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Tory Plans for Education

February 2, 2015

Today David Cameron unveiled his plans for Education after the elections in May. His big plan: to force failing schools to become academies. Apart from wielding a big stick what is new about academies and are they actually working?

Academies were first introduced under the Labour government to introduce competition into the system. The rush to become an academy increased after 2010 because of clear financial incentives.  I directly experienced the damage of becoming an academy when a few years ago I was teaching in a top performing ex Grammar School which had absolutely no need ‘to be turned round’. The Headteacher had resigned because he was against becoming an academy in opposition to the chair of governors. A business manager was brought in, who had no background in education and only had eyes for the budget rather than teaching and learning; the appointment of a new headteacher failed a number of times until the business manager ended up the acting headteacher; outstanding teachers left in droves for different schools and the morale of the remaining teaching staff was so much undermined that standards and performance suffered visibly.

Schools across England and Wales are improving steadily, but a recent report into academies and free schools by the Education Select Committee concluded that there is no evidence that this is down to schools becoming academies.

What counts is good leadership and governance with the main focus on education. There are already 600 to 700 existing academies which the Department for Education thinks are cause for serious concern because of poor performance, and this number has doubled in the last year. The scandal at Oldfield School last year will have done little to convince local people here in BANES that academies are working.

It looks increasingly like the Tories want all secondary schools to become academies if not voluntarily then by stealth.

The biggest problem is accountability, but with the Tories increasingly dug in real figures and comparisons will become ever more difficult to obtain. If left to the Tories the future of education is set to become a non-transparent mess.

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