Tag Archives: academies

Enforced academisation plan is “bonkers”

The chairman of the Conservative 1922 backbench committee and Tory councillors are reported to be angry with the government’s plan to force 17,000 schools in England to become academies by 2020.

Melinda Tilley, cabinet member for education in Oxfordshire said:

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John Pugh writes: Our vision for Education

Teacher In Classroom

In 2010 Michael Gove, acting before the ink was dry on the Coalition agreement, rushed the Academies Bill through Parliament. Governors were free to turn their school into an Academy Trust, without canvassing parental or local opinion . This being a little high-handed, I moved an amendment during the Commons debate requiring school governors to consult parents – particularly important  as the government were pressing on with this radical change during the school holidays.

Gaining the support of Ed Balls, then Labour party Education spokesman, I pushed it to the vote and divided the House. We lost as most of my colleagues voted against and the Whips angrily  informed me that trying to amend government legislation, however crass, was not how coalition in the Commons was meant to work. Now in 2016 we have even school governors sidelined as the Academy bandwagon, courtesy of the Tories smashes through every barrier.

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The Government finally “nationalises” all our schools

So the government has finally decided to nationalise our nation’s schools. At least we now know where we stand. So, if an academy fails under the new system, the buck goes straight to the Secretary of State and not, as now, to the Local Education Authority (which, I assume will simply disappear).

When are we going to stop messing about with education? We are dealing with human beings, not building motor cars, for goodness sake. I note that the current secretary, like most of her cabinet colleagues, was educated privately. In the independent sector, business acumen and PR are part of the DNA of its member schools. “Sell yourself or go under”- and a few actually do!

Some have you may be aware of the goings on at an academy chain in Lincoln where the former Executive Head and his Director of Finance recently went on trial and, to many local people’s amazement, were acquitted.  Only this week it was announced that another secondary academy, the one I taught at for 23 years, is having to face redundancies because of some of its grants being cut. Now it is planned also to remove parent representatives from governing bodies, what chance will the local community have to influence their schools?

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What is Nicky Morgan doing to school governance?

I’d love to know who is advising the Tories and Nicky Morgan with respect to much of what is contained in the education white paper.

What I sense overall is panic. They are terrified that we will not have the skilled individuals to make us globally competitive. So they are embarking on a series of measures that they think will give more flexibility in the education system and modernize it in terms of structure and accountability, on the one hand, but rigidly defining what children should learn, particularly at primary level, and sticking with archaic, sudden death-style …

Posted in Op-eds | 18 Comments

Avoiding the Tory disaster in Education

 

Last week, as a governor, I spent my morning at my local primary school completing an annual return and reviewing our budget for the next financial year (as an accountant, I get all the fun jobs). The atmosphere was a strange one. As a school that has successfully fought off an attempt at academy conversion, the staff were deeply upset about the grand announcement from George Osborne, that all schools will become academies by 2020. Meanwhile, our excellent Local Education Authority advisor was clearly and understandably out of sorts having just been made effectively redundant.

The policy being pushed forward by the government is going to be a disaster for primary schools, and everyone working in the sector knows this. Quite simply, the size of primary schools prevents them from having the necessary infrastructure to make an academy structure feasible. The destruction of the Local Education Authority support network will do irreparable damage to our capacity to support primary leaders in their incredibly varied roles.

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The Independent View: Keep academy freedoms – and extend them to all schools

schoolsignThe question whether to curtail or extend academy freedoms to state-funded schools was resurrected last October in a speech by Nick Clegg. The answer he put forward was to extend academy freedoms to all schools, albeit in a limited form. Clegg would like to claw-back the freedoms academies have over unqualified teachers and the curriculum, but to extend the remaining freedoms to all state-funded schools.

 Clegg’s new-found middle way is based on a belief that guaranteeing high standards in education is best achieved by curtailing autonomy. In October 2013, he said: “There is nothing…inconsistent in believing that greater school autonomy can be married to certain core standards for all.”

 Yet high levels of autonomy and accountability are conducive to high pupil attainment. The Deputy Director for Education and Skills at the OECD, Andreas Schleicher, has said that England’s multiple measures of accountability, along with a “high level of autonomy and discretion at the front line”, are key to success in education.

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Education: 47% of Lib Dems want grammar schools opened up, while clear majorities oppose academies, free schools and for-profit schools

Lib Dem Voice has polled our members-only forum  to discover what Lib Dem members think of various political issues, the Coalition, and the performance of key party figures. Some 750 party members responded – thank you – and we’ve been publishing the full results.

(There were a couple of results I ran out of time to publish during the Christmas holiday period – I’m publishing them this week.)

Almost half (47%) Lib Dems call for opening up of grammar schools to all children

Thinking about grammar schools and schools that select pupils by ability, which of the following best reflects your views?

    21%

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Nick (finally) makes his education speech and launches the Coalition’s own ‘Champions League’

Five days after it was pre-briefed, Nick Clegg finally made his speech on A Liberal Vision for Education at Morpeth School in Tower Hamlets.

(Morpeth is, by the way, a fantastic school. I visited it for my day-job 18 months ago, and was shown around by two of its pupils, Vanessa and Mahir: the transformational progress of London schools in the past decade is one of the modern wonders of Britain.)

There was little in the speech we didn’t already know. In fact, there was little that wasn’t known last March when Clegg’s “surprise U-turn on free schools” (© …

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Opinion: Pity Gove’s 400?

You may have seen the list of the 400 “worst primaries in England”, according to M. Gove.  If not, you can download it here: Primaries.

I am not about to re-visit the bone of contention that is academy status among Lib Dem colleagues, but I do think we have to look very carefully at the whole issue of forcing schools to become academies–and look at it as Liberal Democrats, who value both devolution of powers and liberalism.

I know that those to the right of the party will say that there is …

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What Lib Dem members think about EBacc, academies and free schools

Lib Dem Voice polled our members-only forum before conference to discover what Lib Dem members think of various political issues, the Coalition, and the performance of key party figures. More than 550 party members have responded, and we’re publishing the full results.

Narrow backing for replacing GCSEs with EBacc

LDV asked: Nick Clegg and Michael Gove this week announced that the GCSE exams in England will be replaced by a new qualification in core subjects called the English Baccalaureate Certificate from 2017. This will mean a single end-of-course exam sat by almost all pupils and one exam board for core subjects. From …

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Academisation: Is this the equivalent of the FE sector’s 1993 moment?

Academies are opening at an exponential rate. But there’s nothing new under the sun, as the saying goes—we have been here before, if we would all but look. A useful lesson can be learned from the FE sector and begs the questions: how long before all our schools are classified as being in the private sector? And what should we as Liberal Democrats feel and do about that?

Under the Further and Higher Education Act 1992 (which took effect in April 1993), colleges were “incorporated”, ie they were given full financial independence, together with full powers to own assets, employ staff, …

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Opinion: Gove’s message – “vocational” = “worthless”

Secretary of State for Education, Conservative Michael Gove, has downgraded the value of nearly all 14-16 vocational qualifications at a stroke.  I felt angry when I heard this.  However, it did little to reduce my respect for Mr Gove; I had very little anyway after ‘free’ schools, and his arrogant disregard of the role of Local Authorities to support ‘failing’ schools.

But having thought about this a little more, I am left perplexed by Gove’s decision. The impact goes against so much I thought was accepted wisdom.

Industry has for many years had a

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Opinion: We have let neoliberals devastate state education, we must not let them do the same to the NHS

To believe the Government’s hype, we are currently experiencing a liberal revolution in England’s education system – powers are being decentralised, with schools given more autonomy to innovate, while new education providers are adding further diversity to the state funded system by joining it through Academy sponsorship.

The uninitiated could be forgiven for believing Michael Gove’s claim that the evidence base shows the structure of the state funded school system is holding education back, as well as his recent assertion that opponents of Academies are “ideologues”, who uphold a “bigoted backward bankrupt ideology of a leftwing establishment that perpetuates division …

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Opinion: Don’t believe everything you read in the papers…

I’ve learnt again this week that it’s not a good idea to believe everything you read in the papers. In this case, it was a story in the Sunday Telegraph suggesting that the Government were changing the wording of “Academy Funding Agreements” on the teaching of marriage. Thankfully, it turned out to be a non-story.

Academy Funding Agreements are the governing documents for academies and Free Schools and are agreed between the Secretary of State and the governing body of the Academy, and the story suggested there were “strict new rules” about marriage.

However, a bit of digging …

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Opinion: Academies overspend revealed!

Figures in a Government consultation paper on the funding of academies have revealed that Michael Gove’s policy of getting schools to convert to academies is expected to cost nearly £600 million more than planned over the two year period 2011 – 2013.
 
This confirms what Lib Dem activists have been saying for some time i.e. that the programme for converting schools to academies is costly and unsustainable, as well as being divisive and unfair.
 
When a school decides to leave its Local Authority (LA)  and become ‘independent’ (i.e. dependent on central government!), in addition to its standard funding it gets an …

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Opinion: It shouldn’t just be about the NHS

As an education campaigner and someone who believes in the principles behind the NHS, I have been following the news about the changes we have managed to make to the health bill with interest, and, obviously, pleasure that we have made a difference.

But when are we going to get our collective heads out of the sand when it comes to the privatisation of state education, where “any willing provider” that we were all so horrified about when proposed in the health bill is already rampaging through the education sector?

It will not be long, believe me, where we are seen as …

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LibLink: Julian Astle – The report every school reformer should read

Over on his blog at The Telegraph, former director of the Centre Forum think tank, Julian Astle, highlights a report by researchers at the London School of Economics looking into the effect of academies. The findings are good news for supporters of greater autonomy for schools, and one of the (perhaps surprising) conclusions of the analysis is that academies don’t just raise standards for the pupils that attend them, but also for surrounding schools, even as they lose pupils to the new academies.

Here’s what the report has to say on that last point, followed by a brief conclusion from Julian:

“In

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LibLink | Sarah Teather: Q&A on special needs provision

Children’s Minister Sarah Teather recently took part in an interview followed by a readers’ Question and Answer session for the Guardian about special needs provision:

Sarah Teather, the children’s minister, comes across as genuinely passionate about helping children with special needs. So much so that at one point in the interview, she got quite cross. The health service is failing some of our most vulnerable children, she said. The chance of a child receiving speech and language therapy is “between low and nil”, while the wait for a wheelchair can be “really long”, she said.

On free schools and academies helping …

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So how was it for you?

Well fellow Lib Dems, Bloggers and Tweeps… what did you make of conference then? Having been granted the honour of being “Guest Editor” (quaking in me boots it has to be said!) I thought, given the timing, it may be an opportunity to reflect on the last week in Liverpool.

What I want to do is to try and get a feel from members across the spectrum of our party, has conference left them feeling uplifted, confused, motivated, anxious, hopeful, proud?
I hope what follows today, especially for those of you who weren’t there, will give you a bit of …

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Monday will be the day of high drama (or anti-climax) at party conference

Monday, 20th September: nuclear power, free schools and Nick Clegg’s conference speech. Drama, protest and dissension or quiet compromise, careful management and enthusiastic standing ovation?

It’s no coincidence that both potential controversies are scheduled for the same day as Clegg’s speech: in the worst case situation, all the bad news would be be concentrated on the one day and Clegg will still get the final word (or rather, many words) on the day with his speech coming after the possible flashpoints*.

However, it’s unlikely to come to that as the two motions are carefully worded. Nuclear power gets a mention in the …

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LibLink… Shirley Williams on the coalition: Not one bed – two beds

The Guardian today has an interview with Shirley Williams, who at 80, continues to work full-time and is active in questioning the coalition government’s stance on academies, health and Trident:

If you give up what you most care about you start dying. It doesn’t matter what age.

Debate within the coalition on the key issues is a positive thing, insists Williams:

What we have to do is get as much as one possibly can of what Lib Dems believe into the coalition programme. It’s no good simply saying our role is to say no to everything.

Williams admits her surprise that the Liberal Democrats, of whom she was a founder, formed a coalition with the Conservative Party.

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Six Lib Dem MPs rebel on Coalition’s Academies Bill

The BBC reports:

MPs have approved legislation which paves the way for a radical overhaul of the school system in England. The Academies Bill, allowing schools to opt out of local council control as early as September, is now due to receive Royal Assent on Tuesday.

However, the Bill sparked a revolt among some Lib Dem MPs, with five defying the whips to back an amendment proposed by Southport MP (and former teacher) John Pugh allowing parents to be balloted if a school governor objected it to becoming an academy.

The five Lib Dems who supported John’s amendment were Annette Brooke …

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Opinion: Get your facts right Polly

In yesterday’s Guardian Polly Toynbee criticises “casual law-making by arbitrary diktat” in relation to the unseemly haste with which the Academies Bill is being shunted through the Commons. She claims the bill was “catapulted” through the Lords (where, by the way, we debated it for a full 31 hours!) and that there is now “no revising chamber: a redundant House of Lords whipped this Bill through with as little scrutiny as it will get in the Commons”. Wrong!

Far from being redundant, the House of Lords obtained five important amendments and numerous significant statements on the record, one of them …

Posted in Op-eds and Parliament | Also tagged | 8 Comments

Opinion: we have our own red lines for schools

I will try and write about the Coalition without any reference to ‘uncharted waters’ or ‘interesting times’. Someone has to.

To begin with I was pleasantly surprised when I read the Culture, Media and Sport sections of the full agreement: more or less what I had wanted but without some of the policies I had criticised in our own manifesto. I can live with the ‘reduction in red tape for live music’ although I still believe we need to concentrate on opportunities for new bands.

My worries are in fact in a different area: academies. I didn’t like this policy before the …

Posted in Op-eds | 9 Comments

Opinion: Tory school plans will give parents nightmares

Monday’s Today Programme on Radio 4 majored on local government.

It was the usual shambles. We were told that local authorities were expecting to make cuts in services – hardly news. One reporter told us that libraries were not used by many people – in fact had she spent ten minutes on research she would have discovered that libraries are visited by half the adult population each year. This makes libraries far more popular than any if not all of the sporting events on which the BBC lavishes time and our money each year.

Another reporter told us that local authorities …

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