What choice for children in Pimlico when one academy chain has a monopoly?

Janet Downs's picture
There are four primary schools in Pimlico – plenty of choice for parents, then? But when three of the four are run by the same academy chain, then choice becomes rather limited. Future Academies, set up by Conservative Party donor John Nash before he was fast-tracked to the peerage in order to become an education minister in the Lords, runs three Pimlico primary schools:

1 Pimlico Primary free school where the head, Annaliese Briggs, quit only a few weeks after the school opened in September. Ms Briggs was appointed despite having no teaching qualification and no teaching experience.

2 Churchill Gardens Community Primary where the acting head, Susan Rankin-Reid, resigned amid claims of bullying by the academy chain.

3 Millbank Academy which converted to academy status in September 2012.

All schools in the Future Academies group use the same “Core Knowledge” curriculum. This was developed in the early 1990s in the USA by E D Hirsch. It was adapted for the UK by the short-lived head of Pimlico Primary free school, Annaliese Briggs, and published by Civitas, the right-leaning think tank. It’s promoted by schools minister, Liz Truss, and admired by Education Secretary, Michael Gove, whose revised national curriculum was inspired by Hirsch.

It’s not the purpose of this thread to discuss the merits or otherwise of the Core Knowledge curriculum. Reviewers* of the first book in the series on Amazon were divided between those who found it a valuable resource and those who thought it was “pretty appalling”. If any Pimlico parent is in the latter group then they aren’t going to be happy about their child being taught using the resource. But they won’t have much choice because three-quarters of the local primary schools use this curriculum.

There’s a myth that local authorities (LAs) “control” schools. This is debunked here. However, no LA mandates a curriculum in the same way as Future Academies.

And there’s the rub – academies are supposed to bring freedom but conversion sometimes brings chains. Academies are supposed to allow parents more choice – but there is no choice when one academy chain has a monopoly. Academies are supposed to be more innovative – but there’s little room for innovation when the curriculum is imposed from above.

“They create a prison and call it freedom”.


*Amazon reviewers are self-selecting. The reviews, therefore, aren’t a representative sample.

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