Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Academies, but we're not afraid

A big dark academy
We can't go over it.
We can't go under it.
Oh no!
We've got to go through it!

Listening to friends in England talk about schools makes me despair. Schools are subjected to ever increasing control from central government and its inspection agencies. In many parts of England as funding has been stripped from education authorities for new school building, it has become a lottery to get a place in existing overcrowded popular schools. It partly explains the unnecessary traffic jams as pupils get driven across towns and cities to distant schools instead of walking or cycling to the local school. No wonder that parents and teachers are frustrated and stressed by what should be the joy of watching their charges become inspired, creative and knowledgable young people.

Michael Rosen in a well crafted article this morning dismisses the entire farrago of a policy proposed by Nicky Morgan, the Secretary of State for Education. She was no doubt prompted by the Chancellor to transfer all schools from local education authorities to academies. Schools were conceived, built and run locally run by a democratic organisation that also has responsibility for children's services, libraries, sport, transport, and housing, all of which can improve the functioning of schools. If they are transferred to academies run by trusts and often packaged together with other schools not necessarily in the same area, and parental involvement is denied then the very essence of a school community is threatened. The investment in school buildings and land made by local education authorities for the benefit of their communities will be divested to trusts and organisations that are more concerned about executive pay and profit than community well being.

This may be a sinister trick by the Chancellor to radically reduce the state funding of education in the long term. After all academies do not have to employ qualified teachers nor are they subject to the overelaborate and damaging inspection regime imposed on schools run by education authorities. Nor will the academies be responsible for providing for the most needy children or required to employ the panoply of professional support that they require. This is perhaps a government policy initiative too far that will receive the backlash it deserves from parents, teachers and councils of all political persuasions. They are not afraid of challenging the government on this ill conceived initiative. Who better than Michael Rosen, the author of 150 children's books and former Children's Laureate, to diss the proposed academisation of education.

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