Mr Gove maintains that academy conversion will improve schools. He calls opponents of his academy policy “enemies of promise” who are “happy with failure”. So convinced is he that conversion is a magic bullet that he is forcing “failing” primary schools to become academies with a sponsor imposed upon them if they do not comply.
Birkdale High School in Sefton became an academy in August 2011. In December Ofsted
visited and placed the school in special measures for “failing to give its pupils an acceptable standard of education”. Ofsted slated the school’s leaders, management and governors. Behaviour was inadequate; attainment too low. Staff believed the governing body didn’t have a full picture of what was going on in the school – Ofsted endorsed this view.
had judged the predecessor school to be good in 2007 and had pronounced that its leadership was outstanding. In June 2010 an Ofsted
interim assessment showed that performance at the predecessor school had been sustained.
When the school became an academy the membership of the governing body changed. Five new members were recruited. Yet despite this change in governance and the new beginning conferred by academy status, the boys in the school have not benefitted from conversion.
Perhaps the school would have failed its Ofsted even if had remained a non-academy school. Perhaps it was already on a downward trajectory. Or perhaps Ofsted has been unduly negative and underplayed the positive qualities of the school. Or could it be that the change in governance meant that governors who had been doing a good job were replaced with ones that both staff and Ofsted recognised were not fully aware of what was happening in the school?
The answer to these speculations will never be known. The real question is: what happens to the school now? Will Mr Gove remove the governing body? Will he force a sponsor onto the school?
Whatever he decides, he’s being very quiet about it.