Joined: 23 Apr 2006
|Posted: Mon Feb 18, 2008 7:50 pm Post subject: Conference Against Academies
Saturday 8th March 2008
Congress House, Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3LS, 10.30am to 3.30pm
Francis Beckett, Fiona Millar, Ken Purchase MP, Jon Cruddas MP, Frank Dobson MP, Christina McAnea (UNISON head of Education), Tony Benn, and representatives from the TUC, ATL, NASUWT, NUT and UNISON
Why academies are a problem:
Just tell us the truth about academies
The government's claim that standards are rising faster in academies than in other schools in similar circumstances is flawed because the only schools in similar circumstance are other academies, says Fiona Millar
Tuesday February 12, 2008
Whatever happened to the government's review of academies? In November, this paper reported that the review would take eight weeks, and would help the Department of Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) to "gather lessons learned so far" in addressing under-attainment in challenging communities.
Since then, the review appears to have gone through various incarnations. Parents, teachers and governors who asked to submit evidence were told in a letter from the academies unit that the review would be short and focused, and it was not inviting submissions. Then, in December, the Labour MP Ken Purchase asked the schools secretary, Ed Balls, in the House of Commons if it would be possible to give evidence. Balls agreed to submissions, but wouldn't commit himself to making the findings public.
The deadly silence since then implies that, like everything else about academies, the review is closed and secretive, although at some stage there will no doubt be a covert briefing, hinting that a report no one can actually read has proved that academies are a huge success.
Meanwhile the Anti-Academies Alliance, a small but doughty umbrella group for mushrooming campaigns around the country, has produced its own report, based on a day-long committee of inquiry at the House of Commons last year. Several issues demand further public - rather than private - scrutiny.
The first is the need for a detailed and honest analysis of academies' results. The government's claim that standards are rising faster in academies than in other schools in similar circumstances is flawed because the only schools in similar circumstance (that is, beneficiaries of disproportionately large sums of public money per pupil) are other academies.
Moreover, there is an emerging body of evidence to suggest that standards are rising in some academies because the sponsors use their freedom to make their own rules concerning admissions, special needs, exclusions and the curriculum to spectacular effect. Put bluntly, they get rid of the difficult kids, tweak their intake with self-managed banding systems, or dump difficult subjects in favour of easier ones. Why else would the DCSF refuse to release academies' results by subject, or make it so difficult to access them under the Freedom of Information Act?
The second issue to investigate is the sweeping statement that "they work because they are oversubscribed". Even if they are (and not all are, judging by the huge sign I noticed last summer advertising places at a local academy for the coming autumn term), that means many pupils may end up being offered places in other local schools. And these may have been diminished, because they haven't had similar investment, they have had their more able students creamed off by the academy, and they are taking in the excluded or special needs pupils the academy doesn't want.
And third, the grassroots campaigns all tell a similar story about the opaque process by which academies come into being. Key features are a lack of any clear definition of what justifies an academy, covert bludgeoning of local authorities through Building Schools for the Future, and the wholly undemocratic "preferred sponsor" route that hands schools over to sponsors without any of the public scrutiny required by the 2006 Education and Inspections Act.
Add to that the backroom "feasibility" studies and confidential funding agreements negotiated in secret while local authorities conduct bogus public consultations, and you have an unattractive picture that parents, teachers and governors are right to mistrust.
The "lessons learned so far" are clear. Gordon Brown and Ed Balls rushed into the reckless expansion of academies without thinking their decision through. They are using up vast amounts of money and political capital in the process.
Another academy where children will not leave the building, not the premises.
the £46.4 million Thomas Deacon city academy in Peterborough, Cambridgeshire, is being built without a playground. This, apparently, will avoid having "uncontrollable" numbers of children running around in breaks.
As Liberal Democrat shadow education secretary Sarah Teather MP said, "These people cannot know anything about children. Any teacher, parent or childminder will tell you that keeping children indoors and preventing them from running around and letting off steam is a recipe for disaster. This does not sound like a school; it sounds like some nightmarish government exam factory."
What will the children do in their breaks? Simple. There won't be any. The head, Alan McMurdo, says they can drink water while they learn. Actually, what he said was, "[Pupils] will be able to hydrate during the learning experience." That's the way these people talk.
If the following is what these schools are about I don't think much of the 'restructuring'.
|Shirley McCune who was the senior director of the Mid-continent Educational Research Lab., said: we're really talking about restructuring society and so we have to be honest about that, that we're just not talking about changing a little bit what's happening in the classrooms, we're talking about a fundamental restructuring of society with schools really being the wedge. |