Friday, May 28, 2010

Academies: what the papers (and commentators) say

Following this week’s Queen Speech The Guardian usefully carried an article on “What is an academy?” For a more partisan introduction (as well as recent news about open and proposed academies) there is always the Anti Academies Alliance.

I am not aware of any media commentators saying much about the uncertainty around how many school heads will opt for academy status. It was interesting to read in the FT that Michael Gove had cautioned against what the “dartboard politics” of announcing targets. On the other hand he clearly wants academies to be the “norm” at some point.

The unions obviously think Michael Gove is serious. In yesterday's Times the leaders of NASUWT, NUT, ATL and Unison had a letter published voicing their unions’ opposition to the Coalition’s policy and academies more generally:

We believe that an essential principle for all education reform must be that it raises educational standards. All of the independent evidence confirms that academy schools do not deliver better educational outcomes for pupils, cost more money, and create widespread inequality and social segregation.

On his blog former No10 adviser Mathew Taylor described how experience overcame his doubts about academies but he also expressed some skepticism about the Coalition’s new moves:

What had reconciled me to the Academy policy was, first, the way it channelled new capital expenditure into deprived areas and second, that the extra element of diversity and innovation would be good for the system as a whole. The new policy is different in both aspects. The redistribution element has gone, indeed it must be most likely that it will be more privileged schools and sets of parents who take up the new freedoms and funding streams. Second, rather than putting grit in the oyster of the local schools system the policy is now to smash the oyster entirely.

An key issue is whether the academies push will affect the time, attention and resources given to the free schools policy. The latter policy promises (or threatens) a supply-side revolution with an influx of new providers.

We live in interesting times.

No comments: