By Alasdair Smith
The Conservative government’s announcement that every school will be an academy by 2020 heralds the final episode in the destruction of democratically accountable state education.
It is a measure of breathtaking stupidity. No one in education, apart from the lunatic Tory fringe, believes academisation solves any problems. They are so blinded by an ideological commitment to the free market and ‘shrinking the state’ that they are completely missing the point about the needs of our children and the developing crisis in the wider education system.
But the Tories are not the only people missing the point. There is a whole layer of governors and head teachers who are Morgan’s willing accomplices. They are going along with this madness like lambs to the slaughter. They conduct fake consultations and bully parents and teachers who question academy conversion. They say there is no alternative and then take a fat cat pay rise for themselves. They are people who have abandoned a commitment to education and social justice for individual aggrandisement or corporate greed. Whether they run a MAT or an academy business chain these people are the enemy too. They are aiding and abetting the destruction of state education.
For this government, education is about the creation and protection of class privilege. The pretence of social justice made forcefully by Gove, does not appear to bother Nicky Morgan. The return of selection, tests designed to fail more and more children and cuts in school budgets are her chief legacy. Add to this the shortage of school places teachers, it becomes clear that the Tories have a plan to destroy state education. Academisation is an essential tool in this process. It atomises school communities. It sets schools against each other and it encourages gaming the system.
Even OFSTED boss Sir Michael Wilshere now implicitly questions academisation. His recent report condemned several Multi Academy Trusts (MATs) for paying fat cat salaries, feckless support and failing the most disadvantaged children. Wilshere compared them to the worst Local Authorites of yesteryear, but that’s unfair. At least an LA could be held accountable at the ballot box
As Fiona Millar asked recently what is the point of academy conversion? All the old claims- school improvement, autonomy, innovation and social justice – claims made variously by politicians of all three main parties have gone into the dustbin of history.
Never has the need for a national campaign to bring our schools back under local democratic oversite been more necessary, but now we need to link up with the fight against cuts in school budgets and the shortages of school places and teachers.