The Labour candidate for Wharfedale ward has criticised Tory plans to turn all primary schools in the area into academies.
Caroline Firth said she is concerned “the excellent schools in Wharfedale will be forced to become academies, whether they want to or not”.
She added: “All three primary schools in Burley and Menston have been rated good or outstanding by Ofsted and are run with the help of the local authority. Tory plans will cut this link and impose an unnecessary top-down re-organisation. Instead of educating our children, headteachers’ precious time will be spent implementing this needless change.”
Alastair Kirk, the vicar of Burley and a foundation governor of Burley and Woodhead Church of England Primary School, said: “This proposal is causing us a lot of unnecessary anxiety. We now need to work out how to engage with the academisation process we are being told we have to implement.”
The Government’s plans also include the removal of parents from governing bodies. Mrs Firth said: “Parents are elected to the role and often have a breadth of experience. Removing them, along with the loss of local authority involvement, will result in unelected people overseeing our schools. Parents would have little say in how their school is run.”
Mrs Firth also claims the costs of re-organisation are unjustified given the financial restraints on education budgets. “According to the Institute of Fiscal Studies, schools will lose 8% of their real-terms funding in the next few years,” she said.
“This is equivalent to a cut of £1.6 billion, which is enough to pay for 31,000 teachers, or more than 93,000 classroom assistants. Yet at the same time the Government has found £500 million to cover the cost of forcing all schools to become academies. None of that money will be spent on educating our children.”
She added: “If elected, I will fight to defend our schools and let them get on with educating and nurturing our children, rather than implementing the latest Tory top-down re-organisation.”
Mrs Firth called on the current Wharfedale councillor, Conservative Dale Smith, who is on the governing body of Menston Primary School, to say whether he agreed with the Tory plans.
Shipley Labour Party 1st May 2016