A week or two ago I wrote this letter to my local MP, Mrs Anne Main about the Educational Excellence Everywhere white paper. I thought you might be interested to get an update on the reply.
It’s not my intention to post the whole letter, as that would be a bit discourteous. I will try and convey the tone and content and perhaps add a few select quotes. I will also point out at this juncture that whilst I would never vote for Mrs Main she is a good constituency MP. A number of years ago when we first adopted our son, we had a significant problem with the passport office. We called her office, she called the passport office, problem solved. In minutes. Just like that! Things that were one minute “impossible” were the next minute sorted.
A little context first. Mrs Main notes that she did have some concerns abut the impact of the white paper on schools in the constituency. She was “naturally sceptical of plans to force schools to become academies if the school, parents and local community are against”. Having considered the detail of the white paper she met with the Secretary of State along with a group of other conservative MPs.
In my letter I covered three main issues and I’ll take them in the order I wrote them.
You can read the original post but the thrust of my argument was that the evidence for/against academies was six of one and half a dozen of the other and fairly inconclusive. In particular there was a deficiency in evidence relating to primaries which made it a particular risk to plough on with forced academisation as most of the forcing would be done on primaries.
Mrs Main mentions that she has previously been in contact with the House of Commons library regarding evidence on academies and is aware that “there is limited data on the impact of change in status on pupil attainment levels due to the relatively short amount of time that academies have been in practise.” She does come partly to the defence of the government line quoting the 1.4 million more children in good or better schools since 2010.
I don’t get the sense that there is a great deal of disagreement between us regarding evidence.
Mrs Main agrees with the premise that parent governors are a resource to be valued. “I personally feel that parents have a unique voice for governing boards and play a valuable role in governance, and would have been completely against banning this position.” Her position would appear to be that as the white paper does not ban governors and as she has “…been assured that the government wants parents to continue to be in involved in their child’s education.” then she is content to let this aspect of the white paper alone. If you read my original post you’ll see why I disagree with this approach.
This aspect of my letter was not addressed specifically but my sense is that there was no disagreement with the guts of my argument here. A key passage in the letter states that “…I do not believe a school which is doing well should be obligated to become an academy despite the wishes of the school.” I don’t think it can be put clearer than that.
If the other MPs who met with the Secretary of State have the same views and hold them as strongly then it would seem that the ‘forced academisation” aspect of this white paper is unlikely to pass into legislation.
And this is how a representative parliamentary democracy should work. MPs who listen to, and understand the views of their constituents then using that feedback to help form legislation that has the widest possible support.