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A week in the charter school universe…

If you don’t follow charter school goings on worldwide (and for your sanity, I kind of want to suggest you don’t), you’d be forgiven for thinking that there’s just the odd blip here and there. But, to be honest, it’s more like a volley of blips coming thick and fast. In fact, if blips were locusts, we’d have a plague on our hands.

Take just this week’s revelations, for example…

Nga Parirau Matauranga Trust (NZ)

  • David Seymour confirms that as yet not a cent of the $5.2 Million the failed Northland charter school received has been recovered. The school was open for just one year.

Waipareira Trust (NZ)

  • Waipareira Trust pulled out of charter school negotiations in part because Government refuse to include the Treaty of Waitangi in the contract. (What’s that again, how ACT say this is all for the benefit of Maori students…)

The E Tipu E Rea Trust (NZ)

  • This new body is set up by government to promote and support charter schools and given half a million dollars without even going to tender. (Very expensive cheer leading.)
  • Apparently it’s a charity, so it’ll have charity tax exemptions.

Academy Transformation Trust (England)

  • Ian Cleland, chief executive,”…spent £3,000 of taxpayers’ money on first-class rail travel, while dining expenses racked up on his taxpayer-funded credit card include a meal with other staff at Marco Pierre White totalling £471, and the Bank restaurant in Birmingham, at a cost £703.45″ Yes, teachers eat this way all the time in the staff room. More Moët anyone?
  • He also leased a XJ Premium Luxury V6 Jaguar car and put his wife on the insurance, clocking up £3,000 in service bills alone. Because what head teacher doesn’t need a Jag?

NET Academies Trust (England)

  • Maxine Evans spent over £9,000 on executive taxis to travel between schools (and they have been sometimes made to wait outside, meter running, for the duration of her visit!)

Paradigm Trust (England)

  • An OIA shows that the Trust pays for broadband at CEO Amanda Phillips’ holiday home in France. (Clearly it’s hard to afford when one only earns £195,354 (NZ$400k) a year.)

Gulen/Harmony Charter Schools (USA)

  • Charges filed against them alleging  US$18M fraud (One of a raft of scandals related to the Gulen charter school chain over the years)

Michigan study (USA)

Ohio Department of Education invoiced (USA)

  • Diane Ravitch reports that Geneva Area City Board of Education invoiced the Ohio Department of Education, stating that “[o]ver the past 16 fiscal years, $4,265,924.70 has been taken away from Geneva Area City Schools via State Foundation Settlement deductions and sent to under-performing charter schools.”

Cabot Learning Federation (England)

  • Bath-based school is closed due to insufficient students, leaving current students without a school. Parents were not consulted.
  • The school was inspected in May and judged to be inadequate.

Lilac Sky Schools Academy Trust (England)

  • The Trust decides it doesn’t want to run the schools any more and looks to find someone new to take over. (Like passing on a franchise…)
  • The BBC reports: “In November, the Regional Schools Commissioner’s Office issued a pre-termination warning notice to the trust over “unacceptably low” standards at Marshlands Academy in Hailsham.”
  • The BBC also reports: “The commissioner said the number of pupils reaching level four or above in reading, writing and maths had fallen by 20% and was “significantly below the floor standard”

Oh I could go on… this is but a drop in the ocean… but you get the idea.

The charter schools movement is not about education – it’s about privatisation and diversion of funds. As always, I ask you to follow the evidence and follow the money.

~ Dianne

Featured Image courtesy of pixtawan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Sources:

Taxpayers fund large wages and lavish perks of academy school chiefs , The Guardian, Published online Sunday 24 July 2016

Trust given $500,000 charter school contract without going to tender, NZ Herald, published online 

Are charter schools making the grade? – The Nation, TV3, Saturday 23 Jul 2016 10:34 am, retrieved 9.38pm 25/7/16

Charter school a waste of public money – PPTA, Radio NZ, published 7:19 pm on 28 January 2016, retrieved 9.31pm 25/7/16

Gulen-led schools in Texas accused of $18M fraud, World Bulletin, published 15:14, 12 July 2016 Tuesday, retrieved 9.46pm 25/7/16

Parents at Bath Community Academy say school has failed their children and failed them, Bath Chronicle, published July 23, 2016, retrieved 9.59pm 25/7/16

Why NZ should care that teachers in England are on strike

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On Tuesday 5th July 2016, thousands of teachers in England are striking, and the reasons that are doing so are very pertinent to what is happening in New Zealand.  Everything that is happening there is already being put in place here, bit by bit by bit.

Here, Charlotte Carson explains the reasons that the teachers are striking and why parents should care:

Parents – are you a wee bit pissed off that teachers are on strike again? And it’s all about their pay?!!

I am a teacher and I will be on strike on Tuesday. I want to explain why.

1. It’s not really about pay.
As a profession I think we are well paid. That is why we have good quality professionals working hard to teach children, inspire them and look after them. But this is about to change.

2. The White Paper
The government’s latest white paper proposes DEREGULATION of teachers’ pay and conditions. Currently all local authority employed teachers in England are paid according to the same contract. Like nurses and doctors, we have automatic pay progression (so the longer you serve the more you get – an incentive to stay in the profession), pay portability (if we move schools we get the same basic pay – they can’t pay us less – this stops a competition between schools for teachers based on money – without it richer schools will always poach good staff from poorer schools) .

3. What is performance-related pay?
The introduction of performance related pay will mean that teachers get paid according to exam results. As a parent I would never want a teacher to look at my child and think ‘is he going to wreck my data and stop my pay rise?’ We are not working in sales – it is hugely problematic to pay us based on exam results.

4. Why should non-teachers care about teachers pay and conditions?
Deregulation also means that our working hours, holidays, pay, sick pay and maternity pay will be individually decided by the employer – the academy that is. An Academy in Manchester has in its contract that maternity pay will be ‘subject to affordability’. Who will become a teacher if the terms and conditions are unattractive?

A mum said to me yesterday ‘but in my job I don’t get good maternity pay – why should I care about teachers?’. My answer is this: public sector pay and conditions set the bar for private sector pay and conditions. If we get screwed you will get screwed too.

5. What’s the problem with academies and free schools?
Academies and free schools are businesses. That means their primary concern is money. The government is paving the way for them to become profit-making businesses. Already many academies double up as wedding venues, conference facilities etc. No harm in generating revenue eh? Well only if it’s being ploughed back into the school and the children. Let’s remember schools are about children aren’t they? It seems not.

Many academies including Harris academies have recently got in trouble for deliberately excluding ‘problem children’ and paying local authority schools to take them off their hands – because they wreck the data. How can you publish your excellent GCSE results if some stubborn children just won’t make progress! The answer in some academies is to get rid of them – then you don’t have to report their results.

So if the money isn’t spent on the kids where does it go?

Good question!
Do a Google search on Haberdashers Free School account fraud. He ran off with £4million! How did he manage to do that? Answer – because he was only accountable to the board of governors and the head teacher. Local authority schools are overseen by a democratically elected local council. Academies don’t have to bother with that level of accountability. And the government also wants to get rid of parent governors. This would mean that academies would only be accountable to themselves. We’re talking about millions of pounds of public money. Already there have been many documented cases of fraud in academies and free schools.

6. Qualified teachers v. unqualified teachers
Academies and free schools don’t have to employ qualified teachers. Unqualified teachers are cheaper of course. But I know which one I want teaching my children.

This is all I have time to write just now.
The problem is that most teachers are so busy that they haven’t taken time to communicate all this with parents. I think we need to get much better at doing that.

But just think about your children’s teachers – do you trust them? If you do then please trust that they are on strike for the right reasons – for the future of our jobs and our schools – defending education from privatisation.”

New Zealand parents, take note – this is all coming our way, too.

~ Dianne

Education is being hijacked by profiteers

Education reformers like to say they are doing it for the kids. That the reforms will improve the education system. Mountains of evidence shows this is poppycock and that education reforms overwhelmingly lead to profits being more important than the children’s education.

England As An Example

In England, the government has ruled that by 2020 Academies (charter schools by another name) will take over ALL state schools. Forcibly.

Whether parents and students want it or not. Whether the staff want it or not. Whether the school board wants it or not. Whether the school is doing badly or brilliantly.

It’s been mandated: ALL England’s public schools will be handed over to Academies.

Do Academies/Charter Schools Improve Education Systems?

If Academies raised standards, perhaps it would be understandable that the government wishes to hand all schools over.  Acceptable, even. But they don’t.

Pro-reformers will point out this school or that as being improved under the charter school model. But the truth is, they are the exception. Under this model, there is a raft of bad practice: Suspensions rise. Inclusion goes down. Cherry-picking of students takes place. And when similar cohorts are compared between public and charter schools, it is clear that charter schools do not improve results.

Even the UK Department of Education’s own analysis shows that, overall, England’s state schools do better when run by the Local Education Authority than by an Academy Trust.

Which surely begs the question of why this is being done.

Follow The Money

If you want to know the reason for reforms, follow the money.

Ask yourself, who benefits from these changes?

It isn’t the students: England’s national and international test results have fallen since Academies were put in place.

It isn’t teachers: Classroom teachers’ work conditions and pay are often far worse in Academies.

So just who is raking in the money? You might want to take a look at Academy Trusts’ CEOs. And while you’re at it, have a look at the misappropriations and frauds that have already happened in Academies. (A reminder – that’s your tax money they are taking. Money that is meant to be used to educate students.)

And where are savings being made, to pay these CEOs? Excellent question.

Are Academy CEOs such brilliant businessfolk that they are able to use money so much more wisely than LEAs and school principals ever did? Is running a thriving carpet empire or a successful mobile phone business what it takes to make an education system great?

No, not so much.

UK Schools Minister Nick Gibb recently said, in a speech championing Academies, that “[n]o child should have to spend one day more than necessary in an underperforming school and as an urgent matter of social justice we are determined to spread educational excellence to every corner of the country.”

But does the rhetoric match the reality?

Indeed not, and the list of failures grows daily, with evidence showing that in England LEA schools out-perform Academies.

So what is really going on?

Cost Cutting and Untrained Staff

Let’s take this Academy school as an example.

Hatfield Academy primary school was, in 2015, rated inadequate at many levels.  The OFSTED report specifically said that teaching was inadequate and stated that the school must “[u]rgently improve the quality of teaching”.

And yet this failing Academy is happily advertising for someone with no training at all to teach its students: 

Academy job cropped

No training.

No knowledge of pedagogies. No research of good practice. No understanding of child development or psychology.

No. Training.

None.

To put this further into context, this is a school where a school survey of parents showed that:

  • 27% felt their child/ren were not making good progress at the school.
  • 45% felt the school is not well led or well managed.
  • 42% felt the school does not deal well with concerns raised, and
  • 40% of parents said they would NOT recommend this school to another parent.
This is a school that thinks, with all of the above in mind, that employing untrained staff to teach students is acceptable.

This is global education reform.

~ Dianne

New Zealand, a warning: The forcible conversion of England’s schools to Academies (Charter Schools), by John Palethorpe

no academy

I could never work in an Academy. As an educator, a professional and a passionate believer in universal education, they represent a corruption of the principles of equal access to free education. Not only that, the long litany of problems involving finance, curriculum alterations and mistreatment of students and staff clearly outline that Academy schools aren’t great places to work. A friend of mine wrote beautifully on the subject a little while ago now.

In New Zealand we have Charter Schools a half formed cargo cult version. They’re already in trouble due to finance, curriculum and mistreatment of students and staff. Sounds awfully familiar.

The first UK Academy opened in 2002. Their introduction was aimed at reinventing inner city schools with significant results and management problems. Then sponsors got involved, either rich individuals or corporations (including educorps). They were supposed to bring in private sector best practice and management, like most privatisation is supposed to.

In May 2010 the Conservative-Liberal Democrat (Lib Dem) Coalition came to power in the UK. There were, at the time, 203 Academies in the UK – mostly Secondary Schools.

nut-no-academies-placard1The term of the Tory education secretary Michael Gove saw a radical expansion of Academies. This was often as a result of OFSTED inspections, some of which classed schools as failing only a year or two after they had been called outstanding. Some schools were forced into becoming Academies, against the will of pupils’ parents.

Today there are 4,516 academies; 2,075 out of 3,381 secondary schools and 2,440 of 16,766 primary schools. The expansion was so rapid that many private Academy trusts took on more schools than they could cope with, leading to those schools failing and being taken back by the DfE until another Academy group could be found to take over. The free market of schools.

“It was the middle of last week when I heard that I could never work in the UK again as a teacher”

It was the middle of last week when I heard that I could never work in the UK again as a teacher. I’ve no plans to move back, I love Aotearoa New Zealand, but the crunching finality of knowing that there’d be no place that I could conscientiously work was sudden and upsetting.

In the Budget, Chancellor George Osborne (not the pig tampering one, the one who looks like a pig) announced that all English schools would be converted into Academies by 2020. Every single one of them.

What does this mean? Well, given the evidence already available it would mean none of the UK’s schools would be bound to teach the National Curriculum, instead being charged to provide a ‘broad and balanced’ curriculum. So what you’re taught in one school may be radically different from another. Not teaching style, actual content.

It’s not great for pupils, in more ways than one. Many Academies have operated a subtle and not so subtle selection process, choosing only pupils who are likely to be able to improve their results. Others, when dealing with those who are disruptive or failing, have placed pupils on study leave during exam or inspection periods, or placed them in study support centres outside of the school. This can take the form of pupils and parents being asked to leave by the school, rather than being excluded (which would show up in the all important league tables). Now that every school is to become an Academy, where do those pupils go?

Academies have, over the long term, not been proven to raise results any more significantly than schools in the UK operating under the LEA’s (Local Education Authorities, which will soon be defunded and dissolved). In fact, Academies have come under fire for exactly the same issues that LEA schools had in management, results and organisation, the same issues which saw the schools be forced to convert! Conversion turns every school into an individual Ltd company and scythes out the level of local support and oversight that was previously provided by the LEA. On such a huge scale, that’s far too much for the Department for Education to handle.

It’s going to cost money too. Newly converting Academies get a 10% funding boost, at a time when state funded schools have seen budgets cut year on year. But due to the rapid expansion of Academy schools and the lack of oversight, many have had to be bailed out by the Department for Education. I guess bringing in the ‘best of the private sector’ does mean being utterly sure the Government will spend millions trying to salvage the mess you make.

Overall, it’s had a huge impact on the profession. Academies are not bound by the collectively negotiated pay structure, meaning the UK’s Teaching Unions will have to bargain with individual Academy Trusts and schools. They’re also not bound by the negotiated terms and conditions of contract for teachers, which means many teachers find themselves on-call permanently or schools have employed teachers on the equivalent of zero hours contracts. The trend for Academies to lack unionisation, because of the ease with which you can be dismissed, makes this even harder.

NUT-save-our-schoolsIt’s not great for Academies, either, though. Without a national pay structure, schools who can find more money will get the better teachers. Schools with wealthy backers will have more than schools that don’t.

As a male Primary teacher, I’m relatively certain that I’d be paid more than a female doing the same job with the same experience. Why? Because I’m rarer. Teaching is one of the few professions where pay equality was built in already. And they’re getting rid of it.

“Academies don’t have to employ qualified teachers”

There’s also the question of professionalism itself. Academies don’t have to employ qualified teachers. And hidden in the announcement of Academisation was the change to Qualified Teacher Status.

Previously, Newly Qualified Teachers (NQT’s) were assessed over the course of a year or two to see if they were able to meet the standards for a qualified teacher. With a huge teacher shortage looming in the UK, the plan is to allow teachers to teach for longer in the classroom and be certified by their Headteacher and a Senior Staff member.Education Secretary Nicky Morgan says this will drive up standards, and drive is an important word. She announced that allowing teachers longer to qualify and removing the strict schedule teachers had to meet will allow those NQTs who struggle more chances to make it.

As an experienced teacher, I look back on my NQT period as far, far less intensive than doing the job in the years that followed. It’s being presented as like a driving test, just because you fail doesn’t mean you’re a bad driver, right?

“…reducing the standards you require of a teacher doesn’t drive up standards and professionalism, it drives it over a cliff”

Fair enough, but with one report saying teachers would have up to a DECADE to pass, it makes you ask – if it takes you ten years to pass your driving test, maybe you’re just not a driver? Buy a bike. Or walk. Some people just aren’t meant for the classroom, some people just aren’t teachers and the attempt to try and fill the rapidly depleting profession by reducing the standards you require of a teacher doesn’t drive up standards and professionalism, it drives it over a cliff.

It also makes it trickier for teachers to do as I did and head overseas. There’s been a mass exodus of teachers from the English system, coincidentally or otherwise, in the last six years. By shifting the QTS award to something less substantial, overseas authorities may very well view them as insufficient evidence of an ability to teach. I’m glad I left when I did; others in future may not be so lucky.

There is already a growing and vocal opposition to all of the plans outlined above, as well there should. Announcing you’re ditching LEA oversight and support of schools, dumping the need for any school to employ qualified teachers, dropping the National Curriculum, scrapping nationally negotiated terms and conditions and placing schools in a bidding war for new teachers is a huge and complete evidence free attack on the quality and professionalism of education in the UK.

“For me there’s sadness.”

For me there’s sadness. My love of teaching was developed, as a student, in the UK system that’s now being explosively dismantled. I spent the first five years of my teaching career safe in the knowledge that I was a public servant, providing fair and equal education to all of my children as a professional. I was paid the same as anyone else who was experienced as I was, and I could talk with teachers from around the country about the curriculum and its delivery in the knowledge that we were all working together as equals. It was an education system for the whole country. If these plans are implemented, it won’t be any more.

In Aotearoa we should take lessons from the way in which Academy failures were written off or marginalised to the public and how concerted political pressure on inspection agencies led to the dramatic spread of privatised schools. The few Charter Schools in this country are already struggling, and what has happened in the UK this week shows us the future of education if they’re allowed to spread further.

no-to-an-academy_nut.jpg

~ John Palethorpe

Further reading:

Michael Rosen on academy schools: ‘Local democracy bites the dust’ – Guardian

England’s largest academy chain ‘failing too many pupils’ – BBC news

New academies laws were passed by Parliament last night: here is what they mean for you and your school – Time Educational Supplement (TES)

Anti Academy Alliance

 

 

Core Knowledge – Education or GroupThink?

learning by roteAn English charter school chain, Inspiration Trust, went to visit Core Knowledge in the USA and are very clearly thrilled with what they see.

What I see is kids taught by “drill and kill” methods – GroupThink at its worst.

Detailed academic research into the methods employed by Core Knowledge concluded:

Our analyses did show that students in Core Knowledge schools perform significantly better than their comparison school counterparts on the Core Knowledge Achievement subtests.

This is not surprising, as the students in Core Knowledge schools were taught the Core Knowledge content, whereas students in comparison schools were not.

In other words, the method teaches the children to pass tests – and specifically Core Knowledge’s own tests. Is that learning? Are these students getting real-world transferable skills?

Watch from 5 mins 45 seconds  onwards and tell me:

Is this the kind of school you want for your child?

Not in my worst Kafkaesque or Orwellian nightmares would I ever allow a child of mine into a class where this was the norm.

~ Dianne

Sources:

NATIONAL EVALUATION OF CORE KNOWLEDGE SEQUENCE IMPLEMENTATION – Final Report, Sam Stringfield, Amanda Datnow, Geoffrey Borman, & Laura Rachuba Johns Hopkins Unive rsity Report No. 49 December 2000

Testing politicians are testing my patience re testing

Don’t get me wrong, I love me a good test.  Especially the PROBE reading test – all those quirky squiggles we have to do, not too erroneous for the student, and bingo, a reading age and pointers towards strengths and weaknesses.  Hurrah.

Same with maths – administer a test or two and lo and behold you have the student’s maths stage.

And in New Zealand primary schools we are still very lucky to be able to test one on one with our students in a relaxed way. We can discuss their test and their results right there and, should we wish, set to work on the goals immediately. It’s very useful.

I’m not so keen on the National Standards bit, but the tests themselves if done sensibly and well are actually really helpful.

feeling_testy_mugSo why am I all testy about testing?

I’ll tell you why: Because politicians worldwide have gone test-crazy and it has not a jot to do with improving education.

Nicky Morgan, UK Education Secretary, yesterday announced a “war” on illiteracy and innumeracy. Yes, a war. Because apparently teachers aren’t trying to teach these things anyway, despite the many hurdles, so it needs threats and a war cry to get anything done…

Or, it could be that there’s an election looming and she’s talking through her hat. There’s always that.

Either way, Ms Morgan has found a magical and ingenious way to change the fate of these illiterate and innumerate kids!  Are you ready for this – you need to be seated (possibly with Rescue Remedy to hand, or wine) …. Ms Morgan insists that by age 11 all children must get 100% in a times tables test.

All.

100%.

No wiggle room.

Yep, time tables will solve everything apparently, but only if every kid gets every single one right.

Special needs student? Learning in another language? Battered? Hungry? Disengaged? Drugged up? Got dyscalculia?  Tough, it’s 100% or you’ve failed.  Well, way to go, Ms Morgan, you clearly know something about pedagogy and about learning that escaped Piaget, Ken Robinson and most of the teaching profession.

I should mention at this point that Ms Morgan couldn’t answer the cube root of 125 when asked recently, and today refused to answer basic multiplication questions posed by journalists.  Hmmm… was it that tricky 7×8 that got her, I wonder?

And if the students in a school don’t ALL get 100%, what then?  Well then the school will be forcibly turned into an Academy, of course – yes, you guessed it, if in doubt, privatise.

All this despite Academies in England getting terrible exam results compared with non-Academy schools.

Makes you think, doesn’t it?

Almost like the test is set impossibly high to facilitate forced privatisation… Gasp!

And then we have the USA.

You know education reforms have gone cloud cuckoo land when 6 year olds are being given standardised tests sat in rows at computers, having to manage the computer, the mouse, follow the written instructions and all in silence. No one-on-one friendly teacher testing in a calm way for these kids – or teachers.

And then the results are sent off to a testing company. They aren’t there to discuss or to inform the student or teacher about strengths or weaknesses. How can that possibly be considered a good way to run an education system?

And if you don’t think that’s bad enough, consider the special educational needs students and ill students forced to take these tests.  Or the dying student.  Yes, you read that right:

Last year, Ethan, who was born with brain damage, has cerebral palsy and is blind, was forced to take a version of the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test over the space of two weeks last year because the state of Florida required that every student take one.

Now his mom has to prove that Ethan, now in a morphine coma, is in no condition to take another test this year.

Source

And Ethan’s not the only one:

“Fourth-grader Joey Furlong was lying on a hospital bed, hooked up to various monitors for pre-brain surgery screening, when a teacher waltzed through the door holding a New York State standardized test”

Source

Or the 6 year old US kindy student who was:

“…denied a bathroom break in her kindergarten class and was forced to sit in her diarrhea during a test session at school.”

Source

Yes, the global education reforms march steadily on, creating a crisis via rhetoric and ridiculous tests so they can justify privatising schools.  And all the time there are children, parents and teachers in the mix who are being very badly served and who are fighting tooth and nail for some sense to come to the plate.

Is in any wonder I’m feeling testy.

Who is benefiting from the education reform movement?

Just who benefits from the education reform movement? In countries with charter schools and academies, exam passes and PISA scores have gone down. Teachers’ working conditions have worsened. But someone must be benefiting otherwise why would reformers be pushing so much money into lobbying politicians to open even more charter schools?

With that in mind, ponder this list:

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Sir Bruce Liddington, former Permanent Secretary at the Department for Education and head of the Academies Division.He was one of the chief architects of the Academies Programme before sliding seamlessly into the private sector to pocket £300,000 (NZ$600k) pa. salary plus benefits as CEO of EACT Academy chain (England). Source

 

 

 

swag bagFormer teachers from the Horizon Science Academy Dayton High School in Dayton testified at the board’s monthly meeting in Columbus about years of misconduct. Some said they had been afraid to come forward before finding new jobs.”

““I know of one student who failed the 7th grade and then had to repeat the year with the agreement with (an administrator) that she would be promoted to the 9th grade if she passed 7th grade during the second attempt. She indeed completely skipped 8th grade and all associated curriculum,” [testifying teacher] Kochensparger said.”  Source

 

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Kings Science Academy, England, was last year investigated and ““serious failings” were found in the school’s financial management with allegations that £80,000 worth of public money had not been used for its intended purpose”. Source

 

 

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“COLUMBUS, OH—A federal grand jury has indicted four people, alleging that they offered and accepted bribes and kickbacks as part of a public corruption conspiracy in their roles as managers and a consultant for Arise! Academy, a charter school in Dayton, Ohio.”  Source: FBI Press Release, June 2014

 

 

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Michael Gove (ex UK Education Minister)’s favourite Academy chain, run by Haberdashers’ Aske’s Federation Trust, is in the middle of a £2m (~$4m NZ) fraud investigation.  The Guardian reports “The alleged fraud, which comes after Haberdashers’ Knights Academy was judged by Ofsted in November to have “serious weaknesses”, is likely to raise questions about the freedom given to academies.”

 

 

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Charter School Fraud Totals $30 Million, Education Groups Launch State-by-State Investigation: “the Center for Popular Democracy, Integrity in Education and ACTION United released a report titled “Fraud and Financial Mismanagement in Pennsylvania’s Charter Schools” that exposes at least $30 million lost to waste, fraud, and abuse in Pennsylvania since the passage of that state’s charter school law in 1997 and was the subject of a Philadelphia Inquirer exclusive

 

 

swag bagThe “Charter School Vulnerabilities to Waste, Fraud and Abuse” report focused on 15 states representing large charter markets, out of the 42 states that have charter schools.

Drawing on news reports, criminal complaints, regulatory findings, audits and other sources, it “found fraud, waste and abuse cases totaling over $100 million in losses to taxpayers,” but warned that due to inadequate oversight, “the fraud and mismanagement that has been uncovered thus far might be just the tip of the iceberg.” Source 

 

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Academy hear teacher, Sir Greg Martin’s pay jumped by 56% last year giving him him a total salary package of £229,138 (~ NZ$460k).  “Sir Greg is the executive head of Durand Academy in South London.

The National Audit Office said there were a ‘large number of conflicts of interest’ in the way the academy was managed.” Source 

 

 

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A study of KIPP charter schools found that they receive “‘an estimated $6,500 more per pupil in revenues from public or private sources’ compared to local school districts.” But only a scant portion of that disproportionate funding – just $457 in spending per pupil – could accurately be accounted for “because KIPP does not disclose how it uses money received from private sources. Source

 

 

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The director of the now-closed New Hope Institute of Science and Technology charter school in Milwaukee, was convicted in federal court of embezzling $300,000 in public money and sentenced to two years in prison.  She spent about $200,000 on personal expenses, including cars, funeral arrangements and home improvement.

 

 

 

swag bag

 

The troubled Hartford charter school operator FUSE was dealt another blow Friday when FBI agents served it with subpoenas to a grand jury that is examining the group’s operations. When two Courant reporters arrived at FUSE offices on Asylum Hill on Friday morning, minutes after the FBI’s visit, they saw a woman feeding sheaves of documents into a shredder.  Source: The Hartford Courant, July 18, 2014

 

 

swag bagAn FBI raid on a charter school in East Baton Rouge is the latest item in a list of scandals involving the organization that holds the charter for the Kenilworth Science and Technology School. … Pelican Educational Foundation runs the school and has ties to a family from Turkey. The school receives about $5,000,000 in local, state, and federal tax money. … the FBI raided the school six days after the agency renewed the Baton Rouge school’s charter through the year 2019.” Source: The Advocate, January 14, 2014

 

 

 

swag bag

 

The head of an an English Academy chain run by Haberdashers’ Aske’s Federation Trust was ordered to repay £4.1m (~$8m NZ) taken fraudulently.

Not a penny had been repaid as of mid 2014.

 

 

swag bag

 

“An academy superhead paid £120,000 (~ NZ$250k) a year has told how he deserves a pay rise because his salary is “low” compared with those in other industries.

Liam Nolan, chief executive of Perry Beeches Academy Trust, Birmingham, said a review should be carried out into senior leadership pay in state schools to make the job more attractive.”

 

 

The list could go on and on and on.  Go do a search for “charter school fraud” or “mismanagement academy” and see the huge raft of worrying reports that come back.

Someone is benefiting from the education reform movement: The big question is, who?

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Further Reading:  http://academiesweek.co.uk/academy-trusts-how-the-big-five-rate/

 

England’s Academy schools – are they all they’re cracked up to be?

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.

She asks:

“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.

follow-the 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.

Exam results

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.

~ Dianne

follow the money

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