Book review: The Great City Academy Fraud

Book coverA dismal tale of betrayal and failure in our education system has been penned by Francis Beckett in recent times. In The Great City Academy Fraud, Beckett exposes the con which lies at the heart of what is nothing more than the Conservative’s old City Technology Colleges scheme, rehashed and reheated by New Labour. The present facts are these: that that a sponsor willing to put up £2 million may effectively control and run a City Academy, towards which the taxpayer will have paid a vastly greater sum, not to mention running costs and salaries in perpetuity.

In fact Beckett shows that even the £2 million is not all that it appears, frequently comprising “payment in kind” – pretend money in the form of consultancy services and the like – as the government has been forced to water down its funding requirements in a desperate bid to attract new sponsors. And yet for the sake of this moth-eaten contribution from the private sector, unenthusiastic parents and local authorities are encumbered with a school which need form no part of a local education strategy, and which is entirely exempt from the body of education law built up since 1944.

While Academies were supposed to replace failing schools, Beckett reports how they have all too often disrupted the life of well loved schools against local wishes, with the aid of bullying tactics which emanate straight from the top. Of course parents may object to a proposed Academy, and sometimes they even get their way, but they are then made to feel as though they have deprived their patch of millions in education investment, which in a sense they have. The deal is that they can either have the school which the government and sponsor wish to impose on them, or they can go to hell.

And speaking of hell, the most disturbing of all the sponsors are the religious ones. Sir Peter Vardy and Robert Edmiston have plans between them for a total of nine Academies which will teach a biblical worldview that belongs more to the medieval period than the twenty-first century. Edmiston thinks that if you teach children that they are descended from monkeys, then they will start behaving like monkeys. Do we really want him running our schools? When Vardy tried to bring God to the people of Doncaster, it fell to two mums to keep their children’s education out of the grip of his lamentable ignorance.

Yet divine intervention notwithstanding, many Academies have failed to live up to expectations. In spite of all the extra investment, league tables published in January 2006 ranked half of the Academies among the bottom 200 schools in England. Astonishingly, two Academies have already failed their Ofsted inspection. Another one, the Bexley Business Academy, received the damning verdict: “Teaching and learning are inadequate overall.” By the way, Bexley is famous for its classrooms with only three walls, centred around a faux stock-market trading floor – estimated cost to the taxpayer: £58 million.

Tony Blair once famously declared that his three top priorities for the nation were: “education, education, education.” Beckett’s book reveals exactly what he had in mind: expensive gimmicks, creationism in the classroom, high-handed authoritarian and undemocratic processes, leading ultimately to schools which have yielded no dramatic improvement and in some cases have been an outright failure – surely Blair’s most shameful legacy apart from everything to do with Iraq.

The Great City Academy Fraud is available from Amazon and other book sellers.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Hereford is being hit with an Academy and I am using my best endeavours to get the sponsors and the council to stick to the DCSF’s own rules and tell the public the truth about the. We’re still in feasibility stage but the Church sponsors (don’t start me on this one) they have still gone ahead and appointed a head designate, there has been little consultation, usually last minute and councillors and the rest of the city not informed. 2 Designs been presented and 1 was totally an impossible optiona. They’re going to demolish a successful adult learning centre and community centre (only 4 yrs old) on the site and suggesting everyone will now only be able to access the building in the evenings only. 100 places are going to be cut from other schools in the city to make this one stack up and it will jeopordise the existing tech college and nationally acclaimed 6th form provision. I had to get a copy of the Expression of Interest via Freedom of Information and I am a councillor on Childrens Services. Parents don’t stand a chance with this lot

  • Adonis DID stand didnt he? For the Lib Dems?

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