If academies are the answer…?

by Terry Wrigley

It takes time to transform a secondary school, so let’s concentrate on academies which had been open at least five years by last June’s GCSE. In other words, long enough for the pupils taking GCSEs to have studied at the academy from Year 7 through to Year 11.

There are 193 of these academies. 1 in 3 of these had below 40 percent of pupils achieving five or more A*-C grades including English and Maths – the official government ‘floor target’.

In other words, if these academies weren’t already academies, they would be forced to become academies! That is the Alice in Wonderland logic of Government policy.

In fact, 2 out of the first 3 schools to be turned into academies are below the 40 percent line, despite the millions of pounds spent on dazzling new buildings, and the army of consultants sent in to advise headteachers on how to “turn them round”. If academies are the answer, what was the question?

Altogether, 388 schools came below the floor target in June 2014. Of these:

42% were sponsored academies (162 schools)

16% were ‘converter academies’ (64 schools)

21% were community schools (82 schools)

21% were foundation, voluntary aided or controlled schools (80 schools).

It is clear from this that academies are proportionally at least as likely to fall below the floor target as schools which aren’t academies. How can the Government explain this?

‘Converter academies’ are schools which, under the Conservative / LibDem Coalition, were judged so successful that they didn’t even need a sponsor: the Government declared that they could manage their own affairs entirely independently, without guidance from either the local council or an academy chain. How can the Government explain away the 64 converter academies which are already ‘below the floor’?

It gives me no pleasure to register low achievement. I don’t want to see any school stigmatised. But we have to challenge the topsy-turvy logic behind the Government’s seizure of local schools.

The Government’s new education bill signals a dictatorial turn. It removes even the pretence of consulting with parents and governors.

It compels governing bodies to collaborate with any sponsor imposed by government – on past performance including second-hand car dealers, carpet salesmen, Christian fundamentalists seizing an opportunity, tax-avoiding “philanthropic” hedge funds, not to mention Conservative Party donors.

It means that school buildings paid for from national and local taxes will no longer be available for community use.

It means more schools able to bar their doors to local children.

Is this what democracy looks like?

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