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Top education boss is no fan of academies

Academisation of Walsall schools is “not working” according to the top education boss in the borough.

Councillor Chris Towe, portfolio holder for education and skills, said he hoped schools turning into academies was not the future of learning in the borough.

He also told a meeting of the education overview and scrutiny committee the overall performance of schools had dipped since they started converting over the past few years.

READ MORE: Hundreds of children still being taught at home in Walsall as parents worry

The academy system came into force in the UK in the early 2000s and schools which become one are directly funded by the government and independent of council control.

In Walsall more than half the 31 secondary establishments have become academies (17) while there are only three council maintained schools, six special and a further five independents.

Out of the 101 primary schools in the borough, 68 are still maintained by the local authority, with 17 now academies, six special and five independent.

Councillor Towe said: “I’m not a supporter of academisation. I’ve said it on many occasions for many years that I don’t believe it works.

“At the time of them going, we had 100 per cent of schools either good or outstanding. The figure is now 73.7 per cent. That says something about it to me. They are not proven.

“They are Walsall children. I like to think we have some say and the say we have is through the regional schools commissioner. If the commissioner doesn’t act as we want, we are left at his or her behest.

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“To me, academisation isn’t the right thing. Federation I’m happy with. We’ve got four federations currently in Walsall which I believe work very well.

“I hope the future doesn’t look like academisation because I don’t think it’s the right thing.”

Committee chairman Councillor Lee Jeavons agreed and added: “We haven’t necessarily had a happy time [with academisation] in the recent past in Walsall. It’s not necessarily a panacea.”

Director of access and inclusion Sharon Kelly said it’s a school’s decision whether to convert into an academy and there was no obligation on them to tell the council of such plans.

But she added they had a strong relationship with all the schools who would discuss the issue with them if they wanted to become academies.

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