David Cameron recently set out his vision for the British schooling system by claiming he wants to give all schools the freedom to turn into academies, not just the “failing” and “coasting” schools.
In June it was announced that over 1,000 “coasting” schools are set to become academies, however now DC intends to offer this opportunity to all schools regardless of their results and standing. This move, coupled with the announcements made about free schools after the election, has now become a staple aspect of the conservatives education policy. A true advocate of academies, Cameron seems to believe that by “privatising” schools and taking away the power of the local authority it will lead to public service reform, “at a time when the labour party is giving up on public service reform and appealing to its left-wing base, I believe it is a moment for a Conservative majority government to be bolder still”.
But what actually is an academy?
- An academy is an independent, state funded school that operates outside of local authority.
- Academies don’t receive money from local councils like normal state schools however they receive money directly from the government.
- A head teacher or principal still run the school, however they are overseen by individual charitable bodies called academy trusts which are often part of an academy chain.
- Academies have sponsors, such as businesses, universities, other schools, faith groups or voluntary groups.
- Academies don’t have to follow the national curriculum and can set their own term times, they do however still need to follow the same rules on admissions, special education needs and exclusions as state schools do.
- Academies are also subject to inspection by Ofsted.
Cameron has accused local authorities of not taking action on failing schools in the past and said that his government would be ‘utterly intolerant of failure’ and regional school commissioners and Ofsted would intervene “very, very quickly” if things went wrong at any academy or free school. According to Prime Minister the introduction of academies has seen “a million more children in ’good’ or ‘outstanding’ schools” and academies that are sponsored by schools had seen vast improvements in their results since they were taken over and given extra independence and assistance.
The government has already brought forward legislation to force failing and coasting schools into academies with the belief that putting power in the hands of the head teacher and the teachers rather than “bureaucrats” will help further improve schools. But is he right? Will schools becoming academies turn out positive influence on the education system? Why even bother having a National Curriculum if academies don’t need to follow it?