Bristol schools: ‘Ridiculous’ to try to upset the applecart

PMQ 9 March 2016A Bristol MP says proposals to force all city schools to become academies are ‘ridiculous’.

Karin Smyth says by focusing on reorganising school structures, government Ministers are trying to answer a question that nobody is asking, while the real challenges facing schools in her Bristol South constituency escape government attention.

“Ten to 15 years ago Bristol residents shared widespread concerns about poor standards in local schools,” says Karin Smyth. “Those challenges were addressed locally in various ways that suited the circumstances of the school, and of the communities they serve. Some chose to take on academy status, others chose not to.

“We now have different types of south Bristol schools working effectively, and supporting each other collaboratively. Combined with huge investment in education of the last Labour government, which saw every Bristol secondary school rebuilt, Bristol students’ exam results have risen impressively.

“For the current government to now try to impose a one-size-fits-all model on south Bristol is ridiculous. Why tip up the applecart for ideological reasons?”

She said on her regular visits to local schools Heads, staff, governors and parents tell her that rather than organisational structures, the real challenges they face are teacher shortages, falling budgets, rising class sizes, and insufficient school places.

“Asking schools to divert time, money and effort away from raising standards to instead deal with ‘academisation’ is an irresponsible distraction that can only harm young people’s prospects,” she added.

“At a time when the government talks about devolving powers down to local communities, forced academy status does exactly the opposite, threatening local accountability too.”

Karin Smyth has written to Secretary of State for Education, Nicky Morgan MP, on behalf of concerned constituents, conveying and echoing strong local opposition to these proposals.

In her letter she says: “People living across south Bristol are rightly proud of their local schools. They want them supported and strengthened, not re-structured for the sake of it. By obsessing over school organisation, Ministers are trying to answer a question nobody is asking.”