Political ‘obsession’ with academies causes concerns

Coun Robert Arckless, cabinet member for children's services.
Coun Robert Arckless, cabinet member for children's services.

The county council’s lack of control over academies is a cause for concern as the authority bids to improve education in Northumberland.

The issue was raised during the discussion about director of education Andy Johnson’s annual report.

Responding to a question, he said: “We have little power to influence outcomes in academies.”

Coun Robert Arckless, the Labour administration’s cabinet member for children’s services, said: “I have no influence on the Secretary of State for Education, but there are members of this committee who have influence on their party’s MPs and we have two Conservative MPs in Northumberland.

“I fear that this Government’s obsession with academies will undo all of the work that we are doing because it will result in a split system.”

He added that throughout his years on the council, there has always been cross-party support for Northumberland’s schools.

“If you do have access and influence, please make that point because it’s not going to come from me.

“The reality is the role of the LEA (local education authority) is being totally undermined.”

Coun Anne Dale added: “We are not here to play politics with children’s lives.”

In Northumberland, there are currently six academies – one is rated good by Ofsted, three (including Berwick Academy) require improvement, one is inadequate and the sixth has not been rated.

Of the 10 local authority schools, one is outstanding (King Edward VI in Morpeth), three are good (including the Duchess’s Community High School in Alnwick and Ponteland High School), three require improvement (including James Calvert Spence College in Amble) and three are inadequate.