Forced Academisation is Wrong

An academy is a state-funded school which is independent from local authority. They are run by academy trusts and have several ‘freedoms’ that non-academy schools do not. They have the ability to buy in services privately that were previously provided, and overseen, by the local authority. They are responsible for their own term times and, to a certain extent, admissions policies. They can choose not to follow the national curriculum and employ teachers who are not qualified.

There are, of course, some strict rules that they are expected to follow – they can’t solely teach juggling or only accept pupils with higher than average IQs. They must have a “balanced” and “broadly based” curriculum and are subject to the same admissions code as other schools.

However, when a school becomes an academy, in a sense, it is cut off from the community it serves. Schools are set up to become independent bubbles – separate entities that are then pitched against each other in the race to achieve exam success. They can choose to divert their resources however they wish in order to best achieve that goal.

Students from difficult backgrounds, those who are poor, in social care, those who have had to fight their whole lives for what others take for granted – they do not perform as well in exams as other children. It is a sad fact. An academy has the power to discourage such pupils from attending.

An academy can choose to spend less on Special Educational Needs provision, can choose to influence its cohort and attract pupils from more affluent areas, can choose to direct all of its resources and time towards academically more able students. And all this, without a single jot of accountability to the communities and families it serves or the teachers it employs.

An academy can choose to spend less on certain subjects – Art and Drama are not important in the league tables, after all. They can pay Art and Drama teachers less. Drop them from the curriculum entirely. It doesn’t matter if your child, or my child, was destined to win an Oscar or be the next Picasso; we might never know.

Which schools would choose to make such transparently immoral decisions, you might ask? Most teachers I have met are an idealistic bunch, I admit. Most educators, most head teachers, did not enter the profession with an ideology that favours the privileged. Many teachers and heads care about all the children they serve and use the academy system to continue to support all. Some academies are wonderful places because the people running them are fair, clear-sighted and competent.

But not all. And the pressure of exam and Ofsted success within schools is absolutely crushing. The fear of exam failure or an unsatisfactory Ofsted can slowly but surely kill even the most idealistic spirit, believe me.

And it is already happening. I have heard stories of heads in other counties ‘suggesting’ to parents that neighbouring schools ‘are more set up for SEN’ and that their school caters more for the ‘gifted and talented’ –  head teachers already seeking to turn away parents of pupils who might affect their exam results. What will happen when every school has the power to influence the things listed above without check? Are we really naive enough to believe that this kind of thing won’t happen more frequently?

When you turn a school into an academy, it becomes just a little bit more like a business – a business whose profits are exam success.

This puts schools in a position where they are able sacrifice the obligation they have to cater to all potential students, from diverse backgrounds. It creates another little corner of the world where we are encouraged to direct resources and time towards the bright, the rich, the already successful.

It enables the poor, the disadvantaged and the disabled to be overlooked, because they represent too much effort, too much time, too much money – for too little a potential ‘return’ when it comes to exam success.

As a teacher, this is demoralising and saddening.

As a mother – the mother of a bright little boy with autism who could achieve wonderful things with the right resources and a school committed to fighting his corner – it is absolutely heart-breaking.

My son is lucky. He has me, he has his father – both teachers, both willing and able to fight for support and learn how to best help him ourselves. We will not let him slip through the cracks.

But what of the others? What of children with educational needs with no family support, what of those in care, from poorer backgrounds, those with challenging and complex needs? What about those parents who are not teachers, who try their best but struggle to know how best to help their child? What about the unsupported, the neglected, the unloved?

I see them in my classroom every day.

Schools should be the first places that enable these students to overturn the limited expectations that society unfairly gives them. Education is the means by which we can all make something of ourselves. Education is a ticket out of poverty, a means to build confidence, a symbol of hope and equality that says ALL can find something here. With determination and hard work, ALL can claim success. When you make all schools academies, you take something away from this dream, this picture of what education SHOULD be.

I guess if you were educated at Eton, that ethos can be hard to understand.


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18 thoughts on “Forced Academisation is Wrong

  1. Very well said!
    It is a purely ideological move, taking our schools towards privatisation with as you say potential to restrict curriculum choices and focus on results that look good on paper rather than those actually GOOD FOR CHILDREN.
    Academies can work fine – a lot of the first academy conversions really did improve the worst of schools, largely due to the money pumped into them to rebuild and refurbish. They can also be horrendous – vastly overpaid executive heads with no knowledge of the community making decisions about our children’s’ education based on how it makes the data look, attracting the right sort of children, treating staff horribly because they can etc.. You only need to look at the Perry Beeches fiasco to see this.
    There is no evidence that forcing all schools down this route will improve standards – no matter what Nicki Morgan claims. (There was a good thing about this on R4 More or Less the other day –
    It is very wrong. But it is reassuring that so many parents, not just teachers, recognise this and are doing something about it.

  2. It is a terrifying decision and I honestly do not know how I am going to let my child enter the education system in several years time. It will be an education system that I do not trust. If only education was separated from politics and allowed to be run by teachers and educators. Did you see the Finnish school system post I shared? If not I’d recommend a read:

  3. Completely agree, especially with your final sentence. Unfortunately everyone thinks they are an expert on education. Everyone went to school, right? How much more training than that do you need to run all the schools in the country? Sadly those who run education seem to assume that every pupil is exactly like they were, and every school should be exactly like theirs was-or exactly as they remember it. #bigpinklink

  4. As a fellow teacher (now in an international school) I hate what has happened and is still happening to education in the UK. I will never come back to teach in the UK. I think your final statement summarizes the situation well. Unfortunately people have been voted into power who don’t care one bit for ordinary people.

  5. Completely agree! I work in an academy (a very well known academy group) I teach dance and guess what…I’m being made redundant at the end of the year as my subject does not fit with their curriculum. So there goes my job.
    Why don’t they see that the arts can help so many children especially those in deprived areas and those with needs. Not all children can access a purely academic curriculum. Our children will suffer.
    I am seriously considering home schooling my children when they reach secondary age if this situation doesn’t improve!

  6. To be honest I can see both sides of this. In an ideal world, schools should be catering for all levels. In reality though, I think this can sometimes hold back the brighter kids and put a lot of pressure on the children who are a little behind, so maybe there is value to having separate schools. However, I don’t agree for one second that this should be done for financial gain or to get a good exam pass rate. It should be assessed based on what is right for the pupils.
    I can also see the logic to dropping subjects like art, drama etc. I remember when I was at school, even as a teenager I knew those subjects would never serve me a purpose in real life and it was just an hour wasted goofing off really. I believe if that time was dedicated to English, Maths and Science, that children would be receiving a better grounding for further education.
    Anyway, that’s just my opinion and as someone who is neither a teacher nor a parent I don’t really get a say in the matter.
    This was a great post that has really got me thinking!
    Thanks for linking up to #AnythingGoes

  7. I’m totally appalled by and opposed to forced academisation. Education should be there for all regardless of their background or abilities. I was also appalled by Nicky Morgan’s so called ‘explanation’ of what academisation is and why we need it on Mumsnet. It was badly written and lacking any compelling reason as to why the Government sees fit to go ahead with this crazy plan. As for them trying to sneak in wholesale edcuational reform under the guise of ‘the budget’ – did they think no one would notice??!

    I’m not a teacher so don’t see the daily impact at a grass roots level as you do but I totally agree with you on each and every point. My eldest is currently on the ‘gifted and talented list’ at his primary school so in the Tories (and academy’s) eyes he’ll be ‘ok’ then? But is this fair? And what pressure will they continue to put on him to continue performing well? Who will these schools be accountable to? The shareholders and people with the resources by the sounds of it…
    Well-written post by the way 😉

  8. Hear hear! Very well put. In essence it’s privatisation! And what’s more, there is no evidence whatsoever to back up the smug claim that they are better. For once I agree with the NUT!

  9. Great post and very informative. My sons high school recently changed back from an academy to just a secondary school and I did wonder what the differences were. Thanks for sharing. #KCACOLS

  10. Oh dear, this is a brilliant post, but yet another one in a series of posts I seem to be reading at the moment, which shock, sadden, and terrify me for my children’s futures. We have recently had a brand new ‘academy’ school built near us, and should our children not get into any of our chosen schools, this will be the next nearest place. I hadn’t yet looked up the difference between what I knew as a school, and an academy, so thanks for clarifying and enlightening me on this-they sound potentially awful places if run by the wrong people. I really cannot believe what is happening to education in this country.
    Thanks for sharing with #bigpinklink.

  11. I had no idea about Academy’s until now, I knew they existed but didn’t know how they existed. Your posts sums this up and raises awareness of the problems with academies. It’ll be a while until our daughter enter the education system, and who knows what the system will look like then. Claire x #KCACOLS #BigPinkLink

  12. I work for an academy trust doing communications/PR but used to work as a secondary state school English teacher. I agree with you to some extent. My two are under 3 still and some of the changes I know are going to be implemented do scare me. NG loves dance, for example, and I know this won’t be a huge priority in my school. But I do think (hope?) the freedom academies will have to make decisions about education for their particular students is considerable and with competition in the job market from overseas increasing, I do believe that, if it’s a good Trust, it will find a way of supporting every child well, whilst being ‘progressive’. (well, I have to, don’t I?!) Thank you for sharing this. #bigpinklink

  13. This is such an eye opening post. I had absolutely know idea that this is how academies work, and if I’m honest it’s really shocking! Thanks so much for linking up at #KCACOLS. Hope you come back again next Sunday. Xx

  14. Great post and thank you for sharing this with us because I didn’t know all of this! I was also wondering what the difference was. I’m just learning about British Education since my daughter is at school. All of this is new to me. I really don’t know what we will do when Bella goes to high school but at the moment she goes to a very small private school but it is is an independent day school which is part of The New Model School Company which was founded by a group of social policy experts, educationalists and concerned lay people, looking to explore new ways of providing an excellent education, so the idea is to have first-class education at the lowest sustainable fees. I’m very happy with this school and they offered so much support to kids in need which is wonderful. I know it is not free but their fees are much more affordable that any other private school in London. Now the problem will be when little Sienna starts school!! This posts is an eye opening to a lot of people!! I hope something is done soon!! Thanks so much for sharing this at #KCACOLS. It is always a pleasure to have you here!! 🙂 xx

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