Council backs call for suspension of Academy conversions during COVID crisis
Barking and Dagenham Council has joined 18 other London councils to lend its voice to the Local Government Association’s (LGA) call to the government to pause its plans for academy conversions so that councils can concentrate on work to support vulnerable children and those of key workers.
In the letter signed by 19 senior London councillors to the Rt Hon Gavin Williamson, CBE, MP, Secretary of State for Education, they are asking that academy conversions be suspended to allow councils to focus on supporting schools and nurseries to stay open.
Councillor Evelyn Carpenter, Barking and Dagenham’s Cabinet Member for Education and School Improvement and one of the signatories to the letter, said: “Considerable time will be spent on academy conversion to transfer staff, assets and financial agreements. In addition, academisation includes a legal requirement to re-negotiate contracts with suppliers, which goes against the Government’s advice that schools continue to pay suppliers during the coronavirus crisis and if a school has a deficit when it converts, the council will have to pick up the bill.
“Our main concern is that allowing academy conversions to continue at this time will undermine essential work, including our efforts to coordinate provision for vulnerable children. As our staff are working hard to deliver for children and young people at this time, working at reduced capacity and taking staff away from this primary duty of care to process applications for academy conversions will reduce capacity further.”
The LGA has said 594 academy conversions are in the pipeline, involving the transfer of staff, assets, including land and property, and financial agreements. It also said councils have to pick up the bill if a school has a deficit when it converts.