Sunday, March 20, 2016

academy schools…

The government’s latest education “initiative”, to make ALL schools in England Academy schools by 2020, fills me with absolute horror.
Be under no illusions, the government’s plans for academies represent a disaster for our education system – a system that has already suffered devastating, damaging and potentially irreversible revisions since 2010.
Some years ago, I worked in a secondary school which took on Academy status. I certainly felt that the decision to change was taken quickly, with minimum meaningful consultation, and implemented without the full implications being explained to either staff or parents. Essentially, it appeared that the powers-that-be at the school were ‘told’ by the government that, if they wanted extra money for their budget, then Academy status was their only realistic option.
Of course, Academy status was being ‘sold’ to schools in a flagrantly sugar-coated way (schools would be able to “take control of our own futures”, “achieve confidence and independence”; achieve “innovation and creativity” and schools would be “free from the shackles of bureaucracy”!)…
The government has also been promoting Academy Schools as a way to improve standards in education. It endeavours puts a positive spin on its Academy status policy – but academic analysis has simply refuted much of its key assertions.
Academy status will mean (amongst other things): schools not having to employ qualified teachers; an end to parent governors (in future, professionals with the ‘right skills’ will replace the parents with a multitude of skills!); and removing schools out of LEA control. All academy chains and academies will effectively be able to operate in secret, avoiding any accountability to anyone, let alone society as a whole.
Ron Glatter, Emeritus professor of educational administration and management at the Open University, describes the government’s current policy as appearing “to be based on a combination of ideological zeal and extraordinary organisational naivety” (eg. “1,000 trusts, each responsible for at least 10 academies, will be required by 2020. As of last July, there were just 39 trusts with more than 10 academies. Each new trust will need a chief executive, and the heads of some of the largest chains now have salaries in the range £150,000 to £225,000”).

I STRONGLY recommend that you watch this excellent 55 minute documentary, made by parents and teachers from Downhills School in Tottenham in their battle to stop Education secretary, Michael Gove, forcing them to become an Academy School in 2013.
As you might imagine (and no doubt read some yourself), there have also been lots of worthy words written about Academy Schools, following the Chancellor’s Budget announcement last week (nothing about such a policy in the Tory general election manifesto, of course!). You might to check out some of the following:
1.    An article in the TES by a Hampshire headteacher.
2.    Another article in the TES by a Suffolk headteacher.
3.    Reaction from the teaching profession in The Independent newspaper.
4.    Letters to The Guardian newspaper.
5.    An article in The Guardian on former education secretary David Blunkett’s reactions to the policy.
Hey, but these are just a few! No doubt, you’ll have your own examples…

Peter Bunyan, in a recent letter to The Guardian, maintains that “'executive' heads of multi-academy trusts… will have to be creative, and that is finding ways to cut costs and save money, as the supply from central government is reduced. The obvious way is to employ fewer teachers on lower salaries and employ more poorly paid teaching assistants. Another is to extend the school day, but add time saved on to extra holidays so that less money has to be spent on cleaning, general maintenance, office staff and providing meals. That is, cut down on hourly paid workers, the poorest in society. It will be interesting to see, over the coming years, what other ‘creative’ strategies will be adopted as all schools become small businesses, competing with each other for that valued ‘client’, the child”.

Apologies for all my negativity!
I read one anguished comment on facebook a couple of days ago, about the government’s latest education initiative, from a worn-down, disillusioned and angry teacher. She said: “Thank goodness that I’ll be retiring in a couple of years… I can’t stand much more of this” (or words to that effect).
I can only sympathise with her sentiments.
Sadly, it’s today’s children and tomorrow’s children (and society in general) who will have to suffer the consequences of the government’s ideology.
PS: Oh, and just in case you thought university education was all hunky dory, you might like to check out this article in The Observer newspaper: "a government adviser and crossbench peer has warned there could be an 'American-style catastrophe' in English higher education if ministers push ahead with plans to expand opportunities for private providers to become universities".

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