Gove likes to appoint cronies but hopefully not as Chief Adjudicator

Fiona Millar's picture
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The news that the current Chief Schools Adjudicator is leaving his post early is worrying. In my experience of reading his reports, adjudications and meeting him (and we haven’t always see eye to eye) Ian Craig has been fair, honourable and taken his responsibilities to ‘police’ the Code of Practice very seriously.

So what went wrong? It has been suggested that he didn’t agree with the direction of government policy. Somehow I find this hard to believe as I always found him to be very careful, either as the adjudicator, or previously as Assistant Director in Kent, a fully selective authority, to keep out of the politics of his role.

Did his comments about faith schools cause ructions?  He certainly seemed to get a grilling on his suggestion that some faith school admissions criteria might benefit white middle class parents when he gave evidence to the Education Select Committee. However the job of the Chief Adjudicator is to look at the evidence, the complaints he or she gets, and then paint a picture in the Annual Report. Dr Craig’s earlier report flagging up fraudulent practices and the extent to which parents lie and cheat to get their children in to certain schools definitely helped to shine a spotlight into some murky areas of school choice at local level.

My theory is simply that, in spite of all that pre election rhetoric about openness and inclusion, this government, like many before it, just likes to appoint its friends and fellow travellers to key posts.

Again and again we see a small inner group of cronies being shuffled into these numerous ‘reviews’. Look at this one The Teachers Standards Review Group, launched today. Of the fifteen members, nine are actively involved in schools; five of them are from academies, and three from the same academy group, Ark, even though it only runs a handful of schools.

John McIintosh, former head of the London Oratory school pops up again (he is also reviewing the national curriculum). We can only assume that the ubiquitous Michael Wilshaw, head of Mossbourne Academy, was busy on the days the group meets.

Should we be worried about that? It is depressing to think that the views of the 20,000 plus schools out there that are not academies are given such a low profile. However when it comes to admissions, having an independent, and objective figure at the helm matters a lot. The publication of a new draft Code of Practice is imminent. It is going to be ‘slimmed down’ and, judging by the news that parents who start free schools will get priority access to those schools, ‘slimmed down’ basically means watered down.  With many more schools becoming their own admissions authorities we need someone who is tough , impartial and objective and prepared to stand up for all parents as Chief Adjudicator, not a fellow traveller whose interest is to protect the schools that will inevitably benefit.
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Janet Downs's picture
Sat, 12/03/2011 - 09:44

The evidence to the Select Committee is uncorrected, so any discussion of it must bear this in mind. The important points seem to be:

1 All state-funded schools will be treated the same if the Ed Bill is passed.

2 Admissions forums are “good things”. Dr Craig regrets that the Ed Bill seems to suggest that LAs will no longer need to establish admission authorities.

3 Problems re the admission procedures of faith schools had been exaggerated. Some did have “inappropriate admissions criteria and points systems” but Dr Craig had given no examples at the press conference given to launch his annual report. Regrettably, the media wrote that he had cited a case of points having been given for “bell ringing”. He had not. At the same time Dr Craig’s comments about possible discrimination arising from dates of baptism had been ignored by the Press. He was also concerned about points being given to undefined “charitable works”. Despite these worries Dr Craig stressed that there had only been a tiny number of referrals about faith schools. Isolated incidents had been generalised.

4 Dr Craig said, “I think that my basic tenet is that most parents want a good local school - I emphasise the good and the local. Yes, some parents want faith schools specifically, but in general terms, parents want good local schools, and they’ll do their utmost to get into them.” (My comment: Unfortunately, Mr Gove thinks this will be achieved by allowing a tiny number of parents to open free schools).

5 Problems arise when schools offer places according to aptitude which is difficult to define and could be used as a “cloak” for selection.

6 Dr Craig fears that his body will not be able to “maintain and overview” in the future. This will result in a “fragmented picture”. LAs will be required to publish annual reports on their websites but will not be required to submit them formally to a regulatory authority. Dr Craig fears these reports will be “even blander than they sometimes have been”.

Urban Head's picture
Sat, 12/03/2011 - 10:09

Or is it the latest edict, trailed in the press yesterday, that Free School initiators will be able to get priority in Free School admissions. Poor, poor Michael. He is so sacred of upsetting Toby that I am beginning to worry who is running education policy.

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