Academy threat to inner-city success

27th May 2005 at 01:00
Who is Tony Blair listening to? By placing Andrew Adonis at the centre of his education team, Mr Blair has reinforced the policy to create more city academies.

Mr Blair tells the electorate that academies will address the problems of inner-city schools and raise the achievement of working-class children. But our experience is very different.

We work at a successful inner-city comprehensive, Haggerston girls' school in Hackney. In January we were told by the chief inspector that we were one of the best schools in the country.

Then a few weeks later we were told by our governors that the school's future is in danger. According to our governors and the Learning Trust - the unelected quango that runs education in Hackney - the problem is the opening in 2007 of a new city academy just down the road from Haggerston.

The Bridge Academy, sponsored by the UBS bank, is expected to attract pupils who would have come to our school. Our roll will fall and we will become unviable. This vision is being promoted despite the fact that, as the House of Commons education select committee recognised, there is no evidence that academies will succeed. Indeed we wonder what kind of education a Swiss bank with a dubious past will be offering to the children of Hackney.

At first, we were told that we would have to become an academy ourselves to "compete". When there was opposition to this proposal, governors voted to change the status of the school from all girls to mixed.

This decision was taken despite the fact that most staff, pupils and parents at the school are opposed to such a change.

The governors tell us they took the decision because of pressure from the planned academy and threats from the Learning Trust that we would not receive money from the Government's Building Schools For the Future initiative unless we complied.

Our successful inner-city community school, it seems, must change to fit into the brave new academised world.

Our question to Tony Blair - if he really is listening - is why are successful inner-city schools being undermined by his city academies programme?

Haggerston Staff Action Group

Haggerston school

London E2

The issue, Friday magazine,11

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