Stories + Views
The madness of small primary schools becoming academies
Gove’s vituperative speech today attacking anyone who dares to question his academies policy has genuinely surprised me and highlighted for many people like me, who are not ideologically opposed to the academies programme per se, that there are some very serious flaws in the policy. I could speculate that his speech is actually a warning shot at people on his own side who are becoming deeply concerned that “academisation” is simply not the right thing for many schools. In particular, I’ve spoken to a number of supporters of his policies in general, who are very worried about the consequences of small primary schools becoming academies. They, like many other experts, are flummoxed about how these schools will survive as entirely independent entities. While larger secondary schools have the economies of scale to become academies, it simply makes no sense for small primaries to be responsible for things like the maintaining of the fabric of their buildings, the payroll, the intricacies of the budget and the thousand other things schools have to attend to. The only realistic option for them is to join a private chain; as yet, there aren’t enough of them around though to meet the potential demand. The truth of the matter is that the small rural primary school needs a local authority to “look after it” in the way that Adrian Elliot spoke so eloquently about at the Wellington Festival last year.
The academy programme may well be popular with many secondary schools but they can, by and large, cope; but can small primary schools? Furthermore, this suggests that small free schools, which are effectively academies, without any private company may well be in trouble too. Gove’s speech addressed none of these issues; instead he went entirely on the offensive, characterising anyone who is skeptical about elements of the programme as dogmatic ideologues who couldn’t give a monkeys for poor students.