Academies for all? Why the hell aren’t parents and teachers manning the barricades?!

Rejoice! The Chancellor has delivered us from darkness! All schools to become academies! Parent governors abolished in favour of professionals with ‘the right skills’! Extended hours for our secondary colleagues! Sugary drinks taxed! What could possibly go wrong with such a great plan? Kevin Harcombe a primary school headteacher writes in Teachwire.

I’ve nothing against academies. Like morris dancing or swinging – all very well if you like that sort of thing, just not for me. My governors have looked at conversion on more than one occasion and decided that the only people to benefit would be the lawyers, who would gain about £25k from the process. Also, they rightly fear being swallowed up by some massive multi-academy trust (MAT), perhaps a subsidiary of G4S (who run our prisons so well) or KFC (‘This school is finger lickin’ good’ – Colonel Wilshaw), and lose our distinctive, slightly quirky, but highly successful character. Now that element of choice has been taken away from us in the biggest shake up in education since, well, the last biggest shake up in education.

Has the government made a forensically detailed and persuasive case for all schools to become academies? Has it explained to me how becoming an academy will improve the excellent parent-teacher meetings I’ve just sat in on? Or how our Forest School will be enhanced by paying £25k to solicitors? Has it demonstrated, in short, that it will be better for our children than it is currently under the supposed ‘dead hand’ of the local authority (admittedly, I work in one of the best-performing local authorities in the country)? Has it, my arse! But it’ll steamroller it through anyway. I might as well just throw my car keys in the bowl with all the others and get my bells and stick.

I’ve met people who work for MATs whose job it is to set targets for headteachers and then descend on them, like Dementors on Harry Potter, each fortnight to review their progress. I have not been impressed. Some of them, appalling generalisation here, were not terribly bright. But they were very good at following formulaic evaluations and dab hands at placing ticks in boxes. The trouble with successful education is that it’s not always possible to quantify what makes it successful, though of course that doesn’t stop everyone, including me, trying. You simply extrapolate from the best and transplant everywhere, like rolling out a Starbucks franchise, right? Vision? Check. Assessment for Learning? Check. Coaching? Check.

Eighty-five per cent of England’s primary schools have looked at academy conversion and said ‘no thanks’. Wrong answer it would seem. Now will those thousands of primaries jump or wait to be pushed? Some schools, perfectly happy and successful under LA control, will panic and go early with DfE sweeteners (has to be sweeteners because sugar is banned) – a year’s supply of Pritt Sticks, perhaps, or a signed portrait of Nicky Morgan to hang in the school hall.

Soon, though, carrot will become stick until eventually, come 2022, the last local authority maintained primary school in England, its fabric crumbling, though principled resolve undimmed; its ragged flag fluttering in the breeze behind barricades made from old tidy trays, Gove Bibles and interactive whiteboards, will be pummelled by the legal firepower of government forces, as the school band strikes up a final defiant air and the dishevelled teachers and parents lift their voices: ‘Do you hear the people sing, singing the song of angry men, it is the music of the people who will not be slaves again!’ Miserables? Too bloody right, mate; miserables as sin.

Read the full article Academies for all? Why the hell aren’t parents and teachers manning the barricades?!

Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin

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Categories: Academies and Primary.


  1. Parent Governor

    Legal costs for a simple academy conversion should be circa £6k. Also, why should you lose your distinctive character and ethos? The biggest risk to character and ethos is a change of personnel, not a change of status. I agree you need to chose your MAT partners carefully, because if you don’t then obvioulsy it must be “their” fault.

  2. wasateacher

    Parent Governor: once the decision has been made to become an academy those involved in the school lose all control. This is especially true if the school joins a multi academy trust and there is no way to reverse the process. Many standalone converter academies have found it difficult to survive as a single academy, without the support provided by the local authority (however good or bad that is). Those which join a multi academy trust have no security and may find themselves handed over to another academy trust, having been stripped of some of its assets or left with debts. Durand, One World, Walsall College, Shared Learning Trust, Samworth, Reach 2, Templar Academy Schools, Academies South West, Reach 4, Wakefield Academies Enterprise Trusts are just some of the Academy Trusts which have handed schools over or been looking to dump schools (which are profitable??) on other academy trusts. One school in the Isle of Wight has had to be handed back to the local authority because no academy trust would take it over when the trust running it collapsed.

    That is why the school loses its character and ethos: because each academy trust attempts to impose its own character and ethos on every school it takes on. There is no security or stability in the world of academies. Academy trusts are only interested in schools until they face problems.

  3. wasateacher

    You might be interested in looking at something I presented to retired teachers on some of the waste of money in the world of academisation and “free” schools:

    At a time when schools are increasing class sizes in order to cut the number of teachers and employing unqualified teachers to cut costs, the increasing commercialisation of education, via the academy programme, is leeching money into private pockets. Remember that all academy trusts charge schools for their services so individual schools may end up poorer.

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