Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Academies and free schools: practical problems?

As over 1,000 schools have responded positively to Michael Gove’s suggestion that they might like to become academies, it is inevitable some thought and media attention is given to some of the problems and practicalities.

Yesterday’s Times carried an article about the “complex problems” involved including staffing, land use and administrative capacity. As there are over 200 existing academies I am sure that many of these problems are neither new or insurmountable although I am sure that some of the smaller academies will struggle to cope with independence.

The Times article was strangely silent on the biggest issue of practicality: time. Is it realistic that secondaries and primaries making a decision now will be up and running by the start of the autumn term? Michael Gove is clever man so I assume that he has thought that through.

The media focus on the morphing of existing schools into academies has overshadowed the policy agenda around new providers – “free schools”. Last week the Guardian carried an interesting article about the application of European Union procurement rules to contracts to manage free schools. (Michael Gove has spoken of for-profit businesses managing the day-to-day affairs of free schools for not-for-profit governing bodies. In Sweden many of the free schools are run by for-profits such as Kunskapsskolan who operate over 30 secondary schools.)

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