Organising in Multi Academy Trusts and ending fragmentation

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2023 National Local Government Service Group Conference
15 February 2023

UNISON has consistently opposed the policy of academisation in England. We do so because we are concerned about the impact on the pay and conditions of school support staff and the lack of empirical evidence that academisation improves standards.

Conference welcomes the achievement of UNISON at all levels ensuring that many multi-academy trusts (MATs) continue to abide by national local government pay deals but remains concerned that some employers do not follow NJC settlements or seek to water them down.

Conference notes that research conducted on behalf of the Local Government Association (LGA) in 2022 found council-maintained schools in England outperformed academies in Ofsted inspections. According to this research 92% of council-maintained schools were ranked outstanding or good by Ofsted in January 2022, compared with 85% of academies that had been graded since they converted. It also found that only 45% of academies that were an academy in August 2018 managed to improve standards from ‘inadequate’ or ‘requires improvement’ to ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’, compared with 56% of council-maintained schools.

At the same time as campaigning against academisation Conference believes UNISON must continue to prioritise organising in academies, so as to defend our members’ jobs, pay, terms and conditions, recognising that in many areas of England, MATs are the dominant school employers.

Conference calls on the Service Group Executive to:

1)Continue to campaign against forced academisation and for all existing academy schools to be brought back into the local authority democratic family of schools;

2)Campaign as a first step for local authorities and communities to be given greater oversight over existing academies; including over academy admissions, special educational needs / additional learning needs, procurement policies and senior post holders’ pay, and for all academies to be automatically covered by national collective bargaining for school staff;

3)Campaign for the law to be changed to allow for schools that are part of existing academy trust to re-join their local authority if that is the wish of parents and staff following a formal consultation;

4)To set a target of having a lead lay rep for every academy trust bargaining unit, and provide branches and regions with guidance and resources to help them achieve this;

5)Work with Labour Link and the NEC to campaign to re-establish local authority presence on school governing bodies to reinstate democratic accountability.