Academies: are they just white elephants?

22nd April 2011 at 01:00

Regarding last week's editorial on academies ("The battle against academies was never about principle. And now dogma has had its day"), is TES editor Gerard Kelly desperate to gain recognition as an intellectual gadfly or is he just trying to provoke controversy?

Academies aren't just opposed by a few union "diehards". Numerous ballots of teachers in schools threatened with academy status have led to strike action - Shorefields in Liverpool being the latest example. In many cases, plans for academies have been delayed or rescinded.

In removing themselves from council control, academies are potentially destroying borough-wide services such as libraries, music and provision for special educational needs. The governing bodies of academies are dominated by the sponsoring organisation. A large number of academies are socially, ethnically or culturally divisive because they are sponsored by religious organisations. The existing academies also have a rather patchy record when it comes to pupil achievement.

Why the rush for academy status? One major reason is the outrageous financial bribes - with a stroke of Michael Gove's pen, a new academy emerges debt free. De La Salle in Liverpool has passed on its #163;500,000 debt to the city council.

Have unions ignored academies? Far from it. In every case they have negotiated recognition agreements and protected national pay and conditions. However, if academies do reach a critical mass, what is to stop them from following the example of further education, using the law of supply and demand and paying below national "guidelines"?

Some readers may enjoy Gerard Kelly's lightweight, knockabout editorials; for me they just undermine the newspaper's credibility.

Richard Knights, Liverpool.

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