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.

40 thoughts on “Academy Schools

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  • kathz

    I wonder what the admissions procedure will be like. In the past (1970s), I knew of a church school which covertly discriminated against kids from council estates and non-white children (sounds incredible perhaps but so was an all-white school in inner London which didn’t take any children from the local council estate). If schools are taken out of local authority control, who will ensure that children with disabilities, children in care, children of travelling families, etc. get good education – or will there be “dump” schools in every area?

  • minnie me

    You have obviously never lived in South Yorkshire where well behaved ambitious working class kids, are despised by the Labour controlled LEA because they do not fit the Labour mold of dependancy; and schools that they attended are marginalized. Take off your rose tinted glasses

  • Craig

    minnie me

    true, I haven’t lived in South Yorkshire. There is a real problem with LEAs in Labour “rotten boroughs”. The answer to this is PR in local council elections…

  • linda jack

    Totally agree with you Craig – I am dismayed – intend to blog about it later. And to the person from Yorkshire – the logic of your argument is that democratic accountablity is expendable if you don’t like the party that has been democratically elected. Wonder why you are interested in politics at all?

  • Chundernuts

    Another gift to the religious loons. Have Dave n Nick talked about their ‘faith’ yet? *vomit*

  • minnie me

    search the net for the corruption that as taken place in Doncaster and to a lesser extent Rotherham. No one should ‘like’ any party that indulges in such antics to the detriment of the people they serve

  • minnie me

    In addition, I have lived all my life under this Labour corruption and i would feel the same about any party that ruled my home town in such a way.

  • ingo

    Just come back from another otten borough, Blackburn.

    There faith schools have become the norm,to the extend that Anglicans believe they cannot access Muslim schools and visa versa, for their own social norms.

    Equally, not voting by the english,(12%) who’s part of town look distincly uncared for, with better facillities given to those who voted for labour and still do, sense does not apply to Blackburn.

    Academy schools are finacially favoured by Mr. Gove, newly established they have no record of working and any car dealer who had his brain cooked in the sun, waiting for customers to buy his metal aboritions from his forecourt, can start one up.

    I would be very wary, looking at the continuing cover up in the catholic church, to give any repressive 14th century religion, hawking moral refinement at our young and mallable brains, a distinct advantage over a modern comprehensive system.

    I think that politicians should be kept well away from children, just as priests, but thats just my personal penchant.

  • Rob

    It appears that Nick Clegg, at least, is an atheist:

    It was on the BBC so it must be true. 😉

    Although he has a Catholic wife, and we all know where that mght lead:

    Cynicism apart, I was very impressed that Clegg had the nerve to say he was an atheist – even agnostic – and very, very glad tat we’re not like the US where it’s goddnight and goodbye to any politician who says such a thing.

  • ingo

    Forgot to mention that this ghettorisation of schools according to their religion is medieval and a sociological step back in a society that claims to be multicultural.

    Today the bad housing policies of the 1960’s are amplified by segregated schooling and gated areas, were invisible borders run between people, according to their caste, religion, or believes, whether they are gypsies, Pakistani’s or Philipino’s.

    We have fostered such social exclusion, although the monied circles will always intermigle, somehow, by our housing strategies and our outmoded, corrupt voting system, again, especially in Blackburn, which is promised to be replaced with another equally unfair and pathetic voting system, no choice in a referendum for us plebs.

    Thank you coalition, for continuing the tradition of being self serving and self interested, first, after which comes the 1922 committee and the CFI.

  • Jon

    @minnie_me – it is fine to disagree with the status quo, but that does not mean that a proposed alternative is necessarily better. It would be a strange thing indeed for someone claiming to support the working class to be in favour of the corporatisation of the education system, as the Academy model appears to support.

    @ingo: priests should be kept away from children, yes – children should be kept away from religion until they are old enough to make an informed decision. Like alcohol, or gambling.

  • MarkU

    I agree 100% with this article. Our schools should be used to provide education, not religious indoctrination. Faith schools are yet another part of the plan to remake this country in the American image. It wouldn’t be so bad if we were copying things which actually work.

  • John E

    Toby Young was on Newsnight last night promoting his idea for a new school in North London, where a load of pushy middle class parents have got together to demand a new school. If these kinds of “free schools” as they’re called go ahead, it gives carte blanche for any “swivel eyed nutters” as Craig calls them, to set up their own designer schools. Come to think of it, pushy middle class parents are pretty good compared with other groups who will set up schools – all varieties of religion, businesses, etc.

    The worst thing about this scheme is the total lack of accountability to democratically eleted local government. It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out once various schemes are proposed but my guess is that it’ll end up taking so much money out of the existing school system that very few will be given the go ahead – and this in itself will be seen a grossly unfair.

  • Paul

    Tony Blair saying he is a Christian does not make him one. A mass killer he may be, but God inspired? NO WAY.

  • mike cobley

    This academy schools policy is a disgrace; its anti-democratic, elitist and economical segregation. All Liberal Democrats should be ashamed to be associated with it.

  • Anon

    I agree with Paul about the ‘God inpired’ thing.

    It is good if the National Curriculum disappears as a compulsory straightjacket on schools but curriculum content will still be controlled by government bodies through the QCA and the exam boards that take instructions from it. Course content in science, for instance, leaves schools with very little choice as to how they approach the subject. The most serious aspect of this is that coursework remains (and will continue to remain) compulsory at GCSE level. There is an option to avoid coursework by taking up the (international)iGCSE, but being a more rigorous exam with decent grades harder to get it is obvious that no ordinary comprehensive will downgrade its ‘standards’ by taking up this option.

    Coursework is a nightmare and a national disgrace. Schools routinely cheat by herlping students inappropriately to the point of writing their students’ coursework for them. Heads quietly encourage this. Their reputation is at stake. The childrens’ levels of ‘achievement’ is at stake. Teachers know that other schools are ‘at it’ and anyway the tasks are far to difficult for the average student. Without this ‘help’ the kids hand in utter rubbish.

    Coursework has NOTHING to do with teaching children science well. It is social engineering. It conditions staff and students alike to jump through whatever hoop is set up before them. no matter how ridiculous and inappropriate. It is inculcating a stet of conditioned helplessness into society at large. This happens in many other school subjects and in many other walks of life. It is the expression of a degenerate system of control.

    We are the enemy. Authority is at war with us and, as Sun Tsu (wasn’t it?) said in his book ‘The Art of War’,

    “Keep the enemy busy doing useless things.”

    Maddening evil shyte. If I could earn a similar living elsdewhere I’d be gone tomorrow.

  • Andy Keen

    I seem to remember when Nick Clegg said he was an atheist – a direct honest answer to a direct question, he was pilloried for this by the media.

    Demise of the National Curriculum Craig?” I don’t think so .. He plans a so called ‘slimmed down’ (quite possibly more prescriptive) version:

    Speaking before the election, Mr Gove said that most parents supported a “traditional education” in which children learned the “kings and queens of England, the great works of literature, proper mental arithmetic, algebra by the age of 11 [and] modern foreign languages”

    Must remember to teach my kids that anyone who uses the words ‘proper’ and ‘mental’ in succession should be viewed with a wary eye.

  • Cosmetic Brain Surgery

    I feel any involvement of the private sector can lead to unacceptable compromise in children’s education, which must open them to ideas and the ability to evaluate them for themselves.

    The two best teachers I had were some of the strictest, but they made me question the texts I was reading, to imagine them and therefore understand them. In todays climate true teachers are excluded and bored because there is so little room for creativity. Often the best lessons are outside the classroom, but does this mean exploring the environment, a museum or the local coke plant with their museum of propoganda?

    Recently, it was suggested that private companies, such as Stabucks etc, should be able to open up in public libraries. Whist on the surface the injection of funding would be welcome, the problem is simple. Several books are critical of Starbucks and their company practices. What happens when there is a Green Week/Display. How would Starbucks feel? Would there be pressure on the library to remove.

    Going back to schools, how could they have an environmental project that could be highly critical of the business practices of the company funding the school?

    The same could also be said however about too much (or any) LEA involvement.

    I really don’t like the idea, because no matter how well intentioned some people are there are vested interests which clash with the needs of the children. If the company has shareholders, then it’s legal obligation is to them and not the children.

    Having been taught at a religious school myself (a bloody good education I would add) I would still say that religion should have no part for the same reasons.

    The feedback I’ve heard from teachers and parents is the old system was better, flawed as it was.

    On a side note the BNP also want ‘proper’ education.

  • Mark Golding - Children of Iraq

    Academies are run by sponsors such as businesses, charities, religious organisations, educational providers or wealthy individuals using public money.

    Sponsors do not have to have any educational expertise or experience.

    Academy sponsors take over all aspects of a school, controlling its admissions, governing body, curriculum, length of the school day and teachers’ pay and conditions.

    There are now 200 Academies open. The Government wants to open a further 200. Once a school becomes an Academy it is outside of local democratic control forever. It does not have to listen to parents or the public.

    Creating Academies in place of community or foundation schools involves the transfer of publicly funded assets to unaccountable sponsoring bodies.

    Academy sponsors are given control of a modern independent school set up as a company limited by guarantee. Sponsors receive the entire school budget directly from the Government.

    Academies on the scale proposed by the Government have the effect of transferring billions of pounds worth of publicly funded assets in the form of buildings and land into the hands of private sponsors.

    Graham Hussey, Milton Keynes’ National Union of Teachers (NUT) representative, said this could be a slippery slope. We are opposed to academies on the grounds that schools have to change their selection criteria according to their sponsor.

    From an educational point of view academies are unproven. Some remain in special measures years after they reopened.

    “I don’t think parents have grasped the implications of academies. Once it becomes an academy the LEA have no control over it. It stays in private ownership forever, and the sponsor has a massive influence over the school.”

    The sponsor could of course be faith based or a security/close protection company or even a military arms company, with only one parent governor on the board who know what our children are being taught – certainly forensic science and unarmed combat are taught in Milton Keynes Academy.

  • Anon

    re ‘vested interests’, it is not quite right to equate Catholicism (say) with Starbucks in this way.

    Every society has at least one dominant myth that its leaders use to bind society together. It is incorrect to believe that just because education were to exclude ‘religion’ this society would be in some way impartial or free of the imposed mythology of its leadership.

    A new dominant myth has been developed over our society during recent decades. It can be called ‘secular humanism’ for want of a better term. This is the liberal philosophy that encompasses anti-racism, multiculturalism, the anti-homophobia agenda, anti-nationalism, anti-organised religion and every other kind of political correctness that serves to disempower any cohesive group within our society.

    There is nothing wrong with ‘political correctness’ other than it fronts for a phony agenda the purpose of which is to control more effectively. It therefore lacks integrity.

    Real Christianity is miles better. Love God and your neighbour as yourself, love your enemies….. should say it all. It’s simple. If everybody took this to heart gangster politicians and their sponsors would find it much more difficult to drag us into supporting them. Worldly power would have to something more powerful than itself to which it would be forced to defer.

  • ScouseBilly

    When I was a psychology undergrad, we used to have the sociologists in our faculty one morning a week.

    Those who felt the need to avail themselves of our toilet facilities were greeted with the most poignant graffiti: above the toilet roll some wit had a downward arrow with the legend “Sociology degree, please take one”.

    Given some of the comments above I thought I would share this wisdom.

  • Guano

    My children go to an Academy. I cannot see what the point of making the school an Academy was. Supposedly “sponsors” would encourage innovation: there has however been no innovation by the “sponsor”, management of the school is poor and there is less accountability because the “sponsor” chooses the bulk of the governing body (not the LEA and not the parents). Those in favour of the school point to the new building, but the “sponsor” didn’t pay for the building and there is no reason why a school in a new building shouldn’t be run by a LEA.

    If it were true that Academies were about innovation (as was claimed at the start) you would expect to see some research about which innovations have ben tried and what resulted from them. I have found no such research. Idoubt of there is any real innovation in Academies: many follow the national curriculum, I think.

    Under New Labour, the idea was supposed to be that Academies would push up standards in deprived inner-city areas. The new proposals, on the other hand, appear to be about hiving off better performing schools. An pretence that it is about helping deprived inner-city areas appears to have been abandoned.

  • Guano

    …. and indeed Academies involve a transfer of public assets to private bodies. I have often asked the question: under what conditions can a sponsor be removed or forced to give back the school if they underperform? I have never received an answer, except that the “sponsors” would never underperform!

    This is an illustration of the naive approach of politicians to the private sector. Adam Smith’s theory was that the private sector would perform because there were incentives: our politicians appear to believe that they can hand over public services to the private sector without any incentives (like being sued or being made bankrupt) and public services will get better. Extreme naivety.

  • JimmyGiro

    @ Redders,

    Excessively, and to no avail.

    The problem was, and still is, Marxist-Feminist teachers.

    The solution therefore, and remains, get rid of them.

  • Larry from St. Louis

    Let me disabuse everyone here of the notion that religion (or creationism) is taught in U.S. public schools.

    Religion is not taught in U.S. public schools.

    If academy schools and/or faith schools are on the rise in the U.K., it’s not based on any U.S. model. You’re on your own on that one.

    Luckily I grew up in a small town in Ohio. It was well-understood that religion has no place in government-funded public school.

  • Tony

    Michael Gove comes from a Scottish family background in the fish-processing business. He went to Oxford and was President of the Oxford Union. He and his wife are journalists – Mrs. Gove is a leader-writer for Rupert Murdoch’s Times. Michael Gove reportedly claimed £7,000 for furnishing a London property before ‘flipping’ his designated second home to a house in his constituency, a property for which he claimed around £13,000 to cover stamp duty. It is also alleged that Gove claimed for a cot mattress, despite children’s items being banned under the Commons rule.

    Gove’s predecessor Ed Balls was also an Oxford graduate. A leader writer for the Financial Times and comes from a family background where his father is an expert in alternatives to the use of animals in experiments. In September 2007, with his wife Yvette Cooper, he was accused of “breaking the spirit of Commons rules” by using MPs’ allowances to help pay for a £655,000 home in north London. Balls and his wife bought a four-bed house in Stoke Newington, north London, and registered this as their second home (rather than their home in Castleford, West Yorkshire) in order to qualify for up to £44,000 a year to subsidise a reported £438,000 mortgage under the Commons Additional Costs Allowance. This is despite both spouses working in London full-time and their children attending local London schools.

    We have some consistency here. Neither Gove nor Balls has the remotest experience nor idea about education except as a potential for making names for themselves in political gameplay. Both went to Oxford. Both fiddled their expenses.

    Is this the “New Politics” we hear so much about from Cameron and Clegg? It doesn’t look so “New” to me.

    In my opinion, as far as useful knowledge and understanding of education is concerned Gove is even more of a uniquely politically driven arrogant buffoon than Balls was. His plans are a lot more dangerous than Balls’s as he grabs headlines for himself with badly considered ideas like universal academies which will cost a lot of new money which everyone knows is not available. The reportage today displayed that Gove is like Mr. Bean only lacking Mr. Bean’s skill to keep his mouth shut when he doesn’t know what he is talking about.

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