School governors lack business experience

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The Alliance Against Birmingham Academies (AABA) has warned that governors lack the business experience required to run schools as academies.

More than 22 city primaries and comprehensives in Birmingham are considering a deal with the Government to opt out of local authority control in return for extra funding.

They would be allowed to set their own curriculum, staff salaries and determine the length of terms and school days.

But the (AABA) has warned governors lack the expertise to run what would become small businesses.

Richard Hatcher, vice chair of the alliance, said that most governing bodies would struggle to effectively run human resources operations or comply with complex health and safety laws.

“The net benefit to them financially will be about four per cent.

“I would urge all these schools to seriously consider whether they think they could put in all that expertise for what amounts to a small amount of cash. What happens in an academy when the heating breaks down? The council won’t come running with spare heaters like they do now.”

Meanwhile, the private sector is hoping councils will pull out of many services to schools, leaving profitable opportunities for them. Many companies specialising in school outsourcing expect local authorities to pull out of services they have traditionally provided, clearing the way for the private sector to expand into activities from fixing leaky boilers to running payrolls.

Marcus Fagent, education sector leader for Mouchel, which is involved in consultancy, capital projects and support services for schools, said: "I think we're seeing things moving very quickly.

"What we're hearing is local authorities writing to their schools saying we're not going to be able to provide these sorts of services in future, what we're going to do is withdraw from these areas of services. Some are going as far as to say we recommend you apply to be academies, you will be better able to support yourselves. They're advising schools to look more widely for services."

Another area of potential growth for private firms are the new, parent-led free schools. Steve Smith, director of learning for Capita IT services, said: "If you consider free schools, people are looking for buildings that may have a change of use, that may need some refurbishment. Before that building opens, they need to have technology, and we have that."

Meanwhile, a new report published by Professor Stephen Machin and James Vernoit of the Centre for Economic Performance suggests that the government's decision to open up the academy programme to all schools could exacerbate educational inequalities - such as academies shunning non-compulsory traditional subjects in favour of less challenging ones, and pupil selection.

David Ambler, secretary of the Birmingham branch of teaching union ATL, said that academies paved the way for a return to schools selecting the best pupils.

“Since Walsall Academy opened in Bloxwich, half the local kids can’t get in and now have to take two buses to Brownhills because the management are only interested in high achievers,” he said.