATs, League Tables and Academies. Whilst Ed Balls and some other Labour Party people may draw attention to the fact that under Labour it was ‘failing’ schools which were offered academy status whereas now it is the opposite end of the Ofsted spectrum i.e. ‘outstanding’ schools, this should not detract from the arguments against all academies. Academies fall outside local authority control, are effectively outside the state system, cost a huge amount of money in start-up costs and reduce workers’ rights. There is plenty of evidence to support the fact that they are not always a beneficial force in the education of the children they are supposed to be catering for. From an education point of view I do not accept that academies through their structure and the nature of the fact they are sponsored and taken out of local authority control makes them good value for money or good for children.
I think it’s a shame that at the hustings Ed Balls didn’t take the opportunity to practice what he was preaching and demonstrate that he is interested in listening to the people. Rather than ignoring me (and those who applauded my comment) he could have invited me to communicate with him via his website and defended his position.