As Parliament debates the latest educational white paper which includes the proposal on forced Academisation of our Schools, our MPs are not alone. There are public discussions taking place across England and Wales, along with less public and perhaps even more intense debates with School Governers, Local Councils and of course among Teachers. I have detected significant levels of anger and a sense of despair from educational professionals over the proposals and as we watch the chaos being caused in the ranks of junior doctors due to their conflict with the Government, all of us should be concerned at the way the Government is manipulating both of these vital parts of the public sector. However these are not the only discussions that are taking place and the white paper itself also reveals that there are also some very constructive, business like conversations taking place with selected guests at the Department for Education. According to this article in Schools Week web based newsletter the Church of England and Roman Catholic Church Dioceses have been having similar but separate discussions with the DfE and have emerged with slightly different outcomes.
The newsletter discloses that “the government has published an agreement governing the way churches and the Department for Education (DfE) will work in the new academy landscape as the country moves towards an all-academy system by 2022.” On the 18th April the DfE produced two seperate Memorandums of Understanding which set out how the two Churches and their Schools will work with their regional school commissioners and the government. These MOUs state that the Church will have a final say on whether schools convert to academy status which seems to be at odds with the situation currently proposed for all other Schools. However there are two MOUs and they have different provisios. That in itself is not a matter of concern as the two types of church schools are governed differently. However the fact that the differences are as follows indicates a level of difference that suggests that one set of discussions led to a different outcome on an important matter. “The main difference between the two documents regards decisions about sponsorship. Catholic schools will have more control over who takes over any schools found to be underperforming.”
It is important that these constructive discussions and the MOUs do not prevent the two Churches from joining in the discussions with other groups who are opposed to the intention of forcing local Schools to convert to Academies. Just because these churches have let outs from this policy, this must not diminsh their understanding of the other faith schools that do not have the MOUs and the local authority run schools that are not provided for in this way. It is vital that the Government is held to account for the way they have introduced this policy and they face the full level of scrutiny their policy demands.