3rd September 2010 at 01:00
`It will be an admissions free-for-all'

Rather than a system based on trying to accommodate everyone's interests, Education Secretary Michael Gove wants an educational marketplace.

Local councils, as elected bodies, are supposed to reflect the views of people in the locality. Now the only views which will count are those of individual schools.

Heads are choosing to become academies for a mixture of reasons. There are some who can't wait to get away from local authority control and run their schools like businesses. Others are clearly approaching the policy with a degree of reluctance, applying because they want to safeguard their school.

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development research shows that when education becomes a market and there is an absence of any central authority it breeds competition between schools. This approach doesn't raise standards or the level of innovation.

The Department for Education wants academies to collaborate, but they only envisage this happening between high-performing schools and their under- achieving neighbours. This is very different from the current system - because schools are part of the same local authority, they work together. The introduction of academies and free schools means this work will fragment.

Private companies are already targeting schools, offering to help them become academies. If education is run for commercial reasons, there is even less chance that teachers will be able to share expertise.

Each academy will be its own admissions authority, so parents will have to apply separately to every school. If a large number of schools opt out of a local authority, it will create an admissions free-for-all.

Richard Hatcher is professor of education at Birmingham City University.

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