Union urges Catholic school teachers to resist academy plans

Teachers at Catholic schools are being urged by their union to resist plans by bishops to academise, even though they are contractually required to follow their bishop’s command.

A letter to members from the National Education Union signed by joint general secretaries Mary Bousted and Kevin Courtney, and a blog post, have set out the “risks” involved in conversion, including worse working conditions and doubts over the future of academies.

About a quarter of Catholic schools (525) are academies, with bishops said to be considering converting more to “safeguard their future”.

But the message urging members to alert their local NEU branch to plans for academisation does not appear to account for their contracts.

Model contracts on the Catholic Education Service’s website say all teachers must “exercise the ministry of a teacher under the supervision of a diocesan bishop” in line with “canon law”.

Many dioceses are implementing plans to move to full academisation […] to safeguard the future of Catholic schools

Mark Lehain, director of Parents and Teachers for Excellence, tweeted the NEU was “basically asking teachers to disobey their bishops and so put their jobs at risk.”

A spokesperson for the CES said because bishops have the power to decide whether to academise schools, all schools must fall in line with his wishes in the long term.

Bishops also have the power to choose and remove the majority of governors, meaning if they opposed academisation they could just be replaced, they added.

However doubters have succeeded in stalling academisation plans in the past.

In March the Diocese of Westminster’s plans to academise 200 schools stalled after 20 showed “no interest” in making the change. The diocese said it was “crucial that a mindset of total local autonomy is challenged”.

The NEU’s blog claims cuts in academies “have been deeper” because academy trusts have to pay for redundancy compensation whereas this is covered in maintained schools. It also said some staff had experienced worse conditions for maternity leave in academies and warned of doubts over the future of academies under Labour.

The CES spokesperson added many dioceses “are implementing plans to move to full academisation […] to safeguard the future of Catholic schools”.