Education May 25 2010

Some questions for Michael Gove about his 2000 academies

On the eve of the general election, a friend of mine who is an expert in education law suggested that in the event of a Tory election victory, one quick way for David Cameron to get his much coveted changes to the state school system would be to send the following letter to existing academy sponsors.

Dear sponsor,

The Secretary of State would like you to let me know what changes you would like to the existing Funding Agreement for your academy. Feel free to make any suggestions. Don’t hold back. The Secretary of State is keen, for example, to remove all current restrictions on admissions, SEN, curriculum, etc other than those which are currently constrained by the EHRC. Send us a copy with the bits you don’t like crossed out and the Secretary of State will sign it and send it straight back. However, once we repeal the Human Rights Act and pull out of the ECHR you will then be free to teach whatever religious nonsense you want (and without parents being able to withdraw their children). You should also probably wait until then before introducing hidden CCVT in the toilets. Unfortunately, it will also take time to amend legislation to allow corporal punishment. But don’t worry, we plan all those things at the earliest opportunity (don’t worry – we won’t feel constrained by our manifesto from the election – we remain the nasty party). But you should also be aware that any rag bag bunch of parents who want to set up a school in your area will be given lots of money (twice as much as you get) to do it – presumably that’s just fine by you (after all, you were happy to join this dog eat dog world when it suited you…..).

Love Dave C

An exaggeration to make a point maybe, but there is a serious question here for Education Secretary Michael Gove, one that he has dodged to date. How will the funding agreements – the commercial contracts between government and sponsor – for any existing or new academies and free schools vary from the ones bequeathed by Labour?

The ‘model funding agreement’, used by most academies and independent free schools until May 6, was much more prescriptive than envisaged by the original academy proponents like Lord Adonis. The last Children’s Secretary Ed Balls tried to bind academies into the same rules on admissions, special needs and exclusions as maintained schools, to create a level playing field for parents and pupils.

This infuriated some academy sponsors, even though the now defunct DCSF website made it clear that ‘the level of prescription that the funding agreement makes is typically low’ in other words academies still had freedoms that other schools didn’t have.

The quickest way for Michael Gove to increase freedom given to schools that lie outside the local authority would be to rip up existing funding agreements (and the model) and allow sponsors to do what they want, as suggested by my friend. The devil will be in the detail of any new Bill announced today but the key questions for Mr Gove are:

Will existing academies and new schools be required to abide by the existing admissions code and will their admissions be policed by the local authority?

Will existing academies and new schools be required to take part in the local authority behaviour partnerships that share out the most challenging pupils between all schools in a given area?

Will existing academies be required to take pupils with statements of SEN and how will that be monitored?

Will existing academies be required to follow the same guidance on exclusions as maintained schools?

If the answer to these questions is no, expect to see the emergence of a school system even more segregated, especially in urban areas, than the one we have now. And be very wary of Con Dem pledges to prioritise poor and vulnerable children, as they will undoubtedly be the losers.

4 Responses to “Some questions for Michael Gove about his 2000 academies”

  1. Yes, all these questions are relevant, plus: will academies be required to give all children the same curriculum entitlement, such as the right to study MfL and Sciences?

    Also, how will academies be funded in comparison to other maintained schools?

    I totally agree that the poor and disenfranchised are going to lose out, with aspirational parents like Toby Young grabbing the funds.

  2. Politique says:

    Well Labour has made a real pig ear of education. The marketisation of education is just ticket to permanent inequality in our schools. What leaves a bitter taste in the mouth is the reluctance for those that know, that is, those individuals who failed to listen to the real and genuine concerns of parents and children who were sidelined as a result of FIGHTING for what they believe. Party allegiance and policy on the hoof was placed as a priority before common sense…and you should have listened to me ED.

  3. SarahEbner says:

    You might enjoy my take on this today. I have a lot of questions about the new Bill – not many answered yet.

  4. tzf1j6 says:

    What I do not understand about the Tory plan is how it will help the schools which do not do well. It seems that more money will be going to successful schools – given the government is not going to increase the money available to education this will surely mean less money for the less successful schools. But these are the schools that need more investment, to attract good teachers, to provide the additional support that disadvantaged children need. I’m old enough to remember when schools were divided into grammar schools, which if you were lucky to go to would give you a good education, and secondary modern schools, which ranged from schools who tried to provide a basic education to others which really were a way to keep children off the streets. We seem to be heading back to that.

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