Call for public inquiry into academies and free school programme

Alasdair Smith's picture
The Anti Academies Alliance is today calling for a public inquiry in the the Coalition's academy  and free school programme. The revelation in the Financial Times of significant financial errors in the funding of academy converters suggests that DfE ministers and officials do not have a proper grasp of either the cost or impact of the programme. 

This should also be a matter of immediate concern to the Education Select Committee who, as yet, have failed to  provide any in depth public scrutiny.

But there are also wider concerns. As Labour Education spokesperson Stephen Twigg noted recently, Michael Gove appears to have put all his 'school improvement eggs in one basket'. His officials are now seeking to force academy conversions on primary school communities. Yet there is no evidence that this  is either an effective model for school improvement or an efficient use of public funds. 

Parents , governors, teachers and the whole education community need to have confidence that the Coalition's education policy is based on evidence rather than a narrow ideological commitment to the market, de-regulation and privatisation. After all, everyone knows that two decades of experiments in deregulation and privatisation in the financial sector has had appalling consequences. 

We cannot afford to let our education system suffer the same sort of catastrophe. We need transparency, proper democratic accountability and confidence that education policy is serving the best interests of all our children.
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Allan Beavis's picture
Fri, 09/12/2011 - 15:38

The link to the article can be found here:-

The funding errors means that But the funding errors mean that an average 1,000-pupil secondary school converting at the start of 2010-11 would have received a bonus of £118,000.

David Simmonds, the Conservative councillor in charge of schools in Hillingdon, said: “We encouraged schools to consider converting because of the financial benefit on offer.”

A 1,000-pupil secondary school in his borough, where seven schools switched, would have received a £358,000 windfall. Mr Simmonds, who now chairs the Local Government Association’s education committee, said it was “a no-brainer” and that the financial incentive to convert was “uppermost in the minds of most schools”.

Many people will see this as sheer incompetence or a cynical form of incentive. Either way, it holds Michael Gove and his running of the DfE in extremely poor light at a time when his government have led the country into recession, widened the gap between rich and poor quicker than other developed nations and increased child poverty by another 100,000

Jake's picture
Fri, 09/12/2011 - 17:42

Butthead - are we technically in a recession? And to keep Janet happy, could you also provide URL links to some objective sources that back up your statement that the government has 'widened the gap between rich and poor quicker than other developed nations and increased child poverty by another 100,000'.

In terms of the ongoing FT anti-Gove campaign, I would draw your attention to the attached blog from September - which of course may or may not be true but it does add some potential context to the FT article:

Janet Downs's picture
Fri, 09/12/2011 - 17:58

Jake - are you seriously offering a blog which "may or may not be true" to add some "potential context" to the Financial Times article? To put the blog in its context - it's not the first time the author of the blog has suggested that any criticism of Mr Gove is part of a smear campaign - see link below to read a similar charge against the Guardian.

I look forward to Mr Gove using the phrase "may or may not be true" in his next speech. At least that would be more honest that his continued use of faulty OECD data and selective use of OECD research.

Toby Young's picture
Mon, 12/12/2011 - 00:14

The only part of my blog post Christopher Cook has denied is that he was made redundant by CCHQ (though I double sourced it). To be fair to him, that doesn't mean he's tacitly endorsing any of the other claims made in that post – he told me he stopped reading it when he got to the bit about being made redundant. But I stand by the story.

Given this site's general concern for truth and accuracy, could Alasdair Smith clear something up for me? What are the links between the Anti-Academies Alliance and the Socialist Workers Party? Are you, Alasdair, a member of the SWP? Have you ever been? If the answer's yes, have you ever served on the Party's Central or National Committee? Have any of the leaders of the Anti-Academies Alliance ever been members of the SWP? If so, have they ever been members of the Party's Central or National Committee? Does the Anti-Academies Alliance receive any of its funds from the SWP? Where does the funding for the Anti-Academies Alliance come from?

Thanks in advance for answering these questions.

Allan Beavis's picture
Fri, 09/12/2011 - 18:02

Janet -

You don't really need me to link you to evidence of child poverty rates to keep you "happy" do you? They are readily available and have been much researched and discussed recently.

Jake's picture
Fri, 09/12/2011 - 18:18

Someone has to be the standard bearer for truth and integrity on this site, to add some balance to all the loony left ranting.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Mon, 12/12/2011 - 00:33

Here's some info Toby:

It was a useful sources of info for me when I was a teacher being 'academyised'. It doesn't come across as being a SWP influenced organisation to me (having encountered the SWP in person and online). It's the same organisation that's been operation through the Labour Academies years isn't it?

What makes you suspect it's an SWP thing Toby?

By the way Toby, I'm not anti-Gove. I'm just anti-'detrimental and destructive policy in education':
Just thought I'd point that out as you seem to have a bit of a blind spot for being able to tell the difference.

Allan Beavis's picture
Mon, 12/12/2011 - 09:29

Toby -

If the Anti-Academies Alliance or some of its members are associated with unions, what has that got to do with it highlighting the financial and ideological mismanagements of the government?

In 2005, Cameron attracted Euro sceptic support by promising to pull the Tories out of the pro-integration alliance of centre-right parties (the EPP), did so and then formed a rival anti-integration group with a dubious consortium of Eastern European parties with nationalist, homomophobic and anti-semitic connection with no influence in Europe.

By this measure, I think that if the AAA have received funds from SWP, at least they aren't now guilty by association of Far Right tendencies, homophobia and racism.

All these questions of yours are a sideline, like Free Schools, though. What you need to answer is why you haven't voluntarily published the the Funding Agreement of West London Free School. The DfE said they would release all these agreements when the first flock of the opened. It's almost end of term - what are you, or the government, concealing?

Jake's picture
Fri, 09/12/2011 - 18:23

Butthead - more of your typical prevarication when pushed for evidence. I recall a similar tactic on your behalf on an earlier thread where the article you eventually posted to authenticate your opinion did in fact the opposite - you had misrepresented what the article had actually said about academy funding in the north east.

Sarah Dodds's picture
Fri, 09/12/2011 - 21:38

If truth and integrity is the name of the game for you, may I suggest that you drop the pathetic name calling.

Allan Beavis's picture
Fri, 09/12/2011 - 23:48

Jon -

I do hope you aren't nominating yourself for the honour of standard bearer for truth and integrity! This would surely be the delusion of the Lion Of Oz, who dares to roar only as he hides behind a half-name, lacking the moral backbone, honesty or the courage to engage or debate without revealing who he really is or who he may be embarrassing if he commented openly as himself . It is easy to take pot shots when you convince only yourself that your anonymity is safe.

Jon -

Despite the hollow bombast, you have failed to state how the KIPP model can be applied to British schools when in the States itself they have served to raise standards only for a minuscule number of students and have done nothing to transform education overall in America. Competing Charters have not benefited from the KIPP example and neither have regular public schools. KIPP basks in huge amounts of money, which had undoubtedly contributed to its alleged successes. How are those dollars going to be exchanged into pounds when Osborne has no policy for economic growth, driven up child poverty, unemployment and cut the education budget. The DfE has already said they cannot sustain Academy growth, so how does the KIPP model scale up here Jon?

Isn't it a bit like construction? If you run out of money to buy bricks and cement, you can't build the house?

Jon -

I’m interested in what you think of Bolingbroke Academy hiring a head from a comprehensive.

Toby Young's picture
Mon, 12/12/2011 - 10:25

Allan –

The SWP isn't a trade union. It's a revolutionary Trotskyist organisation committed to the overthrow of the democratically elected government of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Mon, 12/12/2011 - 11:25

Toby - when I was marching past the Tory party conference to raise awareness regarding issues with the very obvious issues associated with the public sector pensions proposals which this government needs to engage with and properly address, the SNP were there and I absolutely agree that they are an annoying distraction. The rallies where they have not been present have been far more intelligent and productive in terms of clear communication.

Why on earth you are choosing to bring them into this conversation and enhance that annoyance is beyond me.

Why are you not publishing the information which has been requested?

As an experienced lecturer in maths education I feel that I should draw your attention to the this:
Do you understand that that statement "Setting in maths will begin in year 7" is not a curriculum?

Allan Beavis's picture
Mon, 12/12/2011 - 12:40

Toby -

So you're trying to draw attention away from the government's incompetence or misappropriation of education funds by throwing in some goblins about Trotskyites?? Communism is pretty much dead. If the power of the unions has been neutered, I think the Trots have been pretty much castrated as a political threat, don't you think, so attempting to frighten the public with the Red under the Bed isn't going to work? Freedoms are being eroded in this country, not by the Trots, but by the Conservatives with their divide and rule agenda. They are doing this with their education policy, attempting through what your supporter and heel snapper Mr Chas calls Gove's tri-partite system to steer the best quality education towards an elite.

Democracy is certainly not working when under the new Education Bill Academies and Free Schools are able to vary the Admissions Code. You are repeatedly asked why you will not publish the Funding Agreement for West London Free School - although another Free Schools has voluntarily made theirs publicly available - and you ignore it. This raises suspicion that there is something you are concealing. Will you please tell us when you are publishing it? This is of far greater interest and significance to the debate on schools than whether the AAA are Trots.

Allan Beavis's picture
Fri, 09/12/2011 - 17:56

Jon -

Oh yes. Toby Young. That arbiter of good taste and the truth. I thought you had thrown your toys out of the pram and flounced off?

Janet Downs's picture
Sat, 10/12/2011 - 10:41

It's a strange "standard bearer for truth and integrity" that offers opinion without evidence, cites a blog which "may or may not be true" to provide "context", resorts to name-calling, uses generalised statements of attack such as "you can't polish a turd" (on a previous thread) and attempts to dismiss rational argument backed up with links to evidence by branding it "loony left ranting".

Jake's picture
Sat, 10/12/2011 - 12:09

STOP PRESS!!! Luddite Schools Network implodes in self-righteous hurrumph of indignation!

Tracy Hannigan's picture
Sat, 10/12/2011 - 16:39

It isn't very integrous to launch a reply with namecalling.

Tracy Hannigan's picture
Sat, 10/12/2011 - 16:57

Alasdair, what is the process from here?

Janet's picture
Sat, 10/12/2011 - 21:57

Alasdair, I was pleased to read this on the AAA website. What happens now?

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Sun, 11/12/2011 - 20:09

You may be interested in the legal points I make in this discussion:

Mr Chas's picture
Sun, 11/12/2011 - 20:27

Here's some more truth and integrity on the subject of schools.

Grammar Schools should never have been abolished. They provided excellent education for a tremendous number of kids ( There were 1200 of them ), especially the pupils of those sited in inner cities ( The first to be destroyed on the altar of politcal dogma, of course, thus damaging the working class communities that benefited the most from the system....from where I come )
The technical schools never really got going, and more attention was required to improving the options in secondary moderns. This highly selective system is very successful in countries like Germany, and Holland where I have lived and have relations. Look at their well balanced economies. These countries don't bang on about failure. ( I would have liked to see moving to your final secondary school in the UK to be at age 12 or 13 btw ) In the afformentioned countries, it's accepted that children will move to the secondary school that most matches their ability, skill set and interests. Nobody there bangs on about failing and being scarred for life....They don't have the appalling levels of functional illiteracy we have here, and they believe in fair OPPORTUNITIES for all. Nearly every child speaks at least two languages +/- fluently. Ours don't. We as a nation should be deeply ashamed.
The good news is Gove is returning us to a tri-partite system with an eye firmly focussed on the future, where we have to compete with kids educated in China, India and Brazil. Child centred learning in Singapore ? I don't think so. We will be having Academies ( Including Grammar schools for the most academically gifted ), UTC's and Studio Schools ( 14-19 ). Why did the last government do nothing to develop vocational training in schools from aged 14, with qualifications that were agreed and approved by employers ? I've met Charlie Mullins from Pimlico Plumbers, and he is extremely patriotic, but ask him what he thinks of the work ethic and literacy skills of most school leavers who knock at his door and you won't like the answer. I hope the existing Grammar schools will play their part in trying to give some justice back to bright kids marooned in inner city ghettoes. Dartford Grammar ( Brixton campus ) anyone ? I sincerely hope the Grammar schools will expand ( by satellites ) in all the inner city boroughs in London and RUB THE LIBERAL ELITE LEFT"S NOSE IN FAIR EDUCATIONAL CHOICE FOR ALL

Allan Beavis's picture
Sun, 11/12/2011 - 23:22

If any more proof were needed that the Right’s stance on “social mobility”, “helping the poor”, “creating a more just society” and “Caring Conservatives” was a sham, here it is, revealed in all it’s naked, divisive unpleasantness in the words of Mr_Chas. Having said that, I think the Tories already tore off their shabby mask when they announced the second phase of their austerity budget which protected the interests of a few whilst plunging the knife into the poorest.

I don’t know if he is a Conservative, but his words here capture both the spirit and the self-serving arrogance of a Tory-led government whose moral bankruptcy protects the wealthiest individuals and corporations which bankroll the Tory party, presides over the fastest growing divide between rich and poor in almost two decades, leads the country into economic stagnation with its disastrous policy of no economic growth, cuts the education investment budget by 60%, pushed unemployment up to almost 3 million, with 1 million of those aged between 16 to 24 and embarks on a schools reform programme based on the eventual enriching of profit making companies and a system which has failed in America.

Here is what PISA says about schools:-

The best school systems were the most equitable - students do well regardless of their socio-economic background. But schools that select students based on ability early show the greatest differences in performance by socio-economic background.

The best performing school systems manage to provide high-quality education to all students.
Canada, Finland, Japan, Korea and the partner economies Hong Kong-China and Shanghai-China all perform well above the OECD mean performance and students tend to perform well regardless of their own background or the school they attend. They not only have large proportions of students performing at the highest levels of reading proficiency, but also relatively few students at the lower proficiency levels.

This suggests that selection is not the key to high attainment across for the board for the majority of children.

Mr_Chas claimed that the “highly selective system is very successful in countries like Germany, and Holland”. This is not borne out by studies, including PISA, which puts them in same average bunch of other developed nations with similar socio-economic challenges. For good measure, he throws in China, Brazil and India but he seems ignorant of the fact the i) China per se does not feature in PISA tables – only Shanghai and Hong Kong. He might be interested to know that’s education outside these two regions are haphazard and in some cases extremely poor ii) Brazil is very low in the rankings and iii) India does not figure in the tables at all.

It is all very well Chas banging on about technical colleges and segregating children into skill sets, ability and interests but these countries abroad have not been blighted by a rigid class system exemplified by the monarchy and the Conservative party which is at its happiest when the status quo of the ruling, privileged and monied classes is enforced. This is how the technical colleges, secondary moderns and grammars were created – so that the middle classes could have access to better grammar schools because they were deemed more academically able and the working classes were shunted off to technical colleges and secondary moderns where they could learn the trades that put them back in the place to go on to serve the private and grammar schools alumni.

A handful of deserving working class got their places in grammars, but survey after report has shown that grammars are dominated by the sharp-elbowed middle classes who have the financial advantage of tutoring their children from birth in the 11+. In this scenario, the disadvantaged have little hope of competing. Grammars do not offer “choice” – there is no choice if you are selected out.

Chas basically recants the nonsense that a certain type of school – in his case, grammars, but you can easily insert Free Schools and Academies – exist to “give some justice back to bright kids marooned in inner city ghettoes”.

If the Conservatives were truly committed to justice for people from the inner city ghettos, Cameron would have not been so quick to point the finger at gangs for the riots last summer when the answer was deprivation; Gove would not have amputated funds away from schools serving the most challenging areas to fund vanity projects like some Free Schools and create a tri-partite school system which essentially mirrors the government’s priority to give more to the haves by taking away from the have-nots.

Chas adds the flourish about “functional illiteracy” – again a lie that he chooses to perpetuate either out of ignorance or to curry favour with the Tories but one which has been disputed elsewhere, not least on this website.

As he says, we, as a nation, should be deeply ashamed – but of a government and a section of society which deliberately acts to segregate, disenfranchise and polarise its population.

caz's picture
Mon, 12/12/2011 - 13:02

It seems people don't really want to mention what is actually going on in academy schools.
The youtube videos 'Ark Schools academies and eugenics', 'Ark and Eim Group' and the video 'What are ark academies? Dutroux' are essential, alos the Schillings solicitors letters received re this.

Year 7 students at Ark Academy in Brent filmed 'The Bridge'
and considered it appropriate to film the groin of an elderly stranger in the street outside this school The above videos on the cazzac111 youtube account are unfortunately being borne out in these schools so-called curriculums.

Jake's picture
Mon, 12/12/2011 - 13:06

Have you thought of joining the SWP? You'd go together well. Loony Tunes.

Alasdair Smith's picture
Mon, 12/12/2011 - 13:13

Wow, I didn’t realise Senator Joe McCarthy had been resurrected from the dead!
Janet & Tracey - I am told by someone one on the Education Select Committee that the idea of an inquiry is already being discussed. The Financial Times story makes that more pressing, in my view. Stephen Twigg has asked Mr. Gove to answer questions in the House on the matter. We will have to wait and see what that brings. In 2007, when we were establishing the AAA we held a very successful ‘Committee of Enquiry’ under the stewardship of Ken Purchase MP. It took expert evidence as well as hearing from parents and teachers about their concerns. Given that the recent British Social Attitudes survey confirmed that parents aren’t convinced by the choice agenda, I would like to see the next inquiry look more closely at the wider implications of Gove’s ‘supply-side revolution’. But, of course, this has nothing to do with politically motivated ideology!

Toby Young's picture
Mon, 12/12/2011 - 14:05

Can you answer the questions Alasdair? You and your colleagues are always demanding more transparency from academies, free schools and the DfE. Can you set an example please? Or does the obligation to be transparent only apply to your political enemies?

Allan Beavis's picture
Mon, 12/12/2011 - 14:44

I think you need to answer the question as to why you refuse to publish the Funding Agreement for West London Free School. This is not a politically motivated question - it is important for people to see under what terms Free Schools are funded and how they may differ from other types of schools. As a Chair of Governors of a school perhaps you might like to set a good example to the children under your care as to how to conduct yourself with transparency and, indeed, fairness without promoting your own ideological or political views?

When can we expect you to publish your Funding Agreement? Since St. Luke's have done so, I assume that there is no block on publishing imposed by the DfE?

Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 12/12/2011 - 15:23

Toby - you may find some of your answers by following the link below to a thread on this site when the Anti-Academies Alliance was discussed following a request by a Conservative MP that the organisation be investigated. However, to save you time scrolling through the comments I will paste here the reply I gave at the time after Jon De Maria suggested that information re the officers of the Anti-Academies Alliance could be found by a few minutes googling (which was rather annoying since if he knew the answer he could have just given readers the information):

"I have done as John de Maria said and googled the names. It took far longer than five minutes. However, this is what I found:
Bridget Chapman: NUT member
Alex Kenny: NUT member, member of Socialist Teachers’ Alliance
Alasdair Smith: Senior Lecturer in Education at London Metropolitan University
Jane Eades: ex director of Upper School, North Westminster Community School
Ken Muller, NUT member, member of the Socialist Workers’ Party. Featured in article in Times Educational Supplement 29 April 2005 concerning a disputed OFSTED report and destroyed evidence among other things."

"If I have missed some information I should be grateful to be given links, particularly if it refers to the “rough stuff” mentioned above."

"I, too, would oppose extremist groups. However, the TUC, NASUWT, NUT, ATL, UCU, UNISON, UNITE, GMB, PCS, MU and FBU are all affiliated to the Anti Academies Alliance. Are all of these organizations extremists? Or has extremist come to mean “anyone who voices opposition to the Government”?"

Jake's picture
Mon, 12/12/2011 - 14:21

Blog here on how the SWP and others on the far-left are using education to force their extreme ideology into the mainstream.

Toby Young's picture
Mon, 12/12/2011 - 16:15

Sounds like you're confirming my suspicion that the Anti-Academies Alliance is an organisation set up and run by a group of revolutionary socialists committed to the overthrow of the elected government of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The only puzzle is why you don't regard the Socialist Teachers Alliance and the Socialist Workers Party (they usually leave out the apostrophe) as "extremist groups".

Janet Lallysmith's picture
Mon, 26/12/2011 - 20:52

The Funding Agreement for the WLFS, Toby. Why won't you publish it?

Allan Beavis's picture
Mon, 12/12/2011 - 16:46

I think Cameron's flirtation with Eastern European countries - also with no influence with Europe and thus with America - with extremist views on nationalist causes, homophobia and racism is a bit more worrying than getting your knickers is a fake twist about Reds. All this is tangential and won't detract from the two important issues here which are:-

1. The government's incompetence or dishonesty in funding Academies
2. Why you are reluctant to show the British public what is in the Funding Agreement for West London Free School and how the terms and conditions for the schools differ from other schools.

Smearing organizations with different views from your own is not going to move the spotlight away from something which only you are trying to depict as an extreme political standpoint. Show us the Funding Agreement please.

Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 12/12/2011 - 17:26

Why the fuss, Toby? According to you, if someone is a member of the Socialist Workers (sic) Party, then no-one will take their views seriously. They are a "pathetic rump", the "Bash Street Kids".

In any case, this insistance of yours to link the Anti-Academies Alliance with overthrowing the elected government of GB and NI, is drawing attention from the issue: allegations of incompetence on the part of the DfE in dealing with the academy conversion programme.

Rob Shorrock's picture
Wed, 14/12/2011 - 09:03

Toby - in the past you have been at great pains to point out that parents should have more power within the state sector to shape the choice of schools and types of curriculum. I do have some sympathy with this. However, this is not the government's agenda. If it were they would have ensured that no school could become an academy without a ballot of parents (something that was mandatory for conversion to GMT in the 80s and 90s) as this would be the sure fire way of giving all parents real power. Instead, they just require governors to consult with parents before making the decision and in many cases this is just perfunctory.

Why no ballots? Is it because this would require providing parents with the evidence and arguments from both sides? Is it also a fear that, like the GM schools programme, parents would vote against in large numbers?.

Whatever you think of AAA, it provides some balance for schools that need to consider their options. Here in Lincolnshire, we have an LEA that is pro-academies, an SIS that also runs academies and wants to set up free schools and the Diocese wanting to set up an academy trust for church primaries? Schools need to get balanced information and this site helps.

Tubby Isaacs's picture
Thu, 25/04/2013 - 20:28

Interesting to read this now. It was obvious at the time that Young was talking rubbish about what should be published and what shouldn't. The Information Commissioner agreed with Cook too. Maybe he didn't know the rules.

So, have we seen Mrs Blurt yet.

Sorry for the tangent again.

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