Guest post: "As a deputy head, these are my fears about academisation"
Deputy head Tim Paramour explains why teachers fear the consequences of making all schools academies by 2020; head here for Education Secretary Nicky Morgan's response, arguing that the change is best for our schools
Posted on: Thu 17-Mar-16 11:11:59
(88 comments )
Not a single school in the country closes at 3.30pm. In every town and village there is a mighty army of indomitable teachers and teaching assistants who, rather than allow extensive testing regimes to deprive children of art, music and sport, put aside their exhaustion to lead extra-curricular clubs, choirs and workshops after the bell has gone.
If you've ever worked in an office where you occasionally had to do big presentations that took hours to prepare, imagine having to deliver five hours' worth of those presentations every day to 30 people. Then you have to prove they've all understood exactly what you were saying.
Imagine if you then had to use your spare time to prepare more presentations as well as providing personalised written feedback to every participant. Then imagine conducting an orchestra or refereeing football matches for dozens of excited children at the end of it all.
Still, if George Osborne is going to give a bit of money to a small minority of schools so they can fund their after-school clubs slightly more generously, then fine. It's a start.
That was one of the main education stories of the Budget: a bit of extra money to fund extra-curricular clubs that already exist. But there was another announcement, one that looked liked the privatisation of the entire state education system.
The Budget announcement that between now and 2020 all schools, whether they like it or not, will be forced to become part of an "academy chain" means they will be privately controlled but publicly funded. You, the voter, will have no say over how schools are run - but you will still have to pay for them out of your taxes. This brings an end to the system of democratically controlled, locally accountable education which was introduced 114 years ago so that every child in the land could go to school, rather than down the mines or up the chimneys.
My biggest fear is that local authorities will be forced to set up large numbers of pupil referral units and special schools to educate the children no one else will take, creating an underclass segregated by ability before they've reached their fifth birthdays.
The announcement comes as no surprise to many teachers. Indeed, most schools have already taken steps to protect themselves from being overtaken by a large, corporate behemoth, usually by forming trusts and clusters with other local schools that can be turned into less sinister academy chains with relative ease.
But what will this mean for your children? Well, if all schools are academies then, in some ways, no schools are academies. Academies have always been defined by the ways they differ from their local authority-controlled counterparts: they're unconstrained by the national curriculum, they have to find their own HR and legal services and they have considerably more freedom over admissions. If these "distinctions" are applied to all schools, then what the government will actually be doing is abolishing the national curriculum (a bizarre new version of which was introduced in 2014, creating a great deal of now seemingly pointless work), taking away legal and HR support from schools that still feel they need it, and causing considerable confusion around the admissions process.
The curriculum is a moot point in the primary phase. Nowadays we live or die by our pupils' KS2 assessment results and, sadly, it's the content of those high-stakes tests that dictates what children learn between the ages of five and 11. The removal of HR and legal services could be a problem for many smaller primary schools and I worry that their leadership teams will be forced to spend more time addressing those matters rather than addressing the needs of their pupils.
But what is really unclear, and a little scary, is what it will mean for admissions. There already exists a chaotic and confused landscape around school places. Many academies already appear to discriminate against lower-achieving pupils and their families, even though they're not really supposed to, by claiming they are "unable to meet their needs." What will happen if all the schools in an area, now granted the freedom to do so, start discriminating in the same way? What will happen to the children no one dares accept, lest they bring down their test scores? My biggest fear is that local authorities will be forced to hastily set up large numbers of pupil referral units and special schools to educate all the children no one else will take, creating an underclass segregated by ability before they've reached their fifth birthdays.
There's no evidence that academies are any better or any worse than local authority schools in terms of educational outcomes - so the big question for most teachers I speak to is this: why take such a big gamble with our young people's futures? Whatever the explanation, it's hard to believe the government really has children's best interests at heart.
By Tim Paramour
so will the centralized dept for education have to massively increase its staff to "oversee" the academies? so a civil servant in London can make decisions that will affect an academy in Sunderland ? and what of the special schools and SEN system?
Yes, it will all be overseen by governors (who might live 100 miles away and oversee 30 other schools, oh and also could be the headteachers' mates). After that it's the Department for Education in London (which is having its budget slashed). For 25000 schools.
Why can't they just leave it alone? My kids schools are outstanding, why waste time and money forcing them to set up their own HR, IT etc?? Bloody politicians, you could not make it up.
hmmmm that seems a bit of a bias argument. Really is he trying to compare this change to sending children up chimneys or down mines. Its obvious he is ideologically against them, so you cant really trust anything he says.
The point about chimneys and mines was more to give readers an idea of how long the local authority school system has been around and what a dramatic change this is. I'm not suggesting that academies are using their pupils as chimney sweeps!
As things stand, schools can choose whether or not they choose to become academies whereas the government wants to force it on them even if the staff, parents and governors are all against it and even though there is no evidence it will improve children's education. Would you not describe that as ideological?
I get it wasn't literal, but it does implant a bias into the article right from the start. Would have been more honest to have just used a date. There is continued bias language like, "overtaken by a large, corporate behemoths" and "sinister academy chains" which will be "abolishing the national curriculum". There are no facts its just your very bias negative opinion.
"You, the voter, will have no say over how schools are run", since when any normal parent every have a say over how a school was run?
"You, the voter, will have no say over how schools are run", since when has any normal parent ever had a say over how a school was run?
Historically, if parents have had a problem with their child's school which couldn't be resolved by the staff or governors, they have been able to take up the issue with the local authority, which is democratically accountable. An academy chain is not.
You accuse me of bias. If, by that, you mean I have an opinion on the matter then yes, of course. I work in a school- how could I not? You're free to disagree, of course, but if there's anything specific you think I'm not being honest about, by all means look it up and come back to me.
"since when any normal parent every have a say over how a school was run"
Any parent can stand to be a parent governor, and all parents can request to meet with governors and like the OP says any issues can be referred up to a democratically accountable body.
Why get rid of that?
Bolognese do you think forcing all schools to be academies is a good thing then?
You'd be the first person I've heard saying that if so! (Outside the Tory party that is).
Please could you let us know why you think it's a good thing? I'm intrigued.
And what happens to people who move to an area where all the schools are full. Who can they apply to to find them a place?
Or do they just have to set up their own schools?
And I though academies etc. Could opt out of aspects of the national curriculum and change their school days and holidays?
All voters have a say in how schools are run because we vote the government in and out based in part on education policies. If schools are removed from local authority control does this effectively take them out of the political sphere as well?
Well maybe I have had bad experiences of councils and good experiences of academies. I look at the tens of millions councils spent building one new school, not in area of need but in areas that gets them votes and I compare that to a local free that cost 1/5 to build in an area that parents wanted it. I remember governors in council schools where just nodding heads taking the position because it made them a pillar of the community, but I see governors in Free Schools actually making changes to the school, putting through improvements that parents want. I have seen parents to go to a school in their area because its crap and the council just says if you dont like it go private, and so they do. I hear how expensive it is for council schools to get maintenance done because they have to use council contractors but the local free school uses local companies that are three times cheaper. I look at the bog standard comp that is rated 'needs improvement' and the head just says "well its not my fault its the type of kids that live around here". But another failing school turns into an academy kicks over the hornets nest and within a few years you see it turn into a quite attractive school despite all the children coming from a very challenging area. I see bad teachers keep in post in council school, a job for life but in academies I see they are moved on quick smart.
I could go on but its all more of the same.
I think once you take a school out of the death grip of blundering idiots in council offices then you empower heads and parents to create a better school. Bring it on.
Bolognese. Ok, I think we've established who's being ideological, haven't we!
Katienana: no. It means you're completely at the mercy of the central government.
Nice article, clearly laid out and easy to follow.
I've been working with schools for a couple of years now helping pupils pass their exams.
In the state sector I'm often taken aback by the disparity in standards. It doesn't seem fair to me that on child should have to settle for a sub par education because of geography.
My question is: won't academies help to level out the playing field? Isn't it the most underprivileged that will benefit from being part of and supported by something bigger? Even if there is no proof academies are 'better' surely schools will benefit from sharing good practice and leaning on each other...As opposed to there being the odd one or two in each county left to fend for themselves?
Not sure what to think, looking for some ideas...
My 8 year old daughter has just summed this up perfectly.
"They're making it so that the next generation can't have a good future."
I don't understand where the money will come from. How are privately run schools able to use taxpayers money? How does it work?
It's the children with SEN that are being utterly betrayed here. It's awful.
What will happen to all the LEA staff? Are they all now going to be made redundant?
Um, think you're on the wrong thread there Menunite, we were talking about schools.