Birmingham academy chain CEOs say Open the schools now – teachers and the BMA say no

Some of the ‘chief executives’ who run academy chains in Birmingham as semi-privatised businesses, not accountable to the local authority or to parents, want their schools fully open, contrary to what teachers say is safe

Their letter in the Times was signed by, among others, these Birmingham academy chain bosses (from Birmingham Live):

  • Julian Drinkall, chief executive of Academies Enterprise Trust, which runs Four Dwellings Academy in Quinton and Greenwood Acacemy, Castle Vale.

  • Hugh Greenway, chief executive of The Elliot Foundation Academies Trust, which runs nine schools in Birmingham and the Black Country, including Billesley Primary School, Chandos Primary School, Croft Academy, George Betts Primary Academy, Kings Rise Academy, Woods Bank Academy, Shirestone Academy, Shireland Hall Primary Academy and Tiverton Academy.

  • Jane Millward, chief executive of E-ACT, which runs Heartlands Academy, Nechells; Mansfield Green Academy, Aston; Merritts Brook Primary Academy, Northfield; Nechells Primary E-ACT Academy, Nechells, and North Birmingham Academy.

  • Hamid Patel, chief executive of Star Academies, which runs Eden Boys’ Leadership Academy, Aston; Eden Boys’ School, Perry Barr; Eden Girls’ Leadership Academy, Balsall Heath; The Olive School, Sparkhill; The Olive School, Small Heath, and Small Heath Leadership Academy.

The Birmingham branch of the Labour Party’s Socialist Educational Association has posted the following national SEA resolution on Facebook:

Schools only to fully re-open when safe

Since the government partially shut school buildings on March 20th, schools across the country have worked hard to continue providing an education for students via distance learning, support vulnerable students and provide a safe place for the children of key workers. Some school buildings were closed but education hasn’t stopped. Returning to school is vital for young people – especially those from less advantaged backgrounds – but it is imperative that this is safe, carefully planned, and that students return to an appropriate, supportive curriculum to help them respond to the strange circumstances they have been in.

Teachers, support staff, pupils and their families must not be used as an experiment and it would be reckless for any Government to ignore the independent scientific advice, which is at best uncertain, and thereby endanger lives. The British Medical Association has stated that opening schools at the moment would risk a second spike and increase the spread of this virus in a dangerous fashion.

The SEA are clear that school buildings cannot fully reopen until the following has been met:

  1. Much lower numbers of Covid-19 cases (with a sustained downward trend).
  2. A national plan for social distancing, including clear parameters and appropriate PPE in schools.
  3. Comprehensive access to regular testing for students and staff to ensure that schools do not become spreading spots for Covid-19.
  4. Protocols put in place to test whole schools or colleges when cases occur and to strictly isolate cases.
  5. Protection for vulnerable students and staff, and those who live with vulnerable people. This should include the ability of staff to work from home to fulfil their professional duties as far as possible, and provision for students with vulnerable home situations to learn remotely.

We call on the UK Government to establish an Education Task Force comprised of education Trade Unions, epidemiologists, and other stakeholders; they should be tasked with producing a short, medium and long term plan for reopening schools during the continued threat of Covid-19, including the criteria that will be used for making decisions, and to be widely shared as soon as possible.

We encourage Local Authorities and Academy Trusts to follow the example of LAs such as Liverpool, Haringey, North of Tyne, Hartlepool, and Brighton – and devolved governments in Wales, Scotland, and NI – in making it clear that they will not reopen schools until it is safe.



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