Academies and Free Schools – A failed experiment in education

PowellAs of June 2015 there are over four thousand academies in England. Originally introduced by New Labour back in 2000 in order to support failing schools in socially deprived areas, academies have long since remained a controversial topic. Touted by governments as the miraculous magic answer to improving standards and loathed quite rightly by teaching unions opposed to their undemocratic nature and the neo-liberal free market approach they are constructed around. ‘Academies equals success’ has been the long repeated mantra for many years now, you would be forgiven for thinking that this is the only approach to education and LEA controlled state schools have been an all-round epic failure, yet statistically does this add up? Continue reading

Labour’s timid education manifesto – and what it must include next time

Tristram Hunt 1Our education eystem has undergone a severe and vicious ideological assault since 2010 with teacher morale at all-time lows, a rise in child mental health issues due to over testing and a teacher recruitment crisis to name but a few. Never was there such an education Secretary that provoked such vitriol and contempt than Michael Gove. His successor, Nicky Morgan, is hardly winning any popularity contests either.

It really should have been easy fare for Labour with this on their side but instead they produced what could only be described as one of the blandest and most timid education manifestos they have ever written which sadly failed to get to grips with key educational issues. Our children are some of the most over tested children in the world, with tests starting as young as five, an age where in most countries they are enjoying a more holistic curriculum centred on social skills and learning through play. Continue reading

Tory education bill will speed up failed academy project

Morgan1Last month the Department for Education announced its new Education and Adoption Bill. According to the DfE in their press release the bill will seek to “sweep away bureaucratic and legal loopholes’. Any school found inadequate by Ofsted will be expected to convert to academy status, as well as those schools that are found to be ‘coasting’, all of course without having to go through the process of consultation with staff, parents and the local community.

In fact Secretary of State for Education in her press release refers to the process of consolation set out in the 2010 Academies Act as ‘’leading to roadblocks’. This Bill which is being debated in parliament at the moment currently shows the Tories are wasting no time with their ideological crusade to privatise our state education system. As of June 2015, there are 4,676 academies open in England with many more in the pipeline. Since the introduction of academies in 2000 under the New Labour government, the rhetoric surrounding them has been one of success yet report after report shows the academy system has been found seriously wanting with little to no evidence to suggest they improve results or make for a better education system. Continue reading

Really, Tristram? The “totally convincing” case for performance related pay exposed

Tristram Hunt 1Having giving his support to academies and “parent-led academies” (aka free schools), Labour’s new shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt has now committed the party to another key right-wing goal for education: “performance-related pay” (PRP). He told the BBC Question Time audience: “I’m in favour of performance-related pay. We had a great report come out today by Alan Milburn on social mobility, and the chapters in there on education are totally compelling.”

In a subsequent interview with Andrew Marr, days after his promotion to the Shadow Cabinet, Hunt added “… what teachers want is respect from politicians. … You listen to their views and you take them with you”. It is a safe bet that Hunt did not discuss performance-related pay with teachers before declaring it Labour party policy. A strange way of commanding respect by listening and taking people with you, one might say. Continue reading

Who’s in charge in Twigg’s vision for free schools?

School studentsInterviewed by Jeremy Vine last Sunday, Stephen Twigg repeated the proposal made in his recent RSA speech that Labour will support “parent-led academies”. He said that these will not be free schools because: (1) they will not be allowed to use unqualified staff; (2) not all free schools are parent-led; (3) they will be overseen by the local authority.

Lord Adonis, Michael Gove and free-school activist Toby Young have all hailed Twigg’s parent-led academies as free schools under another name. A free school, they say, is nothing but a start-up academy, some of which are parent-led (like Toby Young’s West London Free School). That is surely exactly what Twigg is proposing. This triumverate has accordingly declared victory in the battle over free schools. Who is right?

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