Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Profit motive behind academies

A series of excellent letters in The Guardian responding to that "windbag" Julian Glover.

The description of All Saints academy in Plymouth, "in one of the more deprived parts of the city", with "outdated buildings" and "a warren of temporary classrooms … from the 1960s", illustrates the success of Labour's programme in establishing academies in disadvantaged areas (A tale of two academies in city at cutting edge of Gove's revolution, 23 May). More important than the additional funding (which helped refurbish the school) was freedom from the external controls that cripple so many schools – mainly coming from central, not local, government. As the headteacher describes, the staff were empowered "to think creatively about how they delivered the curriculum. We raised the standards of quality of teaching and learning, the standards of expectations of young people."

letters illustration 24/05 Illustration: Gary Kempston

The coalition's academy programme is the reverse of that of Labour: it is now the outstanding schools, not the ones in deprived areas, which are given the extra funding and freedom from control. Now Michael Gove is unleashing destructive market forces on to "underperforming schools" by changing the admissions code so that, in his words, "good schools can expand, and there will be underperforming schools that have fewer and fewer numbers" (Weaker schools face squeeze as Gove unleashes academies, 23 May). He says: "That will compel their leadership and the local authority to ask: what's wrong?" Wake up, Mr Gove! They know what is "wrong" – and so do you if you look at the evidence. It is the inequality of our society. It is poverty in communities where there are too few jobs and little hope. Your new policy will push these schools into a downward spiral and thousands of children will suffer as a result.

Emeritus professor Michael Bassey
Newark, Nottinghamshire

and quite a few others:


Julian Glover misunderstands the purpose and likely effect of Michael Gove's academy programme (Comment, 23 May). The purpose is clear: to turn all schools in England into government schools – with annual funding contracts with the secretary of state that can be terminated by him, on which schools are wholly dependent. To persuade schools to become contracted to him, he offers inducements, including relieving schools from controls that legislation, rather than local authorities, places on other schools, such as compliance with the national curriculum. If Mr Gove so wished, these same "freedoms" could be granted to all schools. The inducements also include extra money and new or improved premises.

A secretary of state who has such absolute control has powers not dissimilar from those exercised in some other European countries in the late 1930s. It was to make that impossible that the 1944 Education Act was framed as it was. The restraints on absolutism imposed by that act have now been removed. No government can bind its successors, so the effect is unpredictable and, in a democratic society, dangerous. A second effect is that a system of government schools means that the Treasury can predict and ultimately control exactly how much each school in England will have to spend each year. Or how little. To believe this is a "liberating possibility" is delusional.

Peter Newsam
Pickering, North Yorkshire

and others:

No comments:

Post a Comment