It’s full-speed ahead for promoting academisation at the Department for Education (DfE). Education secretary Damian Hinds called upon more schools to become academies while schools minister Nick Gibb used publication of revised GCSE results yesterday to do the same.
Selected academy trusts were asked to tweet Damian Hinds’s announcement, Schools Week reveals today (subscribers' edition, article not yet available on line).
But what did this tweet actually reveal? First, ‘there are over 8,300 academies and free schools in England’. It’s not known whether ‘free schools’ include UTCs and studio schools which are a type of free school. It’s likely they are in this instance because that would inflate the number of non-academy schools. However, they’re not included in free schools’ performance at GCSE – that would greatly reduce free school exam data.
Leave that possible sleight of hand aside – the number of academies and free schools is still less than half of all schools in England. But in saying ‘thousands of pupils are benefiting from higher standards as their schools become #academies’ implies the majority of schools - the ones described sneeringly as ‘council-run schools’ – aren’t providing a similar benefit.
What kind of department and what kind of minister rubbishes the majority of schools in a system which is responsible for them all? What does it tell us about where their priorities lie? Not in supporting all schools – but in disparaging those schools which aren’t outsourced to companies and charities.
If the implied disdain to non-academies isn’t bad enough, the tweet contained a crass statement which widely deserves to be mocked. That’s because it’s hailed as showing a tipping point towards mass academization. And what was this killer statistic?
‘Over 50% of all pupils in state funded schools in England now attend an academy or free school.’
This has nothing to do with supposed merits of academies or free schools. It’s because the bulge caused by a higher birth rate in the late noughties is now moving into secondary schools. The secondary sector is heavily academized so it’s hardly surprising there will be more children in academies.
It’s demographics, stupid.
When the DfE, ministers and their acolytes treat a birth rate boom as an indisputable argument in favour of mass academization, the only sane response is to laugh. MATs which are thinking of retweeting this kind of stuff would be better to distance themselves from such tosh. And those MATs which weren't selected to take part in the smugfest should breathe a sigh of relief they weren't asked. Joining in could make them look daft.
CORRECTIONS: 25 January 2019 13.59. Two typos missed in proof reading have been corrected.
FURTHER CORRECTION 25 Janauary 2019 16.48. I changed 'unarguable argument' in the last paragraph to 'indisputable argument'. The former was a bit of a tongue-twister.