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Dr Mike J Smith
Kingston University

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New School Academies

Sat, 29 May 2010

Well it's a busy week in politics, what with a new government and the newly named Department for Education is kicking things off relatively rapidly. A nice summary from Mike Baker on the principal changes coming up in some new proposed bills. One of these relates to the setting up of Academies. Under the Labour government these have been relatively rare and intended to raise standards in failing schools by giving new management greater autonomy by removing them from the local authority and directly funding them from central government. It's certainly a solution, although some may disagree with it. Under the new coalition government this is now firmly targeted at those schools graded as "outstanding" by Ofsted. This is simply grant maintained status under another guise and can only lead to fragmentation of the education system locally and a break-up of the delivery service overseen by local authorities. It doesn't lend itself to 0-19 education; currently it is difficult enough to maintain over-arching responsibility for a child's whole education, but this will make it nigh-on impossible. And buy-back services, which are driven through economies of scale, will start to become undeliverable. It is a poorly conceived policy that will not drive up standards for "whole education", just limited parts of it and will be detrimental to our education system. And, just to rub salt in to the wound, any school that is currently "outstanding" can fast-track to academy status by the start of the next academic year. not only that but Ofsted will now not be required to inspect outstanding schools, just look for "warning signs". Really, how barmy have politicians become. Have they not heard of "false positives"? Do they not realise that the consistency and quality of inspections covers a wide gamut? Have they lost total touch with reality to realise that schools can *rapidly* change from outstanding to good?

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