Academies are more to blame than they claim

8th October 2010 at 01:00

I thought it was only poor workmen who blamed their tools? So what is one to make of Sam Elms, chief executive of the Business Academy Bexley (BAB), complaining about its building ("Labour's pound;31m dream academy is nightmare", September 24) when pupil attainment in the most recent Ofsted report was unsatisfactory? That is after eight years and untold millions on top of the original pound;31 million that have been pumped into the academy.

In truth, like the academies project, BAB is a white elephant. Genuinely conceived to target help in deprived areas like Thamesmead, Tony Blair unfortunately handed over the management to groups who worked to a different agenda.

As one of the teachers attracted to the academy to do something positive about turning around kids in sink estates, imagine my amazement when someone associated with the project told the staff to "watch local house prices" rocket when the school was established. This school was in the middle of the huge Thamesmead council estate. Had that person even visited it?

The failure of the building can't just be laid at Sir Norman Foster. The managers of BAB, 3Es Enterprises, was run then by the husband and wife team of the late Stanley Goodchild and Valerie Bragg. It was Bragg who came up with the idea of no walls on the classrooms. By 2pm a Waterloo rush hour was quieter. Children had no playgrounds or free time either but had to sit in "brunch" half-hour breaks in a dining room with no windows and red walls. It has never recovered, despite the best efforts of staff to make the abandoned 3Es' "system" work.

Maybe it's time someone looked at what has actually happened at BAB and other academies as they start blaming everyone but themselves for their lack of progress.

John Hobson, Teacher, West Malling, Kent.

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