Responding to recent reports that Lewes schools are being encouraged to consider a move towards a Multi-Academy Trust, local Lib Dems are pushing the Conservative-controlled County Council for greater clarity on the proposed schools budget. Lib Dems support local democratic accountability for schools and believe parents and teachers should have a say over academy conversions.
Philip Daniel, County Councillor for Ringmer and Lewes Bridge said, “Our understanding is that most of the budget for schools – the Dedicated Schools Grant from central government - is ringfenced anyway, so it is hard to see what benefit Academy status would bring. In reply to my question at Full Council (on 4th Dec), the Lead Member for Education, Cllr Bob Standley, said that the budget proposed in the ‘core offer’ should not affect decisions on conversion to academies, and that conversion is not about money.”
County Councillor Kathryn Field, East Sussex Lib Dem spokesperson for education said,
“In many parts of the country, the move to Academy status has led to upheaval, loss of long-standing teachers and the sale of valuable land. This approach is very destabilising at a crucial time in a child’s development. Our children’s future must be properly supported.
“We welcome collaboration between schools and we believe this can be achieved in the current system. We encourage local head teachers with a strong record to play a key role in school improvement, working with other schools and local authorities.”
“However, one of the fundamental principles of our education system must be local democratic oversight. We believe that democratically accountable local authorities should have clear responsibility for local school places planning and we are concerned that the Tories have been prioritising academies, which are not subject to the same kind of democratic processes. We are calling for capital monies for new school spaces to be devolved to local authorities and for East Sussex County Council to continue to provide long-term support to our education professionals.”
Nationally the Lib Dems have been calling for guaranteed long-term funding for schools including: a) a reversal of all cuts to frontline school and college budgets, protecting per pupil funding in real terms; b) the introduction of a fairer National Funding System to ensure a better balance of support across the country and enhancing the Pupil Premium for disadvantaged children.
You can find out more about Lib Dem education policy here