Academisation of Schools

Government White Paper on Education

White papers are policy documents produced by the Government that set out their proposals for future legislation.  White Papers are often published as Command Papers and may include a draft version of a Bill under consideration.  This provides a basis for further consultation and discussion with interested or affected groups and allows final changes to be made before a Bill is formally presented to Parliament.  In March 2016, the Government published a white paper entitled Educational Excellence Everywhere, which sets out to explain the Conservative vision for the future of the UK education system (Scotland, Northern Ireland and to a certain extent Wales have devolved powers).

Much of what was discussed at the Eastleigh Consortium of Schools and Colleges appears in this white paper.  Although Academies are not referred to until page 55, this is the building block for the Conservative vision and although the reason for wanting all schools to become academies is not made clear in a manner that is based on logic it is suggested that the reason is to improve academic attainment.  If that were true, why then convert schools to academies that have very good records?  In Hampshire, for example it is claimed that 84% of the LEA’s 500 schools have OFSTED results of either good or outstanding.  However, on the BBC’s Daily Politics Show on 21 April 2016, in answer to the statement from the Conservative Hampshire County Council Leader, Roy Perry highlighting Hampshire’s excellent schools attainment record, the Schools Minister, Nick Gibb MP said that while 25% of schools were not good or outstanding in Hampshire, Academies are proved to be necessary.

Frequent references are made to MATs, which is an acronym for Multi Academy Trusts.  The white paper explains that MATs are more effective than schools working individually.  What is an LEA if not a Multi Academy Trust?  Will Government permit the newly converted academies to remain part of Local Education Authorities who registered as a Multi Academy Trust?  If the answer is no, then maybe the suspicion that these trusts are being configured for ultimately cost driven reasons is true.  The public will be asking many questions.

Below are some of them.

Special Educational Needs

There are a number of special schools established that cater for pupils who have difficulty learning in the confines of a standard school.  It is not clear what the intention is for these schools, but it is expected that they will have to become academies also.

Who owns the Buildings?

As schools are converting to academies, the building and the land on which they operate are held on a 125-year lease by the Local Education Authority.  However, by 2022 these leases will be transferred to the Secretary of State for Education.

The National Curriculum

At the Eastleigh Consortium of Schools and Colleges, much was made of the interference by politicians on the National Curriculum and that the continual changes made to the curriculum is one of the reasons that teachers are leaving the profession.  The white paper cites academies as not being required to follow the national curriculum, so is that a good thing for teacher recruitment in the future?  The National Curriculum is built around the idea of Standard Assessment Tests (SATs), but will that change?

The English Baccalaureate (Ebacc)

Government want to introduce of the English Baccalaureate (Ebacc).  Will this replace GCSEs and A levels?

School Boards of Governors

Every school has a board of governors made up of local volunteers who wish to see their school perform well in all areas.  For reasons of good governance, the board is made up of a variety of categories of governors, such as, LEA governors, community governors, parent governors, staff governors, co-opted governors, foundation governors, etc.  The governors seek to set the aims and objectives of the school and be a critical friend to the head teacher.  A well performing board of governors will mean that OFSTED visits do not produce any surprises with respect to the level of attainments of the school’s pupils.  It could be argued that parent governors are the most high profile part of any school board since these governors have a concerted interest in the school since they have children there.  Why then is Government proposing to remove parent governors from the school boards?

While on this subject, the LEA provides governor training, which goes towards ensuring that all of its schools operate the school boards in a consistent manner.  What mechanism is Government going to introduce to ensure that governance is consistent across schools of differing Multi Academy Agencies in the future?

Your Opinion?

Education is one of the fundamentally important aspects to any nation’s culture and economy.  It must change and evolve to reflect changes in technology, demography and ideas of pedagogy.  It has been continually changing since the Second World War, but the last 20 years have seen constant changes with the latest being the Government proposal to reintroduce grammar schools, extend the opportunities for new free schools and to extend academisation.  What do you think about this latest proposal?