How apt that a political strategy should define the nadir of the educational shambles in England. Driven by the government’s simplistic “market economy meets school as factory” educational model, all schools are now to be handed over to the profiteering academy chains. From last week’s Budget, it is clear that the primary system – the only chance for children to experience the breadth of potential learning experiences – is to be ground down into an even tighter “metric rules OK” ritual.
Professor Bill Boyle
Director, The Evaluation Business, Tarporley, Cheshire
We are told that turning all schools into academies is in the best interests of all concerned. Some academy chains have failed. For others, it has been a costly exercise resulting in counterproductive outcomes rather than raising standards. Despite this, the government claims that academies improve outcomes and are fit for purpose, allowing for innovation and less bureaucracy. Critics question whether the evidence for such claims exists.
At the very least, academies must be driven by ethical, principled and evidence-based decision-making – putting the needs of teachers, children, and families first. If not, there is the likelihood of unsuitable and unaccountable academies operating purely on the basis of cost.
It is deeply concerning that parents, children, teachers and the community were not consulted about any of the government’s plans to turn all schools into academies. Let’s force a parliamentary debate on the decision (sign the petition at bit.ly/AcademyPetition).
Calling on local expertise
Two excellent comment pieces on 18 March, by national schools commissioner Sir David Carter, (“Trust me, academies will nurture teacher talent”) and Harris Foundation chief executive Dan Moynihan (“Free schools in name only…”), illustrate three things. First, the easy bits of the drive to make all schools academies have already been done. There is now an increasingly obvious shortage of potential sponsors.
Second, the intention of removing any elected person from taking part in the academy programme will risk extinguishing any local authority’s interest in hunting about for sites, collecting information and so on now that regional schools commissioners have taken over their role.
Third, as you point out in “Mass academisation risks closure of small schools” (Insight), there is a particular problem with rural schools. This requires consultation and a local presence to avoid riot. Experienced people in local government should now apply to become academy trustees and, at the going rate, settle for salaries three times their present ones.
Sir Peter Newsam
Thornton Dale, North Yorkshire
Charity begins at school for refugees
The presence across the Channel of thousands of unaccompanied children urgently in need of help should ring a loud bell. In 1941, spurred by enormous public sympathy, similar children were brought here on trains from Germany.
Our schoolchildren are reportedly among the unhappiest in the world. They have the talent and energy to raise enough money to rescue thousands of cold and hungry children from the despair of the camps. Doing this might make them feel happier and would provide a good answer to the question “What did you do for the migrant children?” when their own descendants ask in 75 years’ time.
‘Super union’ plans: big isn’t beautiful
I don’t always say this, but Chris Keates is right: six unions are better than one (“NASUWT leader pours cold water on ‘super union plans’ ”, Insight, 18 March). Different unions, while sharing a common purpose, operate in different ways, so providing choice. Voice, for example, was founded on the principle of not taking industrial action.
Big is not necessarily beautiful. Not everybody wants to be part of a monolithic organisation. Size is not an indicator of an ability to respond to a changing education landscape. Smaller organisations are often more agile.
We should remember that classroom unions are not just for teachers. Some represent lecturers, heads, teaching assistants, technicians, bursars and other education professionals. Diversity of views is positive, not negative.
General secretary, Voice
Facebook users on Ann Mroz’s editorial about pupils’ mental health bit.ly/PupilHealth
“What about the mental health of teachers?”
“Totally agree but am at a loss to know what to do about it. Nobody seems to care. A sad reflection on our society.”
“Meditation perhaps? I hear it works well for soldiers with PTSD.”
“My 12-year-old broke down because of the pressure she feels she is under. Year 8 shouldn’t be like this!”
“If you asked schoolchildren, at any point in history, whether they felt pressurised by schoolwork, they’d say yes!”
And on “I have marked with my daughter crying at my feet” bit.ly/MarkCry
“So have I…Why isn’t there a better system for teachers when it comes to looking after their own children?”
“I love my post as a teacher and head of department, but I hardly see my own child.”
From the TES Community forums
Will academies give more power to teachers?
I think we know the answer to this one. Power for heads maybe. Classroom teachers no. Why don’t people question it? Most don’t understand what academies are or care.
Academies have nothing to do with improving education.
So what are we going to do about it?
The unions have capitulated, Labour won’t help, so it’s down to us. Can we form teachers’ cooperatives to run our own academies?
Forming cooperatives is great but it won’t fix the system.
Join the forums at community.tes.com