Campaigners fighting the “privatisation” of Birmingham’s secondary schools have called for an open public debate about academies.
They labelled a consultation process a “sham” and “a done deal” which would lead to the creation of surrogate local authorities.
The Alliance Against Birmingham Academies called for parents to sign a petition in favour of a ballot at a public meeting last night at The Council House.
Alliance spokesman John Hemingway, Birmingham secretary of the NASUWT teaching union, said: “We are calling for a balanced and open debate so people can have an informed choice instead of this sham consultation. When we have this with those in favour and those against, we want a ballot of parents of secondary schools and feeder schools.
“Officials are saying to me when we have academies not if. It is like it is a done deal.”
Speakers at the meeting, under the banner of The Great Academies Fraud, argued academy projects have failed to raise standards while costing taxpayers hundreds of millions of pounds that could have gone into enhancing education for every child.
Alliance Against Birmingham Academies campaigner Richard Hatcher said: “They do not raise standards, and they do no better than the schools they replaced. We want a proper consultation like you would have with a new by-pass. If it is good enough when we build a by-pass then why is it not good enough when are giving over control of our children’s education?
“We are seeing the start of surrogate local authorities.”
The campaign also believes the “privatisation” of schools through sponsorship by outside organisations would be irreversible.
The first two Birmingham schools earmarked for the change are Heartlands High School in Nechells and Shenley Court Specialist Arts College in Northfield.
They will cease to exist at midnight on August 31 and reopen the next day as privately-sponsored secondaries outside local authority control.
Under the arrangement, Edutrust, a charity focusing on tackling educational inequality, will pay £2million to each school towards their complete rebuild in return for a majority presence on the school’s board of governors.
Four more schools, Harborne Hill, St Alban’s CE, The College High, and Sheldon Heath, are involved in the plan with a seventh academy due to be created in Birmingham’s Eastside with an emphasis on the performing arts.
Government funding will also be released to pay for the new schools, which will cost about £30million each.
The scheme has attracted criticism from the National Union of Teachers which believes it opens the door for organisations with no interest or record in education to get control of schools.