The secretary of state for education and skills, Ruth Kelly, has announced to the Labour Party Conference that government has agreed that in city academies ‘as with other schools, all teachers will be registered with the General Teaching Council because those children deserve the best’.

This is despite her schools minister, Jacqui Smith, having written in July that ‘academies are independent schools and are, therefore, not bound by the same statutory requirements as maintained schools, including following the Teachers Pay and Conditions Document and the requirement that teachers register with the GTC’ (see the September issue of CPD Update).

This fuelled concern that teachers who are not members of the GTC will not have access to the Teacher Learning Academy of the GTC or to its Connect and Engage networks and not have the benefit of the links developed between the TLA and Leading from the Middle and postgraduate professional development. There is, however, no hint from the secretary of state that her change of policy is a climb down.

Controversy over academies continues

Argument has continued to rage over the controversial city academy programme. Speaking at the City of London Academy on 12 September, Tony Blair defended the government’s policy of setting up city academies to raise educational standards in the inner cities: ‘It is not government edict that is determining the fate of city academies, but parent power,’ he said. ‘Parents are choosing city academies, and that is good enough for me.’

In response the general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association (SHA) Dr John Dunford said: ‘Our support for the academy programme depends on the extent to which they are brought into the local family of schools. Only when academies are in partnership with other local schools will the system as a whole improve. The prime minister offers the prospect of greater freedom for the best schools. If increased freedom is beneficial, it should be given to all secondary schools. Indeed, schools in the most difficult circumstances would benefit most from greater freedom.

‘Secondary school leaders strongly support the change in the role of local authorities from providers to commissioners of services to schools. School improvement comes from schools working together and local authorities must delegate the resources to schools to do this.’ *

In her Brighton speech Ruth Kelly declared that academies were ‘key members of the local family of schools’. It will be interesting to see what CPD family role Ruth Kelly has in mind for these new independent schools.

*John Dunford’s response along with those of representatives of the ATL and NASUWT can be viewed at www.epolitix.com

To view Ruth Kelly’s speech to the Labour Party conference go to https://secure.labour.org.uk/speeches

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