West Sussex Academy Watch has held its inaugural meeting where the group’s steering committee ratified its statement of purpose, drawing upon the arguments they put to West Sussex County Council in January.
The group has pledged to continue to challenge the county council policy of encouraging all schools to convert, and fundamentally objects to any school being told they must become an academy.
Sarah Maynard, a spokesperson for the group said: “West Sussex Academy Watch has emerged from the embers of our campaign at Worthing High School, and could not be more timely.
“Selsey Academy has just followed Worthing High into special measures. Worried parents are calling for the Chair of Governors at Worthing High to resign.
“There is not a shred of evidence that academy status leads to educational improvement.
“We accept academies are now part of the landscape but there must be much more scrutiny of schools embarking on this path.
“Too often these pet projects are rushed through on a wave of ideological fanfare.”
Mrs Maynard continued: “we are also deeply worried about the apparent u-turn by the Diocese of Chichester to recommend academy status to its Church of England aided schools.
If these schools go, it could spell disaster for schools in West Sussex. We urge them to look again at the evidence”
At the inaugural meeting the group set out a five point charter which it says “will be the litmus test” by which they hold school governors and the county council to account.
This charter includes calls for: “robust and meaningful” consultations on academy status including public meetings and ballots; governors to demonstrate they have the capability to run autonomous schools
and the capacity to improve.
“They must”, Mrs Maynard says, “set out how they will use academy status to improve the educational outcomes for children.”
Mrs Maynard continued “all stakeholders need to know the risks and our group will aim to make those clear.
“For instance, parents might not know that academies have a seriously damaging financial impact on maintained schools.
“Even the council admit this. The impact on our kids education will be huge.
“Governors should also know that they could be made personally liable for asbestos claims, even in 20 or 30 years.
“None of this is mentioned when school governors ask the DfE or county council for advice.”
Pictured are protesters outside Worthing High School, August 2012, objecting to Academy plans for their school