We end the summer term as the Education & Adoption Bill makes its way through Parliament. Key features of the bill include the forced academisation of coasting schools, the silencing of parental objections and an obligation on councillors and governors to accept the academy ‘solution’ even if they believe it is not in children’s best interests.
This outrageous attack on democracy was the subject of an Anti Academies Alliance meeting held in parliament late last month. Even the most seasoned campaigners at the meeting were shocked by the analysis of DfE data presented by Henry Stewart of the Local Schools Network. The data showed that disadvantaged children in secondary academies attain less well than their peers in maintained schools. Henry had also analysed Ofsted results which showed that sponsored academies are twice as likely to retain the Ofsted judgement of inadequate or to become inadequate than maintained schools.
As well as Green MP Caroline Lucas (Brighton Pavilion), two newly elected Labour MPs spoke at the meeting: Catherine West MP (Hornsey & Wood Green) and Clive Lewis MP (Norwich South and newly appointed patron of the AAA). Clive, whose constituents continue to fight the takeover of Hewett School by the Inspiration Trust, had used his maiden speech two weeks earlier to defend community education against the dominance of the chain in Norfolk. Catherine West spoke passionately about the current crises in education: vicious cuts to Further Education; Sure Start Centres closing up and down the country; schools finding it near impossible to recruit or retain teachers – none of which are addressed by this bill. Caroline Lucas, a long time supporter of the successful Hove Park anti-academy campaign, concluded that: ‘We need a road show to let parents and the public know that there is no case – becoming an academy does not improve children’s education’.
Alasdair Smith, National Secretary of the AAA, summed up: ‘We have won the argument: becoming an academy does not lead to school improvement. We need to keep exposing the lie that academisation has anything at all to do with school improvement. This bill rides roughshod over parents, councillors, governors, teachers and support staff. It needs to be vehemently opposed. We all must unite, across the political spectrum, to expose this government’s intentions to marketise and privatise our education system.’
Education ministers get their sums wrong – again
The DfE has had a ticking off for its creative use of statistics and not for the first time. Ministers had claimed that primary sponsored academies had seen their reading, writing and maths results improve at double the rate of local authority schools. Ministers had been comparing primary sponsored academies with all primaries rather than those with similar test results. In fact, non-academy primary schools starting with the same 2013 test results actually registered faster improvements than the sponsored primary academies. The Guardian’s Warwick Mansell reported this week that the UK Statistics Authority had advised that the DfE should in future state that the data, as presented could not be used – by ministers and others – to imply a “causal link” between academy status and improvements in test results. You can read more on this from Henry Stewart at the Local Schools Network.
Swept under the carpet?
Disturbing claims reach us from South London where a whistleblower from a Harris Federation sponsored academy tells of teachers shipped in and children shipped out during a recent Ofsted inspection. They add that the turnover of staff is worryingly high. We printed the response from Harris Federation, founded by carpet magnate Lord Harris of Peckham, in full on our website. Over the years we’ve received many allegations about this chain in particular and the common themes suggest to us that the whistleblowers are genuine. But they are also genuinely in fear of their employers. It may also be worth noting that last year there were allegations of ‘off rolling’ pupils at Harris Academy South Norwood – all to keep the data looking good.
Our next steering group will be in London on Saturday 26 September at 2pm. All welcome. We’ll send out full details early in September but for now please hold the date.