New Zealand has Partnership Schools, the USA has Charter Schools, and England has Academies. They’re all much of a muchness, state schools passed off into private hands with the promise of educational improvement for students. But are they all they’re cracked up to be?
In The Guardian, Michelle Hanson questions whether the promise matches the hype.
“If a school needs perking up and fancies a uniform, Latin, Vera Wang tea sets and no national curriculum, fine – but why call them academies?
Why not just schools?
What’s the difference?
We pay for them. Not the sponsors.”
A headteacher who found himself out on his ear when his school was made into an Academy observes:
“They mostly seem to be run by dodgy, spiv businesspeople,” says Fielding, understandably bitter, because the school to which he had dedicated his life became an academy.
In came the sickening corporate mantras, the uber-swanky furniture, the slick management speak, squillion-pound makeover, and out went Fielding, along with everyone else in the NUT [National Union of Teachers], and any heart.
“I smell a rat,” says he, “but I don’t know what it is.”
Hanson thinks she knows what the rat is, and so do I: Money.
She observes that certain parties were quick to capitalise on the money-making potential of Academies :
Capita was fairly quick off the mark to spot “market opportunities” supplying IT systems as schools switched to academy status.
“Leading academy chain” E-ACT had a culture of “extravagant” expenses, “prestige” venues and first-class travel and has been criticised for “widespread financial irregularities”; another academy superhead, Jo Shuter, snaffled up £7,000 of school money to pay for her 50th birthday.
And yet for all that, England’s GCS exam results were lower this year, not higher.
It’s the same for A levels, too – in 2014 the pass level went down.
And England’s PISA results are nothing to write home about, either.
So What’s the Motive for Academies?
If financial irregularities are much more of an issue than when schools were run by local authorities…
and OFSTED (England’s ERO) is under investigation for giving Academies far more notice that they are visiting than the half-day’s notice non-Academies get…
and exam results are going down…
… it’s kind of hard to argue that Academies have brought improvement.
At which point you really do have to start asking yourself what the real motive for Academies and the worldwide push for “charterisation” is.
You might want to start by asking who benefits from them, because it certainly isn’t the education system, teachers, taxpayers or students.