Girl at forced academy protest

Campaigning against academisation

The NEU is opposed to the academisation of our schools, whether through forced or voluntary conversion. 

The NEU case against academisation

Guidance about running an anti-academisation campaign, including examples of tactics that can be deployed and resources for you to use.

Getting the school group active

Don’t wait until you hear that your governing body is considering academy status before expressing the collective view of the NEU group because it will be far more difficult to build a campaign at that stage. Instead, you should ensure that all NEU members in the school are aware of the implications of academy status on their pay and conditions of employment, as well as for the education system generally.

A good starting point, and a precursor to an industrial action ballot, will be the passing of an anti-academisation motion at a members’ meeting which can then be sent to the governing body. If possible organise this with other unions and make this a joint meeting/motion. See below for the NEU’s model anti-academisation resolution.

If there isn’t an NEU rep in your school, then you must elect one as soon as possible. Whether your school becomes an academy or remains part of the local authority family of schools, members need to be well organised to protect and advance their interests.

Model anti-academisation resolution

A good starting point for a campaign against academisation will be the passing of a motion at a members’ meeting that can then be sent to the governing body.


With any campaign, you need to think carefully about what your message is and get this message out early to control the narrative. It is important that the campaign projects a clear and realistic alternative to academisation. Anti-academisation campaigns may well be framed differently for different groups.

For example, the campaign may be framed as a campaign to protect terms and conditions for members, as well as a campaign to maintain local democratic accountability of schools, protect SEN provision etc. focused on parents and the wider community.

Winning over parents and carers

Parents and carers are an important and influential part of the school community and campaigns that have the active participation of parents at the school are far more likely to be successful.

How you approach parents/carers will vary from school to school. If you are in a small primary school, NEU members may know many of them well. In a larger secondary, forming the same personal relationships may be more difficult.

Possible options include approaching the chair of the parent teachers’ association (PTA) to ask if an NEU representative can speak at their next meeting to explain our position; utilising members who are also parents at the school to win over others; hosting a public meeting close to the school to explain our opposition to academisation and recruit activists to the campaign.

Building a community campaign can help overcome many of the barriers to members acting so community campaigners need to know industrial action will be part of the campaign from the start. Community presence at picket lines emboldens members to take further action.


Petitions are a good starting point for a campaign as they raise awareness of the issue and give people a simple action to get involved in a campaign through signing and sharing. They can also gain press coverage if they generate a lot of signatures. Online websites such as are quick and easy to sign and share on social media. They also allow you to update those who have signed so you can invite them to events such as public meetings.

Official petitions submitted via council websites can trigger a council debate if they reach a certain threshold. Only people who live, work or study in a specific local authority area are eligible to sign such petitions.

Public meetings

Public meetings are an important part of a campaign as this is where you can encourage and support an organised community campaign group. This is where the community campaigners develop an identity as a distinct group and the NEU can make sure our message is spread further. 

Preparation to ensure a good turnout is vital; Facebook adverts, flyers and a decent run up are needed. Choosing the right venue, date and time must also be carefully considered to enable your target audience to be able to attend easily.

What happens during and after a public meeting is key. It is crucial that contact details are taken of people wishing to join the campaign. It is then important to communicate with people wishing to join the campaign as soon as possible with a first set of asks (sign the petition, like us on Facebook, lobby decision makers etc).

A range of panellists should be invited to speak at the start of the meeting, keeping their contributions short to allow time for questions and contributions from the floor. If possible, try to include a diverse group of speakers in terms of gender and ethnicity. Panellists could include parents, staff members for your school or local academies and a local politician. If there has been a similar campaign that was successful, a speaker who can explain how it worked would be very useful. 

The panellists should be knowledgeable and engaging for the audience. Make sure they're on the same page as the campaign and are briefed on the key messages.   

Following the speeches, the meeting should be opened to the floor by the Chair, and they should make it clear that as well as being able to ask questions, that people are welcome to offer their opinions and share their ideas for how to build the campaign. The job of the Chair is to keep contributions short, on topic and to ensure a diverse range of people get to speak. 

Your local NEU District will be able to support you in planning, preparing for and running a public meeting.

Lobbying decision makers

Councillors and MPs can make great allies. Do not assume that they will not support your campaigns because they run counter to their party’s stated position or voting record. A key ask of the community will be to write to their elected representatives. This can be communicated to campaign activists and via Facebook. The WritetoThem website allows people to easily contact their political representatives, national and local. 


Getting your message out there via the media is crucial for anti-academisation campaigns. In terms of social media, this mean regular posts via your Facebook page that update supporters and can be shared. Facebook is also useful for driving up event attendance, utilising paid adverts when necessary.

Although the traditional media has much less of a reach in a world of social media it should not be neglected. Regular press releases (always with good photos) help publicise your campaigns and are often printed verbatim by hard-pressed local news outlets. Keep an up-to-date press list and keep releases clear, short and make sure you have multiple quotes. Don't forget local radio, make sure you include them and offer people for interview. Think about local phone-in shows that provide an opportunity to explain and promote the campaign. 

The media love eye-catching events and stunts so think of an activity that can be organised after school or at a weekend that will publicise the campaign’s message, building campaign support and shifting key decision makers. Always invite the press to such events and follow up with a press release with high quality images.

Industrial action

Strike action, or at least the threat of action, is an important tactic that will need to be deployed in an anti-academisation campaign. Nothing demonstrates the strength of feeling of a school, group like a strike and it will serve to give the campaign significant publicity. 

The balloting process can be a lengthy one, so NEU groups opposing academisation should contact their local branch to discuss initiating the process at the earliest opportunity. NEU groups should seek to take joint action with any other unions represented at the school.

Empty classroom with green chairs

How a school becomes an academy

There are two ways that a school can become an academy: schools can either be forced to become academies or their governing bodies can make the decision “voluntarily”.

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