15 Mar 2016

Academies for all – whether you want them or not

The abolition of non-academy schools has been well-trailed but this is quite a moment nonetheless.

Academies were originally unveiled sixteen years ago as remedial special arrangements for schools in difficulty. Under the government’s plans to be unveiled tomorrow, we jump from 200 schools at the start of the Coalition government to all 20,000 schools, primary and secondary, becoming academies by 2022.

It marks the end of a system of devolved, local accountability for schools that can be traced back to 1870 but which in truth had been in decline for some time. It all started with local school boards with tax raising powers running these classrooms. In 1902 those powers were passed on to county and city councils.

Councils haven’t been “running” or “controlling” schools in any meaningful sense for a while. They supervise and provide back-up services in areas like special needs. Even the amount of money they pass on to individual schools is determined centrally.

Without council involvement, teaching unions say, a giant step has been made towards centralisation. They also say that the government is ripping up the national teacher pay awards as the early academy pioneers were awarded power to set their own pay. They question whether academy chains are up to the job.

The government will say that the evidence that academies work is already compelling and that the timescale will allow heads to get necessary skills, governors too.

The next decade will see if they are right.

Tomorrow we may discover quite why George Osborne is announcing this policy as part of a Budget conventionally reserved for fiscal matters. Is there not enough in the box to excite? Is there a sense that the government, with two purdah sessions for local elections and the referendum, doesn’t have enough activity lined up?

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7 reader comments

  1. Pan says:

    I bet they are a great way for the government to cut costs by cutting teachers and their pay. As to local councils, mine was terrible for a long time so won’t cry for them.

  2. Nikki McBride says:

    How is it that MP’s that have all been educated from around 4 of the UK’s top private schools have enough ‘knowledge’ in this area to dictate to us how state schools should be run?

  3. Alan says:

    The more the merrier. One suspects there are ‘prizes’ in the box one shouldn’t pay attention to. For Academies, the proposed business model for education was put in place decades ago. For many years now state schools have become training institutes, if business requires operatives, it should pay for their training.

  4. Philip says:

    As I understand it, academies aren’t required to follow the National Curriculum. So all that effort by Gove and others to provide a curriculum suitable for the 1950s has been wasted. Yet another bit of fiddling by politicians at the expense of our children.

  5. Michael Ball says:

    It is an extraordinary piece of centralisation by this incredibly anti-local government, despite all that garbage about localism Cameron spouted. If you are dissatisfied with your local school as a parent you can appeal to the governing body and you can be elected to the governing body – but not under academies, who don’t have to have parent governors. If still dissatisfied who do you turn to – your local councillor? Not any more: the Secretary of State will be directly responsible for all 20,000 schools – which is of course impossible, so the Tories are creating a network of ‘Commissioners’, a sea of unaccountable faceless bureaucrats.

    Gove already personally took over the role of determining every jot and tittle of the curriculum, including whether our kids get taught about Nelson Mandela or Gordon of Khartoum. He couldn’t actually do the job, of course, so teachers have had to cope without being given the details or knowing what the SATS will test this summer…

    For ‘Commissioners’ read ‘Commissars’; for ‘Cameron’ read ‘Stalin’, for ‘Gove’ read ‘Mr Bean’, for ‘English education system’ read ‘Gordon of Khartoum’.

  6. David A Henderson says:

    One word Privatisation

  7. prof Taylor says:

    The media as a whole are frightened of this corrupt controlling goverment it makes me truly despair that freedom of speech is dead

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