There has been much coverage in the news about the government making all schools into academies and the re-emergence of Grammar schools.
Academy status means that schools as we know them now; overseen and funded by councils, will instead have their funding go directly from the government to private bodies, independently of councils, and these bodies will have control over allocation of monies. As well as handling the funding, it also means that academies are able to make their own decisions about staffing and curriculum and education issues, usually by the head but overseen by charitable trusts and bodies who will be supporting them.
Making schools independent in this way is an attempt to drive innovation in schooling and to raise standards in education, as professionals will have more say over academic decisions and with more freedom given it will attract inspirational teachers. But critics are concerned that it is instead an underhand attempt by the government to privatise education, hand it to bodies with no professional background in the field, and cloud the real issues like failing schools, underachievement and shortage of teachers.
There are a range of articles round the web on the subject. To start, there’s a useful one on the BBC Education and family website (you can it read here) which outlines what it means to be an academy.
And the Department of Education’s article about making school into academies helps to dispel some of the myths and makes it look like an excellent plan.
However, it is hard to find support for it elsewhere or from educational professionals who are in agreement with the idea. In fact most seem against the move towards making all schools academies, like the four teachers in an article in the Independent here who say that it will exacerbate the difference between the rich and poor, that it’s a profit driven scheme which puts our children at risk, and that there will be an increase in non-professionals doing the job of qualified teachers.
The National Union of Teachers is also dead against enforcing academy status saying that it will have a damaging effect on both children and the community which the schools serve. (See their Pdf document entitled ‘What’s the NUT’s view on Academy schools?’)
What could potentially be of most concern is the overseeing and regulation of these schools and their standards as Sanchia Berg suggests in her report from inside an academy school here.
And that the independent decisions schools can make on the allocation of their funding will dramatically alter the quality of what’s on offer as this reporter for the Guardian suggests. Equally, this could be both a good thing; schools could become more diverse and inspirational offering opportunities children didn’t have when council overseen but that remains to be proved.
So, as ever, schools and the education children receive there will remain different all over the country, in some cases driven by business politics more than community or individual needs. And parents can only look to each individual school, meet the individual staff, and make their choices based on those interactions rather than what government or academy propaganda tells them.
For it is people from the bottom to the top of the profession who make a good school, more than funding sources. And although some argue that good funding attracts good people, it is also the case that good teachers are as much a matter of personality and professionalism as anything which can be bought.