Monday, 2 February 2015


Last week the Education Select Committee published its report on the impact of academies and free schools and their conclusions are worth reading especially after hearing the arguments on the radio this morning with Nick Gibb MP claiming that the academies were a great success story and Alasdair Smith claiming that they were a disaster. So here we go again. I am right and you are wrong...

"No-one wants their child to go to a failing school and no-one wants to them to go to a coasting school either. 'Just enough' is not good enough. That means no more sink schools and no more 'bog standard' schools either. Our aim is this: the best start in life for every child, wherever they're from - no excuses." David Cameron's Conservative education policy proposals, to be announced today, would mean that schools rated as requiring improvement would automatically be considered for academy status. However, Alasdair Smith, from the Anti Academies Alliance, challenged the assumption that turning a school into an academy would improve results. "There is not a single scrap of evidence that academy status improves our education system and increasingly there is plenty of evidence that it is producing a chaotic education system,"

Of course we all want our children to go to a good school, it's so obvious it's absurd to keep saying it unless you are prepared to put the policies and the resources in place to deliver it! We all know, many of us to our cost, that the landscape of schooling in England has been transformed, some would say vandalised, over the last five years. The fragmentation of the system and the transfer of so many schools into academy status has been scary with academy sponsorship encouraging the contribution of so many individuals and organisations not previously involved in education provision, many without a clue about school improvement. However, the success of trusts like Ark and Harris have clearly encouraged the DfE and ministers to think that academies are the only answer and to lead them to challenge failing and coasting schools and authorities to improve or face take overs by the only alternative in town...the academy model. However, the jury must be out on the bold claim from ministers that there are more good schools in England than ever before, especially after the latest OFSTED and DfE reports said that 25% of secondary schools were underperforming in terms of what really matters... impact and outcomes! Evidence and research are needed to improve our understanding of what matters and what works in school development and improvement. Even the Select Committee urges the Government should stop exaggerating the success of academies and be cautious about firm conclusions except where the evidence merits it. We all know from bitter experience that academies are not always successful nor is it the only alternative for a struggling school. 

Sadly, we can't wind the clock back to a world where Alec Clegg and Tim Brighouse provided inspirational leadership that shaped provision and built excellence; a world where learning leadership, beautiful systems and intelligent accountability mattered! We will all have to learn to live with OFSTED and clearly academies are here to stay. So perhaps we should all agree, in this fractured and chaotic learning landscape, that both academies and local authorities have a role to play and get on with delivering great teaching and brilliant learning for all our children.

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