We want to hear from local people about Hackney’s education offer, especially the type of schools you’d like to see, and your views about what the Council’s role should be in bringing this about. We want to hear from as many Hackney residents as possible, especially parents of school age and pre-school children, recent school leavers and people considering bringing up their families in Hackney.
Hackney’s schools have come a long way over the past 15 years, but are now facing a whole range of fresh challenges, and we want your opinions to help shape the way that we, as a borough, respond to those over the coming years.
As well as using these questionnaires, we’ll be holding a whole programme of outreach sessions and events over the coming months, to make sure we get views from as wide a range of people as possible.
Why We Are Consulting
This year, Hackney’s students were rated top in the country for performance at Key stage 1 (7 years old), and the borough came top in the country for progress at GCSE level. All of our schools, with only a few exceptions, have been rated good or outstanding.
Over the past 15 years, Hackney’s schools have changed beyond recognition, transforming the educational opportunities for our children in Hackney. The borough’s schools were once the worst in the country; now we have some of the very best.
Much of this transformation in the secondary sector began with the decision to shut failing schools and replace them with brand new academies, some of the first created under the then government’s original academies programme, and which remain some of the most successful schools in the country.
Back in 2003, when this process was underway, the Council consulted Hackney residents on what kind of schools they wanted to see in the borough. They responded with a clear demand for non-selective, non-denominational, mixed-sex comprehensive schools. This feedback allowed the Council to negotiate the first phase of the academies programme to deliver exactly that. Those schools, along with our maintained secondary schools are delivering amongst the best results in London. Since that time, more than £500 million has been invested in the fabric of Hackney’s school buildings, seeing many schools completely rebuilt and renewed.
In 2016 our schools face a new set of challenges, and the time has come to have this conversation with residents again.
The challenges for education in Hackney
The Government has a very clear agenda for schools. It supports the academisation of all schools. This means that there would be less local accountability for schools and the Council would play less of a role in supporting schools. The Government also supports the reintroduction of grammar schools; that could mean entry into schools taking place on the basis of academic selection (usually at age 11). The Council is opposed to these things – we don’t want selection in Hackney schools, we want the Council to maintain a close relationship with our community of schools and to continue to play a vital role in school improvement - and whilst we believe these views are echoed by many residents, we want to hear what you think.
New school places
Hackney’s school building programme has been a huge success. Since 2000 we have:
Provided 6 brand new academies
Rebuilt or refurbished 6 Council maintained secondary schools
Rebuilt or refurbished 3 special schools
Invested more than £40 million in new, refurbished or expanded primary schools
Built 19 new children’s centres and 5 new youth centres
Hackney’s population is growing rapidly, and this is leading to increased pressure on school places. Hackney needs 2 new secondary schools and 1240 new primary places by 2021. There is very limited Government funding available to help us meet this need, and the Council is having to find other ways to cover the costs of new schools, for example through the building and sale of private housing.
Academisation and the Council’s role in schools
Academy schools operate independently from the Council and are accountable to central government. Hackney’s existing academies have been very successful but the Government wants all schools to operate in this way, which we think is not
appropriate for all schools. Although they have backed away from new laws that would force all schools to do this, in reality, the changes they are making to funding will make it very hard for schools to operate in any other way. The Council currently plays important roles in all types of Hackney’s schools; including admissions, exclusions, running services for Special Educational Needs, supporting careers services, the Hackney Music Service, and school improvement services. The Council is opposed to schools becoming academies.
We would like to find out what you think about academies, about multi-academy chains (groups of schools operating as chains under an independent board, often with a private sector sponsor), and what sort of role and influence you think the Council should have in Hackney’s schools.
The Government is proposing to create new grammar schools, where children would be selected on the basis of academic ability (usually at age 11). During our last schools consultation, Hackney residents told us they did not want selective schools. To help us shape our response to Government, we need to know if you still feel the same way.
Unregistered schools/home schooling
The Council would like the registration of home schools pupils and unofficial schools to become a requirement to help us ensure that children are kept safe and receive an education that suits their needs and gives them the best possible start in life. We would like your opinions on this.
The role of Governors
The Government proposed that academies would have the freedom not to have parents on their governing bodies and that boards would no longer need to reserve places for elected parents. In the face of opposition, they have officially dropped this policy but we would like to know your views and opinions of the role of parents in running schools.