26 Jan 2015
Think back five years to the run up to the last general election... were you thinking, "what my school really needs is freedom from the local authority"? How about, "what we need around here is the ability to start up some more schools, freed from local planning"? If you were, and you'd had the foresight to know that a vote for the Tories would result in your ambitions being realised then perhaps you voted for them and weren't disappointed. Well done.
However, if your thinking was that academisation and the introduction of free schools (for that's what we're talking about) was going to be good for school improvement, you'll be disappointed to read the House of Commons’ education committee report which is due out on Wednesday. Apparently, having spent several billion pounds on this programme the evidence of any benefit to school performance is “inconclusive”.
Are you a teacher in a converter academy? Think back to the days before conversion - leaving aside other changes, such as performance related pay - have there been any changes to teaching and learning, management or governance? You'll probably be pushed to ascribe any changes as a result of conversion - but please tell us if you can think of any.
However, that's not to say there haven't been any changes at all, for example teachers have told us that:
- There's a lot less support from LA advisers - indeed they are now a very rare breed
- There's no control over admissions or school size, so grammars can expand willy nilly, adversely affecting local schools (see previous posts aplenty)
- School funding has been hit - especially that set aside for emergency provision of places - by funding unnecessary free schools
- New chains of academies, driven by a need to make profit (albeit known by a different word), have introduced unproductive cosmogonies of scale, but without the requirement for Ofsted Inspection (though Morgan is beginning to give way on this now)
On the plus side, conversion brought in some additional cash, at first (though academies are now burdened with the pension liabilities of non-teaching staff) and then there's the positive effect on the errr... ummm....
The trouble is that these reforms have led to major infrastructure changes but had no impact on what actually goes on in schools. Meanwhile, the entire curriculum, assessment and accountability systems have also been reformed, which is having an impact on everything else. Small wonder that the main response to Morgan's Workload Challenge, was “government policies, including insufficient lead-in time for new policies; high stake demands of accountability systems; and pace and scale of change”.
Politicians: please, whichever of you finds yourself as Education Secretary in May, please just leave schools alone for a few years and let us get on with it. It may not be a great way to further your career, but perhaps if this is a worry for you, go and talk to Michael Gove - he may have a different perspective by now.
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