Deputy Mayor tells Hackney's education story and speaks out against threats to schools
The threat to the funding of Hackney schools, and the current proposals for the re-introduction of grammar schools and forced academisation of other schools, pose a threat to the hard-won successes of Hackney’s schools. Hackney’s Deputy Mayor, Anntoinette Bramble, tells Hackney’s story, and responds to these threats:
Schools in Hackney have rightly been recognised for their improvement over the past 15 years. Our Key Stage 1 students are rated top in the country, GCSE students in Hackney came out top nationally for improvement and all of our schools, with only a few exceptions, have been rated good or outstanding by Ofsted.
These achievements weren’t won by chance. Hackney’s story – a borough 15 years ago whose schools were failing, and whose children were being let down by a culture of low expectation – is one of investment and hard work.
Over the past decade, we’ve invested over £500 million in rebuilding and refurbishing our schools, including the construction of seven new academies. When I visit them, I’m incredibly proud of the high-quality, state-of-the-art learning facilities that are now considered normal in Hackney, and I am proud of the consistently impressive standard of teaching across the borough.
Hackney’s experience shows what a positive impact an ambitious local council, which understands the needs of its residents, can achieve. Working with us, our family of schools are able to provide a level of opportunity and educational achievement that ensures our young people can fulfil their potential. They work hard to foster an environment where students are supported and feel entitled to succeed, and also provide clear evidence of a how a focussed and dedicated investment of time and finances, along with a clear ambition for improvement, can deliver a network of schools that fully serves the needs of a diverse local population.
Government proposals are threatening to put all this hard work at risk. If realised, changes to the National Funding Formula for schools could remove significant funding from deprived, inner-city areas like Hackney, with funds redistributed elsewhere in the country. In Hackney, schools could see their funding cut by £25 million by 2019, the equivalent of over £900 per pupil.
Hackney has changed significantly over the past 15 years but, despite this, remains among the most deprived areas in the country. The proposed changes will result in our borough being hit with one of the very largest overall percentage reductions in funding. This can only make deprivation worse, reduce social mobility and opportunities, and is a grave challenge to people that rely on a good, and publicly supported, education.
We absolutely oppose these ideas and believe that all schools should be well funded, and that this should not come at the expense of any other school. In Hackney, we are concerned that the proposals will have a serious impact on the success of our schools, and our commitment to transforming outcomes for children in Hackney.
The Government, while pursuing policies that will damage the success of inner-city areas like Hackney, have also announced their intention to reintroduce selective grammar schools.
Announced by the Chancellor in the Budget this month, the Government’s £320m fund for 140 new selective schools could create a two-tier education system based on academic ability. At a time when Hackney’s schools are facing cuts of £25 million, allocating money to selective schools goes against the non-selective, non-denominational values parents in Hackney have told us they want from our schools, especially when this money would be better placed to make the proposed changes to the National Funding Formula fairer, without disadvantaging areas with high deprivation like Hackney.
These threats to Hackney’s schools are compounded by the Government’s clear intention to force schools to become academies. Despite what some saw as a climb down in this policy last year, the Government has a very clear agenda for schools: it supports the forced academisation of all schools – which would mean that there would be less local accountability and the Council would play less of a role in supporting schools.
We have always had a close relationship with our academies, who share the values of the rest of our Hackney family of schools, and are part of the Hackney Learning Trust. All are mixed, non-denominational schools; none exercised their right to select 10 per cent of their intake and we retained a right to ‘veto’ sponsors we didn’t feel were right for our borough. The Government’s proposals to force schools to become academies protect few of these values.
Hackney has come a long way in the past decade, but our schools face some huge challenges over the next few years. The Government’s proposals put our successes at risk by proposing to underfund our schools, reintroduce selection and break the link between Councils and schools. We can’t let this happen.