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Forcing schools to become Academies

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Mamie Wed 06-Mar-13 07:10:36

I am getting increasingly angry about this. A lot of publicity is given to what is happening to the NHS, but there seems to be far less discussion about what is happening to schools.
www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/mar/04/education-capitalist-command-economy?CMP=twt_gu
Some of the comment underneath is very interesting.

absent Wed 06-Mar-13 07:24:53

Sadly, neither publicity nor discussion seems to be having much effect in changing direction with NHS "reform" and, sadly, it is unlikely that it would with Gove's drive to privatise education. Both the National Health Service and the education system are in dire straits and set to become cash cows for the already rich. I despair as I cannot see how this can be changed within the available time frame, i.e. before the changes are irreversible, when the public is already feeling downtrodden and voiceless.

JessM Wed 06-Mar-13 07:35:56

You are quite right to be. The whole thing is a kind of privatisation of the management of schools - local education authorities are already dramatically cut and will be tiny very soon. If they were to be replaced by brilliant charities with wonderful track records in school improvement it might not be so bad. But such is the pace of the change that these do not exist. When my (steadily improving) school (i was governor) had its arm put up behind its back 18 months ago (a form of compulsion in which we were at least allowed to choose our own "sponsor" because we were only a whisker away from the latest floor standards) we had the opportunity to shop around. This included a meeting in a london hotel which, it turned out, was with a man who was planning to set up as a sponsor, having recently parted company with another one. There was a very, very limited choice. We did find a good one, but of course now they are swamped with new schools - a huge growth in a year - so it will inevitably mean that they won't do a lot of school improvement this year.
Another local secondary academy has struggled along for several years (despite their new building which the Labour academies had) with no improvement in results.
The ones that will do OK are the high performing schools - "academies" which don't have sponsors - they are self managed by the governors - but it they do have problems the only place they have to go for support will be other schools.
I would happily put a large bet on there being many .
Forcing primaries to become academies is laughable.
Much of this will end in tears - there will inevitably be casualties and children will suffer.

Mamie Wed 06-Mar-13 07:50:19

I think the other thing that I find infuriating is the misuse of data by Gove and co that is allowed to go unchallenged. The misuse of international comparisons to raise alarm and despondency is one example, plus the fact that the international comparisons that show that UK schools are right up tables in many areas are completely ignored. Where is the data that shows that Academies raise standards any more / faster than good state schools? All I see are assertions without evidence. The London Challenge has done a fantastic job in raising standards in some very challenging schools, but gets barely a mention in the press despite the fact that they have robust evidence to share.
I do hope that people read the comments from the people at Roke Park school which are under the article. Surely people cannot believe that what has happened there is right?
BTW GNHQ have I just not found the forum for education / schools on Gransnet? Surely there is one?

Lilygran Wed 06-Mar-13 08:47:58

It is deeply corrupt as well as being based on a load of unsupported ideas about how and why schools succeed. No evidence that handing schools over to, for example, a firm dealing in floor-coverings (Harris) results in improvement but there is irrefutable evidence that Harris is a significant donor to the Conservative party. The Labour Party can't mount anything like a sensible opposition because they started this road to privatisation. It is also corrupt because it appears that the effect of the new Ofsted criteria for school assessment are (surprise!) resulting in schools found to be good a couple of years ago or even less are now being found in need of improvement. It's corrupt because the only means of improvement is by going down the academy route. It is corrupt because millions of pounds of public money and community assets are being handed over to private industry without meaningful consultation and on the say-so of one man, Michael Gove. He can take action in the case of a failing school so the schools that don't go voluntarily have to be found to fail. Yes, Mamie it is absolutely dreadful and at last people are begining to realise. Write to your MP!

Ariadne Wed 06-Mar-13 08:53:22

I couldn't agree more! Even the word "Academy" gives a cachet that is completely undeserved. Government is shedding responsibility for education, while claiming to improve it.

Slogan from the eighties - "Our children, our future."

JessM Wed 06-Mar-13 09:03:34

Trouble is, re London Challenge etc, is they do not want to give credit for stuff they did not initiate?

annodomini Wed 06-Mar-13 09:15:36

This is one of the betrayals that have made me leave the party I helped to found. Many years ago, a Liberal Democrat conference, by a huge majority, rejected the policy of grant maintained schools. I have good reason to remember this because I made a speech. In my LEA only two schools held ballots and both parent bodies voted against GM status. This is so much worse. Local democracy and parent democracy are trampled underfoot and what are Gove's coalition partners doing to mitigate the worst effects? As far as I can see, absolutely nothing. And how loudly is Labour shouting? At least their so-called Academies were an attempt - sometimes successful - to turn around failing schools, but Gove's is a perversion of this concept.

Mamie Wed 06-Mar-13 09:40:44

I agree with everything that people have written. I am appalled by the lack of opposition from Labour and particularly from Stephen Twigg. Not much we can do, but I have signed the Roke Park petition. (The link is in the comment under the Monbiot article.)

Mamie Wed 06-Mar-13 11:07:36

And then this....
www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2013/mar/05/hugh-muir-diary-gove-west-durham
How does Gove get away with it?

Mishap Wed 06-Mar-13 16:07:16

I am a governor at a very small rural primary school which is just about to become an academy, joining with a nearby through-academy which has been providing us with executive headship for a year.

We really had no choice. We have an excellent school with a caring ethos, but insufficient numbers to be sustainable in the longer term. This was the only option that would give some medium-term security.

I am clear about the advantages for our school, but wary about this jump into the unknown. Trying to find models of governance that might guide us in negotiating governor representation on the academy board is impossible - I have looked everywhere, and the local governor services of the LA say they will send stuff and don't. I think that their morale is at rock bottom because their jobs are on teh line as the education dept dwindles.

The political principles behind academies (and the nonsense concept that this "re-branding" will make them better schools) did not come into it - in the end it was a pragmatic decision.

I have had concerns all along about the business model as inappropriate for the service sector (I have first hand knowledge of how this has b******d up health and social services) - but we had to ensure the school's survival. That was the bottom line.

nanaej Wed 06-Mar-13 21:30:08

I am instinctively against Academy status..as a parent, former headteacher and current governor. Basically it is bringing in 'for profit' education for every school. Education should not be a profitable business! It should be producing well rounded citizens fit for employment and life in the 21 century. I do not understand how profit is made from state education! If the DfE gives money to academy sponsors, who match fund, why is not all that money being ploughed into the education: staffing /resources/buildings/sports facilities..how is there any money left for profit. Is Lord Harris et al doing this altruistically

My school's budget was always tight. The LA services, though excellent, were run on a shoestring and that was prior to current cuts.

Where is Gove finding all this money from to fund academies... surely not from the cuts made to LA school and LA central funds.

There have been several academies that have had poor OFSTED outcomes but these are quietly ignored by DfE when promoting Academies as the cure all!

Lilygran Wed 06-Mar-13 22:22:36

Match fund? You're joking! How do they make a profit? Academies do not have to employ qualified teachers (lower salaries). They can employ one 'principal' or 'CEO' for a number of schools (only one salary) and do not have to put supplies and services out to tender so they can provide services and supplies themselves at prices they set, just as local authorities used to until they were made to 'outsource' everything by law. The 'educational trusts' have charitable status so get tax benefits. I'm sure there are lots of other ways in which profits can be made. ......

Eloethan Wed 06-Mar-13 22:55:56

What a waste of money and resources - Academies, "Free" Schools, etc., etc. Why aren't people in general, and parents in particular, protesting more about these changes?

Mamie Thu 07-Mar-13 07:51:08

I think that is a really interesting question Eloethan. I think people have been very concerned (rightly) about changes to the NHS and this has slipped under the radar. I think Gove has had a very easy ride in the press and it has been rare for serious journalists to write about what is happening. I think Labour have been pathetic and have failed to challenge, partly because of their own policies on Academies. I think many people have believed all the negative spin and misrepresentation of statistics. I think people are somehow always ready to believe the worst of schools and teachers. Some time ago I started a thread asking for people's views of their grandchildren's schools. The views were almost all positive, but there is still a perception that "out there" everything is wrong.
I am very interested to hear what other people think about this and why there are not more people protesting.

granjura Thu 07-Mar-13 09:58:45

I agree it is a terrible thing - creating different tiers of education. One of the problem in the UK is that we have a long tradition of choice of schools- setting up one school 'against' another. The lack of protest is probably due to parents of schools becoming academies being perceived as 'better' than the one next door.

Lilygran Thu 07-Mar-13 10:20:12

Mamie, I don't think people do realise what's going on. Where schools have chosen to become academies, it has been quite low profile and the result of consultation between governors and other interested parties. Also, in those cases where the school is judged successful, there is often no sponsor involved and the school itself may become a non-commercial sponsor of other schools. But Gove set a target of schools converting and when it appeared this target wasn't going to be met through volunteers, brought in this dreadful alliance between Ofsted (supposed to be independent body) and the DoE to find schools failing and force them to become academies. It's only the fuss about Roke that has made this process public. In my local area, one of the schools that became an academy in the Labour wave was failing twenty years ago and in spite of new buildings, is still in trouble. The school I attended - was grammar, then comp - converted without fanfare, was doing very well, is still doing very well, has been doing very well for a 100+ years.....the whole thing would be laughable nonsense if it weren't for the effect on a generation of children.

Mishap Thu 07-Mar-13 11:03:39

The academy of which we are about to become part has no sponsor - no-one to make a financial profit. It is doing very well, considering its pupil intake (very difficult housing estate nearby) and using its money in the way it sees fit now that it has freedom from the LA.

Am I missing something here?

Mamie Thu 07-Mar-13 11:31:04

There are some that are doing well Mishap. My eldest GD will go to one that has been the local sink school for years, but an inspirational senior management team has turned it round. The huge amount of extra money helped them recruit some really good people. I don't think the ones that are converting now have anywhere near as much extra cash. I don't buy the bit about freedom from the LEA though, schools have controlled their own budgets since the mid eighties and LEA's have had very low budgets, which have now pretty much disappeared. I think the thing that really upsets me is that primary schools are being forced to convert though. If you look at the Roke story, as I understand it, they wanted to go in with the local secondary, but they were turned down by the DfE and told they had to go to Harris.
Primary schools have always needed support from LEAs more than secondaries as their budgets and resources are much smaller and economies of scale make sense.
Secondary schools sometimes think they can tell primaries how to do things, not realising that teaching and learning can be very different with younger children. Of course, some are very good, but I used to get annoyed when secondary teachers told me they thought teaching in primary must be easy. I used to suggest that they tried a day in Reception!

JessM Thu 07-Mar-13 11:48:33

Sounds OK Mishap. I remember we discussed this last year. School will in theory get some extra money that would replace money previously going to LA. But you may end up spending it out on things like HR advisers, ed psychs etc.
Probably a good result in the circumstances.

granjura Thu 07-Mar-13 12:17:38

All schools, and all children- deserve a good education - we shouldn't set one school against the other and create multi-tier systems. The idea of competition may seem good from afar, but not from close-up as far as I've seen.

Lilygran Thu 07-Mar-13 12:25:11

Jess yes, it does sound fine and where school has chosen to opt in, it seems to work well although there is very little reliable research evidence on that. But do you think it's a good idea to hand over public money and assets to a commercial firm with no background in education? Or to a rather dubious religious organisation?

Lilygran Thu 07-Mar-13 12:26:09

Also, it looks rather like a ponzi scheme, doesn't it?

JessM Thu 07-Mar-13 12:29:57

absolutely not re your first post. absolute minefield.
not following the ponzi scheme thought though?

Lilygran Thu 07-Mar-13 13:03:18

Early joiners get lots of cash. Cash all gone by the time others join. Probably not a ponzi but where will the extra funds come from to give all schools extra? And as Mamie says, local authorities have very small slices of the pie now.

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