'Academies aren't the only solution': Catholics oppose 'one-size-fits-all' education bill

Richard Vaughan

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The Catholic Church has come out against proposed legislation that will convert thousands more schools into academies, branding it a “one-size-fits-all” approach.

In a letter in this week’s TES, the Catholic Education Service (CES) casts doubt over the Education and Adoption Bill's central aim of converting all “failing” schools into academies.

The bill, which is currently making its way through Parliament, will ensure that any school currently rated as "inadequate” by Ofsted will be automatically converted to an academy with a sponsor brought on board to oversee it.

The draft legislation is currently having its second reading in the House of Lords and is expected to be passed by the New Year.

But Paul Barber, director of the CES, which has oversight of 2,300 schools across the country, has challenged the proposals, arguing that there are other ways to turn struggling primaries and secondaries around, and that decisions over improvement strategies should be made at a “local level”.

“Although the Catholic Education Service supports the bill’s aim of increasing standards, we do not accept that conversion to sponsored academy is the only way to improve inadequate schools,” he writes. “As one of the largest providers of education in England and Wales, dioceses have been making these decisions for more than a century. They have led the way in school improvement, pioneering many of the methods that are now in mainstream use.”

Mr Barber adds: “By allowing for a range of approaches, the various different needs and requirements of schools can be catered for, something that the one-size-fits-all approach of the current bill will struggle to provide.”

A DfE spokesperson said:“We are clear that the most effective way of bringing about rapid and sustained improvement is to become an academy with the support of a strong sponsor. 

“Figures show that 92 per cent of failing schools that have been inspected have improved since becoming an academy. They are driving up standards at primary and secondary and transforming the education of millions of pupils across the country.”

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Richard Vaughan

Richard has been writing about politics, policy and technology in education for nearly five years after joining TES in 2008. He joined TES from the building press having been a reporter and then later news editor at the Architects’ Journal. Before then he studied at Cardiff University’s school of journalism. Richard can be found tweeting at @richardvaughan1

Find me on Twitter @RichardVaughan1

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