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23/06/11

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The myths of academy conversion

Many local authority (LA) community schools, particularly secondary schools, are rushing to convert to academy status in just a few weeks – hardly enough time for governing bodies, let alone parents, to understand fully the implications. So let’s nail the myths.

Claim: Academies can opt out of the national curriculum. Fact: Yes, they can, but community schools already have enough flexibility within the national curriculum to innovate. If opting out of the national curriculum is such a good thing, then why doesn’t the Secretary of State, Michael Gove, give this freedom to all schools? That would cost nothing and he’d save money on the national curriculum review going on at the moment. In any case, no secondary school is going to opt out of the English Baccalaureate (EBacc) because schools will be judged on the number of pupils who pass it.

Claim: Academies can free themselves from the control of local authorities. Fact: Schools already have a great deal of autonomy. LA control is limited to such things as admissions. And LAs give schools a lot of support – the boring stuff, like office work, legal requirements, building maintenance and so on. This means schools can concentrate on their core service: providing education. When academies opt out of local authority control, they have to do all this legal and administrative work. Heads should be concentrating on the education that the school provides not poring over the IT contract, the payroll, maternity payments and so on. And academies can set their own admissions criteria.

Claim: Academies can change the times of the school day and term times. Fact: yes, they can, but community schools can also change the times of the school day as long as they follow the correct procedure, like consulting parents. LA maintained schools in a particular local authority all have the same term times. This helps parents who have children at more than one school in the authority. Parents will not be pleased if their local academy chooses term times which do not match those of other local schools.

Claim: Academies can change the pay and conditions of service of their teachers. Fact: yes, they can, although existing staff have their pay and conditions protected. New staff, though, may find that they are being paid on a different scale and have different conditions. Michael Gove http://www.tes.co.uk/article.aspx?storycode=6082589 has said that a perk of being employed by an academy is that staff could have private health care. Parents will not be pleased if they discover that money which should be used to pay for their children’s education is going to finance private medicine for the school’s staff. Neither will they be impressed that the Secretary of State thinks this is an acceptable way of spending the education budget.

Claim: Academies can get more money. Fact: Academies are given £25,000 to pay for the legal costs of conversion. Local authorities also have to pay for these costs out of Council Tax revenue – North East Lincolnshire http://ht.ly/5o0ws has already said it costs the Council £30,000 per academy conversion. This is money that could be spent on essential Council services. Academies will get extra money per year but this is only to cover the cost of those services which the LA previously provided.

Claim: Academies can decide how to spend their money. Fact: local authorities keep back a proportion of their funding for schools to pay for the services they provide before passing the bulk on to community schools. Community schools are free to spend their grant money as they wish. Of course, academies might broker a cheaper deal, but this isn’t always the case. Some converter academies have found the cost of their IT licences soar. Academies could also decide not to buy-in certain services, like music provision, from the LA. If enough academies in an area decide not to buy these, then the provision will stop altogether. If academies decide to buy-in to an academy chain they run the risk of having less autonomy than they did when under local authority control, and of having money siphoned off to pay for the head office which may a long way from the school.

The worst aspect of academy conversion is the effect on parents. Parents cannot appeal to the local authority if they have an unresolved complaint about an academy because the local authority has no power to act. Parents have to complain directly to the Secretary of State. It’s the same with admissions. If a child is denied a place at an academy parents have to appeal to an independent panel set up by the academy. If parents are still dissatisfied, they have to appeal to the Secretary of State who is the only person with power to direct an academy to take a child. The Department for Education seems to have no section ready to deal with parental complaints about academies.

The information above shows that academy status is not the huge benefit that schools, governing bodies and parents have been led to believe. Parents whose schools have converted to academy status without letting them know the information above have every right to feel aggrieved.

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Comments, replies and queries

  1. Interestingly, when Christine Gilbert was Director of Education in Tower Hamlets back in the 1990s she took the decision to devolve more of the funding to schools so that they could decide on what and where their budgets should be spent. We got to choose back then whether we wanted to take up LA SLAs or go elsewhere… so really there is nothing new under the sun and we managed to do this under the auspices of an excellent LA.

  2. Janet Downs says:

    Nick Gibb, Minister of State for Schools, I March 2011: “Schools are free to spend the DSG [Dedicated School Grant] however they so choose.” But the Government keeps telling us that LA maintained schools are so much under the bureaucratic control of local authorities that one of the advantages of academy status is to escape from their totalitarian grasp. Now Nick Gibb is saying the opposite.

    http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201011/cmhansrd/cm110309/text/110309w0002.htm (scroll down to Business: Education)

  3. O. Spencer says:

    Janet,

    All of your points being true – then why do schools want to convert if there are no tangible benefits? Are they too stupid to understand the illusions of Academies and not comprehend the actual technicalities. Or are the ones choosing to convert nasty right-wing schools who will do anything to get out of taking the ‘dregs’ and educating the kids of the sharp elbowed?

    I disagree on the private health insurance point – Surely the argument is to get the best teachers, adequate rewards and benefits are required. The Armed Forces for example providing boarding school places, paid for by the taxpayer for children or servicemen and women. Given the huge amount of money wasted on the thankfully aborted BSF programme, the investment in healthcare for teachers – who probably suffer more from stress than most professions! is a good one to make.

    Lastly, the point about differing term times of academies is a bit weak. Surely the longer children are in school during the day, and the longer the term is – the less the parents have to worry? More time for parents to go out to work – less in terms of costly childminders – dumping children on older relatives, etc. Many working-class parents dread holidays – keeping children entertained costs money – from going to the zoo, buying an ice cream,going to the cinema etc.

    The longer terms and extended school hours benefit the working class children more.

    What do the middle class kids do in the evenings/holidays? Foreign trips, music lessons, theatre/museums, etc.

    And of course the boost to the children – more time to master the academic subjects in the traditional 9-3 day, with a couple of hours extra in the evening to develop other skills.

    A longer term means that the overall educational experience will be closer to that offered by private schools – at no direct cost to the parent.

    • I’d be interested to hear how you anticipate that we will fund extended hours in all of these schools. Of course what will really happen is that hours won’t be longer, they will just be different. And parents have always had a problem when schools choose different opening hours and terms dates – it makes it very difficult for parents with children of different ages to manage, difficult for school staff whose children attend different schools than the ones in which they work. This is the very reason why local authorities were given the responsibility for the coordination of the school year in the first place and why it’s necessary to consult on changes to school hours. Not to mention the increased costs of home to school transport – a real consideration in rural areas.

      Schools are not intended to be free childcare for working parents – their principle role is the education of children.

      ‘Why do schools want to convert if there are no tangible benefits’ – because many have bought the line about additional financial benefits (at the expense of schools left within the local authority family of schools), greater freedoms (predominantly freedom from central NOT local government dictat because schools have had a great deal of autonomy since the Local Management of Schools in 1988), greater control over admissions (for control read the ability to covertly select intake to avoid the most difficult pupils). Yes there are some direct benefits – or bribes – on offer from the DfE but a lot of schools are converting simply because they fear being left behind when other local schools are converting and they realise that they need to be able to compete for bums on seats or their budgets will suffer.

      Nobody actually appears to care about the impact on the most vulnerable pupils with parents who can’t or won’t engage or push for their child’s interests. Collaboration is now old hat and competition is the order of the day.

    • Janet Downs says:

      The comparison between the extras provided for the Armed Forces and perks for teachers is a false one. The country has a covenant with members of the Armed Forces to care for their families.

      However, you are correct in saying that teachers should receive adequate reward. Teachers in the UK are already paid less than graduates in other professions. However, teachers don’t do it for the money. They are motivated by a sense of vocation. And you are right when you say teaching is stressful, not least because of the constant initiatives heaped on teachers by successive governments, and the pillorying in the media of teachers in the state education system (particularly those in comprehensive schools, or those in schools where the intake is skewed towards the bottom end of the ability range).

      As an ex-teacher, I would not have wanted private health insurance paid for out of the school budget. It is not an appropriate use of school funds.

  4. O. Spencer says:

    Sarah,

    I’d fund the Education budget by cutting things like aid to China and India, high speed rail, numerous PFI projects and so on. As I’m not in the Treasury I can’t be more specific about costings, but I’d prioritise state education and health over most areas of public spending, as to most of us it’s the single most important factor in our society.

    Of course I appreciate that schools are for educating children and not minding them. However, the perception among some working parents is that so long as the kids are at school, that’s time that they don’t have to worry about them and can do their own things – work, etc. in that time.

    With siblings of different ages, I’m sure a practical. pragmatic solution can be reached. The inconvenience to parent’s days and timetabling is surely cancelled out by the extra benefit of more teaching at no extra cost. It’s not the case that the Free Schools are extending their school days without very good reason.

    Again – I repeat what I raised earlier – longer terms mean less ‘holiday’ time that poorer parents have to fill with expensive activities, childcare, etc. The documentary Poor Children the other week emphasised this when one of the young girls said it’s the holidays that are the worst, not being able to afford an ice cream, etc.

    Yet again on this site we see ‘covert selection’ being wheeled out as the tool of the Free Schoolers and the middle classes. This happens in nearly every borough up and down the country. Selection by mortgage. This is just as morally wrong in whichever school it occurs. And it occurs at most comprehensives.

    One of my criticisms of Free Schools is that they ultimately cannot escape selection by mortgage, something that really would liberate the children of the poor to attend good, academic schools.

    Despite this, I really believe that for ‘the most vulnerable pupils with parents who can’t or won’t engage or push for their child’s interests’ Free Schools, with an academically rigorous education, tough standards on discipline and behaviour, longer school days and terms are a better solution to this, in some areas, than existing comprehensives.

    I see no problem in schools realising they will have to fight to get bums on seats. Why have a bog-standard comp that parents who can’t afford to go private or move to a leafier area are forced to send their kids to? How is that fair? Schools have no incentives to improve if they know their next intake is just waiting to start.

    The Headmistress of Henbury School is against the Bristol Free School because parents might want to opt for the alternative to her poor school – where last year more than 60% of pupils left without real meaningful qualifications for the outside world. Does anyone care about the impact on that 60% ?

    If everyone decides that there are alternatives to Henbury School and the school has to close – is that a national tragedy?

    Collaboration achieved little else besides keeping standards low, expectations low, and parents without an alternative.

    • Janet Downs says:

      O Spencer – your point about extended school days and longer terms is interesting. However, the primary purpose of schools is to educate children not act as un-paid baby-minders. Extending a school day might sound rigorous (and is a good marketing ploy) but in Finland, the top-performing European country, pupils have fewer hours of instruction than students in any other OECD country. And then there is the effect of expecting teachers to work extra hours in the classroom. The OECD says that “high-school teachers in the UK teach more hours [than the OECD average]” while “Japan or Korea pay their teachers comparatively well and provide them with ample time for other work than teaching.” In other words, there is recognition that good teaching doesn’t just rely on teacher-contact hours, but the amount of time teachers spend outside the classroom on planning and assessment.

      http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/33/8/46624007.pdf

      http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/34/44/46581035.pdf

      And extending school terms may not be as advantageous to parents as you claim. Already, parents have to arrange their family holidays when holiday costs are highest because demand is heaviest. Add to this different term times and shorter holidays, then parents may find they have even less time in which to arrange a family break.

      However, your question about why schools are rushing to convert is relevant. The short answer is, I don’t know. I suspect, but I have little evidence except a few consultation letters posted on school’s websites, that the main reason is money. But as I argue above, there is no extra money. Another is the fear of being left behind, a fear of being seen as slow and resistant to change. However, this resistance may in the future be regarded as a quality. When schools realise what they’ve let themselves in for with all those complex administration and legal responsibilities, and parents realise they can’t complain locally but have to appeal directly to the Secretary of State, and schools find there is no extra money, and they’ll have to wait seven years to rescind their academy status, then I think academies and parents will realise that Governing Bodies acted in haste, but are repenting at leisure.

      • O. Spencer says:

        Janet,

        One quick comment.

        Many poor families have no hope of ever having a family holiday. The concern of trying to arrange one in the expensive school holiday period is thus irrelevant to them! That’s why I believe that the most disadvantaged are clearly the main beneficiaries of the longer hours and terms.

        I wasn’t trying to say that keeping them in longer guarantees better outcomes. However, for the very poorest, who like you said on another thread can’t afford the music lessons and other activities benefit from their children being able to have drama classes, debating, model UN etc. as part of their school day. No travelling to community centres to attend such events.

        Of course, it is perfectly possible to argue that the main ‘losers’ will be the squeezed middle – not on FSM and able to take a holiday but always just keeping their heads above water.

        • Janet Downs says:

          You are, of course, correct in saying that disadvantaged families can have little hope of having a holiday. However, that doesn’t alter the fact that schools are not in the business of providing free child care – their prime function is to provide education. Many local authorities provide free activities for children, as do groups like the YMCA, during holidays.

          You say that the disadvantaged would be the main beneficiaries of longer hours and term times. This may be the case for some but there are others who would find longer school days difficult. This is because some children are carers, or are expected to pick up younger children from school. Some of the older ones have part-time jobs. Extending school days would discourage such children from attending a school which has longer hours because they could not fit in their responsibilities.

  5. Janet Downs says:

    The Times Educational Supplement (TES) has two reports today about newly-converted academies being charged large amounts for the licence for their management information system (MIS) in what could be an abuse of competition law. One school head told the TES that the academy was now disadvantaged financially by having converted. To read the stories in full go to:

    http://www.tes.co.uk/article.aspx?storycode=6090198

    http://www.tes.co.uk/article.aspx?storycode=6090231

  6. Kate Johnston says:

    Janet

    “Claim: Academies can free themselves from the control of local authorities. Fact: Schools already have a great deal of autonomy”

    The primary school which my children attend is in the process of consulting on academy status. I think that one of the reasons for this is that the LA recently forced the school to take on an extra class per year, caused all sorts of upset about expanding the building, tried to force through a very unpopular admissions policy and now has created a new additional site for the school a good 15 minute walk away. All of this has taken a lot of time away from the headteacher. So I question how much autonomy schools do actually have. Not a lot in this case.

    • What was the unpopular admissions policy?

      • Kate Johnston says:

        Allan

        The unpopular admissions policy was based on creating two priority zones – one zone around the main school site and one around the new site. The site around the main school would be priority one (and would actually have probably taken all the places) and the other zone (unlikely to get any places) around the new site. The main reason for this was because of the uproar from families living around the new site who would be very unlikely to get into the school based on distance from the main building. However, the priority zones proposed would have had little impact on the families close to the new site. They also proposed to stop sibling places if the family had moved out of the priority zones. The zones proposed seemed to include very little social housing. The consultation resulted in the proposal being rejected so the admissions is back to distance from the main building – meaning that people who live opposite the new site are unlikely to get a place at the school. As a result of this, there is a campaign around the new site to set up a primary free school.

        All of this has been as a result of decisions by the LA.

        • Kate
          From what you say, it sounds like the LA was trying to meet the needs of the community. Then you had a consultation. The LA then listened to the feedback.

          If you have a Free School what chance is there of it trying to meet the wider needs of the community, or ever offering a public consultation? What happens if you don’t like what the Free School proposes?

        • I am assuming the new site is replacing the existing one and that this is not one school on two sites?

          I think this is quite a difficult one, as the LA has to meet the needs of the local community around the existing school as well as to take into consideration the immediate community around the new school. Whichever decision, either one of the two zones would feel disadvantaged. Since the LA held a consultation, it looks as if the fairer decision was made, but one which perhaps the parents in the zone of the new site aren’t happy with.

          I can’t help thinking that setting up a free school in the new zone won’t help matters would, in fact, be a perfect illustration of how free schools are being set up in direct competition with local schools and to serve the needs of a community which feels the provision they are offered are inadequate. Not only that, but part of the impetus seems to be a reaction against the perceived failures of the LA, who can be demonized for tackling a situation properly and fairly.

          Surely what the government should be doing is not encouraging these divisions which not only splits communities but accountability as well – free school directly to Michael Gove, new site school to the LA, both with quite different and opposing responsibilities and expectations! I wonder how efficiently or fairly any disputes would be handled by an already overstretched Education Secretary and DfE. It would have been a better solution if the new school were large enough to manage the intake of both zones and this would have cut out the temptation of a free school. Or expanding the size of the present school? It seems more sensible and cost efficient, never mind less risky, to invest in expansion of existing schools and provision rather than pit schools against each other and divide communities.

    • Janet Downs says:

      Local authorities still control admissions to their maintained schools as I said in my original post. However, the rhetoric coming from the Government is that local authorities have a huge amount of control over schools which stifles innovation. That is untrue.

      As far as a need for places is concerned, local authorities had a duty to act when extra places were needed or surplus places had to be removed. However, if a local authority now wants to build a school to provide extra places it will be unable to do so because the Government has mandated that all new schools should be either free schools or academies.

      I am unsure how the problem you outline would be solved if all schools were outside LA control. Would parents have to ask the DfE to provide extra places, or would the DfE say that if parents want extra places then they would have to set up a free school or contact a chain to provide one for them? That’s an interesting question, one I hadn’t thought of, and I haven’t got an answer.

      • Janet – I wonder if this conundrum has been addressed by Michael Gove?

      • Local Authorities will still have a statutory duty to ensure an adequate supply of school places – it’s just that a community school will no longer be an option for delivering those extra places. Effectively the local authority becomes a commissioner which will go to Academy sponsors or free school proposers and encourage them to bid to open a school. Only if nobody else is interested will the local authority be able to consult on opening a new community school. There are a few issues with this – what happens if a local community wants a locally accountable community schools maintained by the local authority rather than the Secretary of State? In this brave new world of choice this is one choice which parents are denied!

        • I spoke at a fringe meeting with Michael Gove at last year’s Tory Party conference and asked him why, if he was so keen on parent choice, he would not allow parents to set up new maintained community schools if that was what they wanted.
          He said he would consider that if any parent group got in touch with him.
          Sadly none appears to have felt able to do this ( yet). The Education Bill makes a new community school very difficult but there are other more’ autonomous’ models within the maintained sector – community trusts for example.
          We would be interested in supporting any group who would like to pursue this.

  7. Janet Downs says:

    I expect that it’s one of the unintended consequences of the academies/free schools programme that no-one thought about at the time the Bill was rushed through Parliament. Perhaps I’ll write to my long-suffering MP – although I don’t suppose the DfE will bother to answer.

  8. Janet Downs says:

    In the article below, Sir Tim Brighouse outlines concerns about the huge amount of control the Secretary of State is giving to himself – powers which will allow him and future Secretaries of State to have unprecedented control of state education (so much for localism, so much for democracy). Sir Tim comments about the academy programme, including a caution against academy chains, and reveals that a speaker in the Lords has admitted that there is “no vision” for what schools will be like five years after a market in schools has been created.

    http://www.sec-ed.co.uk/cgi-bin/go.pl/article/article.html?uid=84671;section=Features“;type_uid=2

  9. M Creed says:

    O. Spencer claimed that “A longer term means that the overall educational experience will be closer to that offered by private schools – at no direct cost to the parent.”

    In fact, a longer term means that the overall educational experience will be FURTHER FROM that offered by private schools – state schools already have longer terms than private.

    • O. Spencer says:

      M Creed quotes me, and then fails to understand my quote in his subsequent point.

      Yes, I did state that ‘ a longer term means that the overall educational experience will be closer to that offered by private schools – at no direct cost to the parent.’

      Why? Because as I made clear the extra curricular activities which form part of the extended day, and of which there are more seeing as the terms are longer – equip pupils with the all-important ‘soft’ skills – communication, teamwork, interpersonal, initiative, public speaking, confidence – offered by private schools in similar activities.

      So, while the length of terms may be different – I didn’t claim that state school terms were too short in comparison to independent schools – the actual ‘experience’ – extra-curricular as well as academic, will resemble better the independent model.

      So yes, M Creed, in a comparison of term lengths there will be some difference. That’s hardly the most important issue.

      On the substantive, the extra opportunities offered by the proposed schools will help to redress the deficit of skills and experiences state school pupils miss out on compared with their private school counterparts.

      • Janet Downs says:

        It’s quality, not quantity, that counts. As I’ve said before, pupils in Finland, the top-performing European nation in the OECD PISA 2009 tests, have fewer teacher contact hours than other nations. And this is not at the cost of the skills that O Spencer mentions above, since these are highly-prized and delivered through the core curriculum.

        The reason why so many independent schools have a large number of extra-curricula activities is that many of them are also boarding schools. It is, therefore, necessary for the schools to find activities which will occupy their pupils. It would be interesting to know how many non-boarding pupils take part in non-compulsory extra-curricula activities at their schools. Most children do not board. They live at home and have a family life.

        Most state schools offer extra-curricula activities which children are free to take up. Because there is no compulsion these obviously attract only those children who are keen. Other children may be unwilling, or unable because of family commitments, and these will not take advantage of these activities. That is not the fault of the schools (although the problem of children with pressing family commitments that impact on their education and well-being needs addressing).

        In any case, the OECD has warned that the excessive emphasis on grades in the English education system may crowd out important non-cognitive skills. This is a more important consideration than whether to extend school days or term times. The latter is little more than a marketing ploy by academies/free schools trying to show they will be more committed and rigorous than neighbouring schools. It’s not necessary – if they can do it in Finland with fewer hours, then so can UK schools.

        • O. Spencer says:

          Of course Janet you are right to point out that boarders enjoy an educational and pastoral experience not shared by day pupils and state school pupils.

          The problem of emphasis on grades is important, yes. But so is the increasing gap in attainment between private and state school pupils, as is the alarming statistic that out of 80,000 kids eligible for FSM, only 176 got 3 As at A Level. The pupil premium might help this, but throwing money at education as we have done has not really changed much in relation to the private sector in this country and our international competitors. In fact it has made us worse in relation.

          Ultimately spending can’t overcome a culture of low expectations and low attainment that has become imbedded in British state schools.

          We spend as a proportion of GDP about the same as Finland on secondary education, yet we do not enjoy the top spot in the league tables.The last government increased spending on education and yet independent schools have still pulled away from state schools in attainment and access to top universities.
          Now, yes I know that private schools select and are very tough on those who might not make the grade. As I have explained elsewhere and at length, state schools also select – covertly by postcode/mortgage and overtly by aptitude. We agree that musical aptitude is a bad selection tool as the middle classes are favoured.

          The terrible thing about state schools is their failure to point kids towards the right subjects if they want to go to university. Come on, it’s not that hard for a teacher to look up the Russell Group list of ‘facilitating subjects’ at A Level or to look at the LSE ‘black list’. So why don’t the kids know this? Careers guidance tutors in schools who aren’t imparting these cold and hard facts to the pupils should be sacked. I suspect there’s a tendency to encourage the softer, vocational options as of course being academic isn’t for everyone..

          Whoever tells children that some BTEC or other is ‘equivalent’ to 4 GCSEs should likewise be dismissed.

          It is this kind of environment, pushing the softer over the harder, that disadvantages children even before they sit exams.

          Perhaps it is a marketing ploy, Janet, or perhaps it isn’t. Maybe well-versed parents will know the OECD data and see that time spent at school doesn’t really impact attainment. Or perhaps they will decide they’d like the choice of a school that offers more than what they have at the moment. And again, what is so wrong with that?

          Funding follows the pupil. Schools can’t claim an absolute *right* to have some money if they do not spend it wisely or produce good outcomes.

          We’ve had a decade of massively increased spending on education. I’d argue that the costs of the BSF programme were too high and better directed elsewhere. The capital costs of building free schools may be high, but are still much lower than BSF. Not all free schools will draw so much on the public purse.

  10. Janet Downs says:

    O Spencer – you are right about a culture of low expectations and low attainment but this is not the sole responsibility of schools. The culture in which children live is one which, especially for girls, emphasises superficial “qualities” instead of educational achievement. And it’s wrong to say that this culture is a feature of state schools – it isn’t. Most teachers want their pupils to achieve to the highest standard possible. However, teachers also realise that some of their pupils are struggling against the odds. This may be caused by many factors: being at the low end of the ability range, having special educational needs, inability to speak English (and this applies to pupils whose mother tongue is English as well as to those for whom English is a second language), pressing family responsibilities, poverty, parental indifference and so on. Children in this group will be harder to educate than children without these disadvantages yet schools are expected to achieve results as high as other schools whose intake of disadvantaged children is low.

    You say that the gap between the British private sector and the state sector is wide. Judged on PISA reading results alone, this would be true. However, as I’ve pointed out elsewhere on this site (including yesterday in my reply to Toby Young’s assertion that the British independent education was the best in the world), the OECD has said that once socio-economic factors are considered UK state schools outperform privately-managed ones.

    http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/33/8/46624007.pdf

    One cannot judge schools without looking at the context in which they work. Mr Gove, of course, thinks you can, and he has scrapped the Contextual Value Added (CVA) score with the OECD said was a step in the right direction.*

    One thing you said had me cheering. That is your support for careers education and guidance which has been a Cinderella subject in school for decades. John Hayes, the Minister for Further Education, Skills and Lifelong Learning, is a passionate advocate of careers education and guidance, and he has inserted into the Education Bill a clause which makes it mandatory for schools to offer independent careers advice. However, his vision needs money, and the Times Educational Supplement (24 June 2011) warned that careers advice will be reduced severely as cuts hit services.

    http://www.tes.co.uk/article.aspx?storycode=6090249

    The danger is that without adequate funding schools will provide the minimum of careers education and guidance. Schools will be able to buy in advice and with budget restraints this may be little more than buying access to a computer programme designed to match pupils, aspirations, qualifications and courses. A big problem with careers ed and guidance is that schools with sixth-forms automatically assume that their high-fliers will stick with them and so these schools don’t give a full resume of all the options. As you said, money follows students, so schools with sixth forms are not going to advise their students to go to the FE college down the road.

    *OECD Economic Surveys UK 2011 (not freely available on the internet – see my reply to Toby Young to find out how to get a copy)

  11. Janet, have you any idea how we can mount a legal challenge to the academy? Or who to complain to (above the governors) so we can derail these plans until a democratic decision has been reached?

    I’ve got FIVE working days left before the (laughable) consultation period closes.

  12. Marc – I’m sorry I’ve only just read your comment asking about how to mount a legal challenge to an academy. Try the Anti-Academies Alliance. In the meantime, you could email the governors of the school with your objections if you haven’t done so already.

  13. [...] http://www.localschoolsnetwork.org.uk/2011/06/the-myths-of-academy-conversion/ -The Local Schools Network address the myths of academy conversion http://www.hcaa.org.uk/about-academies/about-academies-2/ ‘Why we oppose acadamies’ A report by the Haringey Campaign Against Academies group [...]

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The myths of academy conversion

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