East Ham MP calls on government to scrap academy parent governor plans

East Ham MP Stephen Timms

East Ham MP Stephen Timms - Credit: Archant

Government proposals to scrap parent-governor requirements at academy schools are a “very bad idea” according to East Ham MP Stephen Timms.

Education secretary Nicky Morgan recently abandoned plans to turn every English school into an academy by 2020 – a U-turn over plans outlined in March.

Also included in that same white paper were measures to no longer require academy trusts to reserve places for elected parents on governing boards, and Mr Timms hopes Ms Morgan will back-track over that policy as well.

“It’s a really bad idea as well,” he said. “Good academies will make sure they have parent governors as they provide a very important link to the community and obviously to the parents themselves.

“But some academies are less good and because the government is suggesting that parent governors will no longer be necessary at academies will take any opportunity to kick them out, and then they won’t have to take any notice of parents.

“That will be a very bad move.”

Although stressing that the government remained in favour of academy schools, Mrs Morgan conceded defeat over proposals to convert all schools on Friday, May 6 – two months after Chancellor George Osborne revealed the plans in his Budget.

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The decision comes as a result of mounting pressure, not least from some Conservative back-bench MPs who threatened to vote against the measures.

“It’s a pretty serious failure on the part of the secretary of state,” added Mr Timms. “She should have worked that out before she came forward with these proposals.

“But she didn’t and now she’s got egg on her face.”

Ian Hale, Newham’s assistant branch secretary of the National Union of Teachers (NUT), insists removing parent governors would be a “dangerous” move.

“Parents play a key role in the education of their children,” he said. “Having them on the governing body has been a policy for as long as I can remember – parents are key stakeholders.

“The idea of removing them is just not logical. It’s not rights and it denies parents that access at the highest level.

“Governing bodies also have to have a staff member on the board, so what’s next? Will they go too?

“How is the voice of the people going to be heard? It just removes the accountability and takes the power away from the stake-holders. A school is not a business, it provides a service.”

A spokeswoman for the Deaprtment for Education said: “We want parents to be more involved in their child’s education – not less.

“We are not, and never have suggested parents should no longer sit on governing boards and we know that many parents already play a valuable role in governance, and parents will always be encouraged to be governors or trustees.

“Many parents have skills that make them very effective governors. All boards are and will continue to be free to appoint them as they see fit.

“But we want to enable academies to move from a model where parents are elected to governing boards simply because they are parents to one where they are chosen for their expertise.”