Friday, 23 November 2012

£1bn Academies Overspend Shows Gove Got His Sums Wrong

Cllr Peter Downes

A leading Cambridgeshire Liberal Democrat has called for the Education Secretary, Michael Gove, to reconsider his future after a £1 billion overspend in the government’s flagship academies school programme.

Peter Downes, Shadow Cabinet Member for Education on Cambridgeshire County Council and a former secondary school head, claims Mr Gove should 'consider his position' after figures also revealed that the government will not be able to recover £350 million of the overspend from local authorities.

The figures have been released by the National Audit Office and support Cllr Downes' fears that the whole academies policy was carried out without any serious assessment of the financial implications.

“This policy is creating extra costs for our education system at a time when the country can ill afford it,” he said. “These figures prove my concerns that the programme for converting schools to academies is costly and unsustainable as well as being divisive and unfair.

“The whole academies policy has been carried out without any serious assessment of the financial implications. Academies have been paid more money than they need with the sole intention of persuading schools to seek academy status so as to demonstrate the ‘success’ of this policy.”

The academies programme is a key element of the government’s plans to reform the school system and more than 40 schools across Cambridgeshire, mainly secondary schools, have already converted to academy status.

'We fully understand and support the wish of all heads and governors to do the best they can for their pupils and students. What we do not accept is central government policies that increase the unfair distribution of resources between schools,'' said Cllr Downes.

“There is no popular support for a reform of the education system on this scale but there is a need to reduce the performance gap between the highest and the lowest achievers. The Lib Dems' Pupil Premium was one way of tackling this and is already helping disadvantaged youngsters in schools across the country.

“But the academies policy is fragmenting our education system at a time when it is already under financial pressure. This is a policy which was ill-thought out, not only as an overall concept but also in the burden it is creating financially. It is time for Mr Gove to accept he got it wrong.”