Russell Hobby: Heads should be ‘in the classroom, not the boardroom’

Russell Hobby: Heads should be 'in the classroom, not the boardroom'

Plans to convert all schools into academies risk creating “boom times for lawyers, auditors and consultants” while teachers struggle, a union leader has said as he called for heads to “spend time in the classroom, not the boardroom”.

Less than 24 hours after headteachers took the unexpected step of putting industrial action on the table over academy plans, Russell Hobby, the general secretary of the National Association of Headteachers, took to the stage in Birmingham to rail against the government, claiming it has “not won the argument” on full academisation.

More than 95 per cent of the union’s members, including a large number of academy heads, yesterday backed a motion calling for industrial action as a “last resort” if negotiations with government to halt the policy are unsuccessful.

In his speech, Hobby, who has previously insisted he is in favour of schools becoming academies if they choose to do so, said 15,000 schools had rejected academy status over the years despite incentives and “pressure” because of a belief it is “not right for them”.

“It is odd to praise professional autonomy and then reject it in practice,” he said. “This isn’t ideology: many schools have evaluated academy status objectively and simply found it to be a low priority compared to their work on teaching and learning.

“Good heads want to spend time in the class room not the board room.”

Hobby also questioned whether the Department for Education had the “capacity or operational skills” to manage the scale of the transition of all schools to academy status by 2022, and said he was “particularly dubious” of this during a time of stretched budgets.

“These are boom times for lawyers, auditors and consultants. Better if they were boom times for teachers,” he said.

Describing forced academisation as a “major change that alienates a substantial fraction of the people who must implement it”, Hobby called on the government to “press the pause button”.

He said: “I can understand the desire for a single coherent system but let’s step back and consider a better way. Do not bring forward legislation now. Spend more time consulting the profession, parents and local government. Do not compel schools against their best judgement.”