When a school converts to an Academy the Governing Body becomes responsible for managing a range of services that the Local Authority previously managed for them. But do Governing Bodies have the skills to manage these often complex issues? Do they understand what they are taking on, and have these matters been given sufficiently consideration before making a decision to consult on or proceed with Academy conversion? These are questions that school communities have been asking.
This article in the TES Calls for academy arbitration rise four-fold would seem to indicate that for many converter academies the answer to these questions, regarding HR at least, is no. The article reports that the number of employee disputes in academies so severe that they need the country’s arbitration service to settle them has risen nearly four-fold in the last year.
‘ The statistics were obtained by Jon Richards, national secretary for education and children’s services at Unison, which believes the number of disputes in academies is only likely to increase as more schools convert. “There are an awful lot of issues around equal pay schemes and areas contained in the Education Bill, such as giving teachers anonymity if they are accused by a pupil, which will require very skilled people to deal with,” Mr Richards said. “There are a host of problem areas stacking up. The expansion of the academy programme is creating new employers who quite often don’t know what they are doing.” ‘
The implications for staff of this lack of expertise, many of whom will have been transferred to their new ill-equipped employer under protest, are obvious. But this also has implications for pupils, as poor employers will not attract and retain good staff.
The question that this article raises for me is what other new responsibilities might Academy Governors also be struggling with? The National Governors Association lists the following additional services that the school may become responsible for as an Academy;
SEN support services for non-statemented pupils, behaviour support services, school meals and milk and the assessment of free school meals eligibility, kitchen maintenance and repair, museum and library services, licences and subscriptions, central staff costs (e.g. maternity cover, trade union cover, long term sickness), cost of terminating employment, school improvement services, education welfare services, pupil support (e.g. clothing grants), music services, visual and performing arts services, outdoor education services, monitoring of national curriculum assessments.
Clearly inexperienced management of any one of these will be bad news for pupils.