In July, 2010, only weeks after becoming Secretary of State, Michael Gove met with the Foundation and Aided Schools National Association (FASNA
). Shortly afterwards, when the Academies Bill had been rushed through Parliament, Gove addressed its autumn conference. But FASNA’s name had changed – it was now the Foundation, Aided Schools and Academies
Since then FASNA has been in the forefront of persuading schools to become academies. Just as the New Schools Network endorses free schools, FASNA backs academy conversion. It offers seminars and co-produces the Academy Magazine
which contains numerous advertisements from companies offering services supplied to non-academies by local authorities (LAs).
Mr Gove admires FASNA - he described members as being “pioneers of excellence” in a speech
to mark its 20th anniversary. But FASNA began in December 2004 and that isn’t twenty years ago.
So where did the 20 years come from? FASNA
says the organisation grew from the Association of Head Teachers of Grant Maintained Schools (AHGMS) which began in 1992. It says it merged with AFVAS, AHFAS and FAVASA* in 2004. But AHGMS is not named at either Companies House or the Charities Commission as one of the organisations that amalgamated to form FASNA. And FASNA’s Financial Statement for the year ending 31 March 2009 (available from Charity Commission website
) describes FASNA thus:
“Foundation and Aided Schools National Association - The Merger of AFVAS, AHFAS and FAVASA is constituted as a company limited by guarantee and a registered charity. It is governed by its written constitution and was incorporated on 3 December 2004.”
But this didn’t stop Mr Gove from wishing FASNA a rather premature happy 20th birthday. Neither did it prevent him from portraying FASNA as a small band of plucky pioneers fighting for Freedom and Autonomy over two decades.
So why is FASNA promoting the idea that it sprouted from the Association of Head Teachers of Grant Maintained (GM) Schools? It was only one of many institutions associated with GM schools and was not identified as one of the merged groups which formed FASNA. One of FASNA’s named predecessors, the Association of Foundation and Voluntary Aided Schools, was formed in 1970 so why didn’t Mr Gove celebrate FASNA’s 42nd birthday?
Could it be because AFVAS doesn’t have head teachers in its name? Mr Gove likes to promote heads as being lone warriors in the same mould as Sir Michael Wilshaw’s “Pale Rider”.
And the Association of Foundation and Voluntary Aided Schools sounds rather too wishy-washy – it hints at a more collegiate group rather than one which leads troops into battle.
Could it be because AFVAS was established before Grant Maintained schools, forerunners of academies, were established? AFVAS doesn’t contain the words “Grant Maintained” in its name and Mr Gove wants to portray Grant Maintained schools as being radical institutions which fought for Freedom and Autonomy.
The impetus behind school improvement, said Mr Gove, is “greater Freedom and Autonomy”. But in his Happy Birthday FASNA speech he forgot Local Management of Schools (LMS) established in 1988 which resulted in LAs delegating “a high proportion of budget and all management responsibilities
” to all
schools. And he ignored the 2009 OECD research
that found UK schools were among only four countries that allowed the greatest freedom to all head teachers. According to Gove, FASNA alone brought Freedom and Autonomy.
So FASNA has been born again. It’s now the Freedom and Autonomy for Schools – National Association
. I’m surprised it didn’t go further and call itself the School Liberation Front
. But that would make it look silly.
*AFVAS: Association of Foundation and Voluntary Aided Schools ; AHFAS: the Association of Headteachers of Foundation and Aided Schools; FAVASA: the Foundation and Voluntary Aided Schools Association Ltd