Academy Schools 40

I am against Academy Schools, unless the proposed flood of new ones are going materially to be different from the New Labour model.

In practice what happened in Academy Schools was that a business, organisation or individual was able to put in just 5% – yes, 5% of the capital costs, and nil – yes nil – of the running costs. For that, the “sponsor” got to choose the curriculum, while the school received a massively larger share of the available pot of state capital for schools, than would be given to any “normal” LEA school.

The state was still paying the vast bulk of the cost – 98% of capital and running costs in the first ten years. Non-academy schools were being starved of capital. The provider of the 2% got to be the boss and influence our children.

For Tony Blair, being a goggle-eyed God-inspired mass killer himself, it was an advantage that those most interested in this ability to influence our children were various forms of religious nutters, often distinguished by a disbelief in evolution.

So far as I can judge, the main difference between the New Labour model and the Gove model is that the swivel-eyed nutters may now not have to put up any money at all before they take over the school. This needs to be carefully watched.

I warmly welcome the demise of the national curriculum and the end of micro-management of teachers by the state. That is an advance. But that should lead to an empowerment of democratically elected lcoal councils – the local education authorities – not the committal of our children to a variety of unelected and unaccountable bodies, firms and individuals. I am not at all hostile to the idea of educational cooperatives under loose LEA guidance – but there is no sign to date that the new model looks like that.

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40 thoughts on “Academy Schools

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  • Mark Golding - Children of Iraq

    Cameron’s promises to Britain’s disabled children: (we will remember)


    we will take action to tackle homophobic bullying in schools.

    Conservatives have pledged to preserve Disability Living Allowance as cash benefit.

    To support disabled children and their families we will:

    Increase the number of health visitors and make it easier for parents to access respite care;

    Simplify the assessment process for accessing services;

    Preserve Child Trust Funds for disabled children; and

    Stop the ideologically-driven closure of special needs schools to make sure disabled children and their parents have a choice over their education.

  • Redders

    I feel there should be some balance here. I live in the Dartford area and we have recently had a brand spanking new Academy built in place of the existing Technology College. I am happy to admit that there has probably been far too much tax money chucked at the school, but then that’s what a labour government does isn’t it?

    My daughter was on the secondary school trail this year and we went to the Academy and I must say, my wife, daughter and I were mightily impressed, not at the building, as spectacular as it is, but at the success of the school which is echoed by other parents we know with children at the school. It has transformed a dilapidated, moral sapping old building into a glass and steel structure that stands quite magnificently on one of the main routes into Dartford and has inspired children and teachers to help the school perform well. But it’s not simply down to the teachers and staff, the leadership seems up to the task which is so often rarely the case.

    By complete contrast, the Grammar school my eldest daughter goes to is a pretty run down old building that owes more to the architectural origins of Hogwarts than a 21st Century education system; but what is far worse is that the head teacher is a self obsessed, tyrannical buffoon. I have had some dealings with this person and cannot possibly imagine why she has been employed there for so long. Neither is this merely a personally held opinion but for the moment I can’t say any more than that.

    What the Academy does seem to do, which to me is a better way of dealing with different intellectual abilities of the children, is to fast track the more able. If the move to abolishing Grammar schools altogether continues then fast tracking would seem a logical step rather than selective inclusion. I went to a Grammar school and survived in the lowest possible classes however by my third year there I had developed intellectually rapidly enough to be eligible for fast tracking but because the school was so conventional with a management that helped Noah manage the Ark, it was out the question, I had started thick therefore I would continue thick.

    Having said all that, I don’t think that huge schools with enormous catchment areas are the answer to our educational malaise. We should be moving towards smaller schools, smaller class sizes and schools run by teachers under the supervision of a responsible body. Nor am I sure that body should be a local authority, they all have appalling financial track records but to be fair, they are bureaucrats with no particular objective other than ‘holding it all together’ whilst the politicians persistently continue to both award and retrieve funds from them. Is business involvement the answer? well, many charitable organisations have benefited from a more business like culture despite their resistance, just look at all the Chuggers on our streets. They may be the unwanted side of a business approach from charities but it can’t be denied that it has, on the whole, worked.

    Perhaps, as a condition of acceptance of the Academies process, communities ought to be asking the questions Guano has suggested in an earlier post and insisting the answers are satisfactory.

  • Tony

    My daughter just completed her undergraduate dissertation on UK academies. I found it fascinating reading.

    The taxpayer coughs up about 95% of the money for a new academy and 5% comes from some commercial operation with an agenda it considers will be served by investing in an academy. The Local Authority gets cut out in the process, so the local community cannot apply the democratic pressures it used to be able to through the Council.

    We have a beautiful new academy in our village and it is highly thought of. However if the GBP21millions it cost had been spent on one, or shared among two, three or even four of the local run-down comprehensives it would have made a huge if not greater difference as well. The academies offer attractive deals for staff too which means the other local schools find the best applicants for jobs creamed off. There is a risk of comparing apples with pears when you compare a shiny new local academy with other local less shiny and run-down schools.

    The fact remains that it would benefit the education system if for once someone in the Cabinet had experience of being, say, a headmaster, headmistress or teacher. Instead we have supremely arrogant career politicians with Oxford degrees and backgrounds shooting their mouths off in media commentary. Gove talks to us all as though he were a Blue Peter presenter making a plain-train out of used toilet rolls and glue from Mummy’s drawer.

  • Chris Green

    Surely the reality is that all of our political leaders are rich and privileged. They don’t want the general populace to be educated to a ‘thinking’ standard – they want workers who are cannon fodder for big business to ride rough shod over and dispose of when it suits them, as in third world countries. Cameron, Clegg and their equally corrupt and wealthy cronies want high quality education for their own kind only – not for the rest of us. Academies are a sop to people to make them think that they care about true education of the masses.Academies have the right to treat teachers as serfs and thus children in the same way. They don’t provide a true educational experience for our chilren, just enough to make them a compliant,fearful workforce for the future.

  • anno

    Thinking about swivel eyes reminds me that chameleons are able to change their colours to camouflage themselves against different backgrounds. Rather like New Labour previously, or the LibDems now, morphing into Blue.

    If a Muslim Imam preaches the full message of Islam in a Muslim country, they are surely entitled not to be subjected to internationally concerted aggression for their beliefs. Since Oliver Cromwell’s hard-fought victory for freedom of faith in the UK, strictly speaking, the state should respect the Muslim faith in its entirety in this country.

    Where I think it is difficult for anyone to avoid appearing, flexi-hued and swivel-optic is when they are trying, as Mr Blair was, to be British Prime Minister, represent a brand of Roman Catholicism, defend the political interests of the State of Israel, and pick off lucrative flies/contracts with that long, unfurling chameleon tongue.

    I don’t know how the Imams appear to non-Muslims in this country or anywhere else, but I think that the pressure to comply on the outside at least with outside pressure, in the form of total violence against Islam and breaking of all humanity and law, by the world’s superpowers and all who are beholden to them, means that they will continue to appear swivel-eyed to non-Muslims.

    Even Craig’s eyes might be swivelling if he was being subjected to the same. Muslims appear inconsistent because they have to play a double game. However the danger of real nutters creeping into the management of schools, through dark political lobbying etc is very real. Not just Fundamentalist religious ones. Look at the Nazi links of Baden-Powell. There’s something sinister about Ian Duncan-Smith’s egg-yolk glazed eyes, trying to improve society. Why not try removing the burden of taxation below the £10k threshold and leaving the incapacitated their welfare payments?

    Oh dear, I’m sorry, I hate the Tories. it’s going to be five more years of solid moan.

  • Larry from St. Louis

    “Since Oliver Cromwell’s hard-fought victory for freedom of faith in the UK, strictly speaking, the state should respect the Muslim faith in its entirety in this country.”

    I sometimes feel that Melanie Phillips it exaggerating, and then I read something like that.

    To state the obvious, religious freedom does not mean that the state is compelled to respect any religion.

    In fact it’s right there in the wonderful First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion …”

  • Clark

    Hello Anno,

    I can’t leave Larry’s as the only reply to your post. I hadn’t visited this thread for a couple of days; it’s good to hear from you again.

    Having the Tories back is the inevitable, unenviable result of our bipolar political ‘system’. Let’s hope the Lib Dems add some pleasant seasoning to the stew. I love your caricature of Blair as a chameleon, it reminds me of a certain Cheech and Chong sketch; the grass that’s so strong it turns you into a lizard.

  • jungle

    To me the two worrying things about Gove’s academies are:

    1) As far as I can see, unlike previous acadamies, it’s not at all ruled out that these will be commercial operations.

    2) It will only be ‘outstanding’ schools allowed to become academies (thus presumably receiving extra funding). I believe that is code for ‘middle class’ schools.

    Of course, segregation in the education system is immensely popular (among the middle class, at least), and very hard to prevent. No matter what system is imposed, class segregation emerges somehow – even if it means the middle class actually moving house en masse to be in particular catchment areas, pricing everyone else out.

    But I don’t think we’ve ever before had a system designed to encourage this trend, deliberately funnel extra funding to these schools.

    Worst thing about this coalition, definately.

  • Caz

    Go to youtube and search for ‘Ark eugenics’ and ‘John Adam St Gang’ for what is going on in academy schools

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