Laura McInerney: This academies plan doesn’t address schools’ real problems

Writing in the Guardian, Laura McInerney says many people are angry about George Osborne’s plan to make all of England’s schools academies by 2022, but it is unlikely to have much effect.

One problem with George Osborne pretending that turning every school in England into an academy will save the next generation of children is that he looks like a naked emperor. It’s the equivalent of shouting, “Look at my massive policy” while pointing at very little. Academies are just schools, albeit operated slightly differently to other schools, but there’s nothing inherently good or bad about them. They are no more likely to save the next generation, or Osborne’s future leadership bid, than the schools we already have…

This isn’t to say the academy system is all good. It has some serious problems. But working out the real issues versus the artificial ones is important…

I can think of one, and only one, great benefit to a model in which all schools are academies versus some being under the control of local councils. Previously, if a school was struggling, it relied on the local council for help. If the local council also wasn’t very good (and some were not), it was stuck. Schools languished too long in that situation, and that’s one reason why the Labour party first brought in the academy model: to help such schools.

Osborne’s vision is for every one to be run by a charity. In doing so, a struggling school that can’t be helped by the charity it sits within can be removed and given to another to try to turn it around. This does run the risk of creating a merry-go-round effect in which difficult schools are passed from trust to trust, but it’s better than nothing happening for the school.

The downsides are that such a big changeover, and an entirely charitably run school system, requires serious regulation and cash. As it stands, the government simply doesn’t have enough money, people, power or rules to make it work…

Perhaps the saddest thing about Osborne’s policy is that it doesn’t do anything to help the very real concerns in schools about the difficulty of hiring teachers and seriously squeezed budgets. Spectacle over substance: politicians fall for it every time.

More at: This academies plan doesn’t address schools’ real problems


An interesting perspective here from Laura McInerney (as ever, please read the original article for the full argument).

Do you think she is right in suggesting the move to make all schools into academies is not, in reality, going to change an awful lot when compared to issues of funding and teacher recruitment and retention?

Please give us your reactions and feedback in the comments or via Twitter…

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  1. Mirror_Assembly

    At the primary school level, which teacher is going to try any lees hard or any harder for the children in their care whether they are in a LA run school or an academy? It will be the same staff at the chalk face who believe passionately about the children and young people in their care.  I do not know about secondary school staff but the fact that a far greater % of secondary schools have converted to academies than primaries may be telling us something.

  2. VictoriaJaquiss

    I worked in a high school which was noted amongst professionals as cutting edge, which had a headteacher recognised as visionary, and which took in the poorest and most challenging children. In time [the early 90s] League Tables came along and confirmed for local aspirational parents that our kids underachieved academically, which wasn’t a surprise, given the abuse and the grinding poverty. The Council had to bow and scrape to the League Table [which was now a god], and they closed our school, and They told us teachers, who were watching all our love, dedication and hard work being unravelled – They told us NOT TO WORRY ABOUT THE STIGMA OF WORKING AT FOXWOOD. Stigma! They offered sweeteners to other schools to take us, but only after we had genuinely applied for our jobs again at the newly merged [and doomed to last only 4 years] Copperfields College [!]. The other schools didn’t wait for the sweeteners, but snatched us up as soon as fast as. IT IS NOT SCHOOLS WHO FAIL CHILDREN IN POOR AREAS, BUT POVERTY ITSELF!

  3. TW

    Mirror_Assembly  Yes, the fact that the bribe money to secondary schools amounted to a huge windfall whereas for primary schools, even if they got the same pro rata bribe, a percentage of not very much is still not very much.

  4. @TW Mirror_Assembly Secondary schools, being larger, thought they were large enough to afford business managers and the like so chased the promise of extra money.  But the extra money was to pay for those services provided by the LA and came with a load of extra administrative and financial responsibilities.
    Small primaries were less likely to chase the money knowing they were too small to have sufficient expertise.  But secondary schools’ selfish rush to academise reduced the amount of money going to LAs to pay for services needed by schools which remained.  Secondary schools, therefore, acted in their own interests without a thought about the effect on their small primary peers.

  5. VictoriaJaquiss The same is still happening.  LAs in the north, especially Knowsley, get a kicking for league table position.  This results in more parents, especially those of high-ability children, moving their children to schools outside the LA (Ofsted recognised this was the case in Knowsley but it didn’t stop Ofsted slating the LA).

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