Education Secretary, Michael Gove, regularly boasts about the number of academies created since the Coalition came to power. It’s well-known he wants all schools to become academies and for local authorities (LAs) to lose any responsibility for schools in their areas. But there’ve been snags with the academies programme
1 LAs are increasingly finding it difficult to regulate school place supply.
2 The supposed academy freedoms don’t amount to much – non-academies can do most things academies can do.
3 The National Audit Office identified a huge overspend on the academies programme of £1 billion.
4 It’s impossible for the Department for Education to oversee thousands of schools from the centre.
The fiirst three points have been discussed regularly on this site. This thread will concentrate on the final snag: how to monitor thousands of schools when the middle tier has gone.
Gove’s come up with a cunning plan. He’s going to devolve responsibility for overseeing academies to eight Regional Schools Commissioners.
An advertisement in TES (6 December 2013) said the move represented “an important shifting of operational decision-making from the Department for Education”. How quickly things move. Only three years ago Gove was centralising education; now he wants to let go of the reins (just a little).
The Commissioners’ responsibilities are described as:
1 Monitoring the performance of academies.
2 Intervening to secure improvement in underperforming academies.
3 Approving applications to convert to academy status.
4 Monitoring the performance of academy sponsors, and
5 Authorising new sponsors.
The advert sets out the qualities of suitable candidates:
1 They must have “an outstanding track record of leadership” (should suit an executive principal approaching retirement).
2 They must have “high levels of drive, tenacity and resilience” (ie ride roughshod over any opposition even when 98% of parents object to academy conversion).
3 They must be able to “drive forward the academies and free schools programme with energy, passion and skill” (so, not just about monitoring academies then - must not rest until all LA schools on their patch have converted, by force if necessary).
The advert ends with a laughable piece of propaganda:
“These roles represent an extraordinary opportunity to help create a world class education system”.
But academy status doesn’t automatically improve standards. Non-academies do as well as similar academies. Two countries which enthusiastically embraced policies pushed by Gove, Sweden and USA, have fallen in PISA* tables. And the OECD has found increasing school choice has little bearing on results in PISA* tests.
The advert says the posts can be part-time positions. This suggests they are nothing more than sinecures which can be fulfilled as follows:
1 Monitoring academies: check a spreadsheet for results.
2 Intervention: email DfE to impose a sponsor on unsponsored academies.
3 Academy conversions: pass all applications on the nod.
4 Monitoring sponsors: as 1 above.
5 Authorize new sponsors: fast-track them.
The Commissioners are supposed to be “at the forefront” of the “most ambitious education reform programmes in the world”.
They’re so important that part-time working will do. But that’s because their main responsibility is not monitoring academies but pushing through more academies and free schools.
More information is available from the DfE
. Only academy fundamentalists should apply.
*Citing PISA results doesn’t imply agreement with league table rankings. This will be the subject of a future thread.