NUT union’s anger as Hackney Council eyes mass academy plan

Hackney Learning Trust chief Anne Canning (Picture: Hackney Council)

Hackney Learning Trust chief Anne Canning (Picture: Hackney Council) - Credit: Archant

A teaching union has hit out at proposals to turn every single school in Hackney into an academy – despite the government backing down on controversial plans to force blanket conversion.

Intense opposition to education secretary Nikki Morgan’s scheme of forced “academisation” of every school in the UK by 2022 forced her to drop the plans in May.

But Hackney Learning Trust chief Anne Canning has since written to every headteacher and governor in the borough informing them her organisation plans to consult on whether to establish a multi-academy trust (MAT) anyway, which would encourage all schools to become academies.

Schools would make the choice individually whether to sign up to the independent company.

The National Union Of Teachers (NUT) has condemned HLT’s “surprise move”, and accused them of “accelerating the government’s fragmentation of the education system”. They see academisation as back-door privatisation and say it will weaken local accountability and undermine teachers’ pay and conditions.

Jamie Duff, Hackney NUT spokesman, said: ‘The government did a major U-turn after coming under intense opposition. We think that the learning trust needs to take this strength of feeling into account.

“There is no need for HLT to form a multi-academy trust as the government has backed down.”

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But Ms Canning told the Gazette that although the government appeared to have conceded defeat, the DfE would make it almost impossible for schools to be managed in any other way – and said setting up a trust could in fact keep schools more involved with the borough than retaining them in the state sector only to have them taken away at a later date.

“We are trying to be swift of foot to protect our schools from just being handed over to any academy chain if they find themselves in those circumstances,” she said.

“This is at its rawest a pragmatic and practical solution to protecting the community of schools in Hackney. It is predicated on the premise that there is an expectation the academisation agenda is here on the table and not for negotiation.

“We feel our professional responsibility is to try and do what’s best for the community of schools and offer an option that prioritises Hackney pupils, in whatever new structure and national chains may come and go. We have some time to consider setting up a small MAT. That offers an opportunity to consider what the risks or benefits might be.”