A chance exchange on Twitter last month with Michael Gove's political adviser turned civil servant Sam Freedman prompted me to take a closer look at whether the Coalition really does have a plan for school improvement.
The full version of my Guardian column on this subject is here
and my conclusion more worrying than I had originally envisaged it might be. Schools policy increasing resembles the half baked plans for the economy and health service; ideologically driven, not based on evidence and with no plan B. There appears to be only one trick in the box when it comes to schools that are struggling - academy take-over. Yet the Schools Commissions Dr Liz Sidwell
has already admitted that there are academies that are already causing her great concern, suggesting that structural change doesn't in fact lead automatically to school improvement.
With reduced LA resources and no local education services in some areas, where all schools are being encouraged to opt out, it is hard to see who intervenes in non sponsored schools that start to fail and also what levers will be available. Even some of the existing academy sponsors are clearly worried about this - when I interviewed ARK managing director Lucy Heller this summer about the role of academy chains
, she was diplomatic but suggested : "There needs to be something, apart from Ofsted, standing between schools and outright failure."
No wonder the Secretary of State is starting to get a bit jittery as Janet Downs pointed out here
. It is conceivable indeed quite likely that, in 3-4 years time, he or his successor will be presiding over more, not fewer failing schools and some form of local framework for intervention ( rather like extremely effective London Challenge
) will have to be reintroduced.