Exclusive: 'Even the language is pejorative' – academy chain founder attacks official attitudes to primaries

Chair of the Elliot Foundation academy trust says 'I totally disagree with academies'

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The founder of England’s second largest primary-only academy trust has attacked official “pejorative” language used to describe the primary sector.

Caroline Whalley founded the Elliot Foundation, which currently runs 27 schools in the West Midlands, London and East Anglia, in 2011, and now chairs the organisation.

She said she created it to provide a voice for primary schools in a system she believes is too secondary-school centred.

Ms Whalley told Tes she wanted the Elliot Foundation to be a voice that “is big enough and loud enough to say, ‘They are all our children. They might be three now, but in another seven or eight years they will be in your secondary school, so what are you doing now to support their primary years?’

“Instead of which, Ofsted and all the rest say ‘make them secondary-ready’, and we call them ‘feeder schools’. How dare they call them ‘feeder schools’, like ‘feeding them into the beast’? Even the language is pejorative.”

The former teacher, who has done consultancy and project management work for the DfE’s academy division, told Tes: “I totally disagree with academies.”

She said she had wanted to “create an academy group that will keep those schools safe despite a wider environment where they were being taken over by people who didn’t understand what teachers feel”.

She added: “At the end of the day, the notion of academy freedoms is the biggest emperor’s new clothes you could ever wish to meet, and [the DfE] still talk about it. Actually, there are no freedoms. All there is now is accountability and risk.

“Primary academies have got more responsibility, more bureaucracy, more regulators. There is not enough money in the system to run it, and unless you are building capacity in the schools you are simply adding risk.”

This is an edited article from the 30 March edition of Tes. Subscribers can read the full article here. To subscribe, click here. This week's Tes magazine is available in all good newsagents. To download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click here

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