I am not that surprised that Gove is encouraging independent schools to stick their oar into Academies and state schools. It is further proof, if more is needed, that the ideology behind them is not really a coherent policy to improve education across the board for everyone (but particularly for the most disadvantaged) but to favour those in much less need of help and attention.
This is Gove’s leg-up for elitism, in this case the business (they’re not really charities in the way that people think of what charities actually do – ie help the poor and needy) of private schooling, which is going through a phase bad enough for Anthony Seldon to lament that “Academies are now becoming a real threat to those independent schools on narrow margins”. Well yes. Is it was reported this week that more and more private schools are turning to debt collection agencies to pursue parents who are defaulting or falling into arrears with fees as a result of the harsh economic climate for which the government is failing to resolve. One agency expects to collect £9m from parents in arrears on school fees by the end of this year.
Seven private schools have so far become academies, although at present the number considering conversion is not known. Academies are being re-branded as a free alternative to private schools, which does nothing to support the argument that they are comprehensively inclusive and everything to make them appeal to the section of the impoverished middle class still clinging on to maintaining the appearance of social superiority.
The case was further damaged when a group of prominent backbench Tory MPs, led by Graham Brady, tabled an amendment to the education bill calling for independent schools to be allowed to select their pupils on ability even if they opted out of the private sector and turned into academies. Although withdrawn, Brady told MPs in the Commons that he would "continue to argue the case".
I don’t see how any of this helps needier families or children in areas where school admissions are not to be dominated by parents lucky enough to have to ponder whether they can just about scrape school fees together. How does this address education across the board in a way that successful LA maintained have not been doing?
Anthony Seldon concluded that “The way forward for the independent sector is not to remain in splendid isolation but to engage with the national education system, and to do so from a position of confidence and strength.” No wonder the confused and misguided Katherine “Snuffy” Birbalsingh has boasted he is helping her with her free school.