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Old 21st Jan 2011, 15:34   #1
Colyngbourne
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Default Academies

Monday was meant to be the most depressing day of the year.

But none of the popular pundits announcing this accompanied me on Wednesday to a "consultation meeting" with their local (and only) secondary school, which in effect revealed the entire leadership team pushing and effectively and simply informing the parents in attendance that the governors intended to vote within a few weeks to apply to be an 'academy school', possibly to begin their new status this coming September.

Several sleepless nights and enraged days (and lots of research) later, I'm formulating some kind of formal response to the governors, but for those with kids here, a warning that as of June 2010 there is no legal obligation on governors to "consult" with parents before they take this decision: the parents have no right to have their opinions taken into account, and any "consultation meeting" arranged, will be informative only.

Gotta dash out, and will add more later, but three things I didn't know until I looked them up on the internet *after* the meeting sadly:

1. An academy does not elect its governing body, so the parents and community have no effective say in the governorship of the school.

2. An academy doesn't have to be OFSTED'ed as frequently as LEA schools - every 10 years instead of every three or five.

3. An academy is still, as far as I know, exempt from the Freedom of Information Act - so that its workings are secret: how much money is allocated to SENCO provision, for example.

It's not good.
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Old 21st Jan 2011, 16:52   #2
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Default Re: Academies

I'm with you, Col. One of our local secondary schools is becoming an academy (not one of the two my boys are at, but plenty of my friends' kids are there).

I don't think there is enough known about them so I don't understand what the rush is. I can guess why leadership teams want to become academies - to escape the prying eyes of the local authority, but why are governing bodies in such a hurry?

I didn't know they were exempt from FoI - how can that be right and just?
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Old 21st Jan 2011, 19:40   #3
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Default Re: Academies

Sounds mighty fishy to me.

Mind you, LEAs haven't had an unblemished record by any means. Wasn't this a New Labour idea? Kind of indicates that they had some compelling reason to take them out of the Public Services ambit. Or was it just Blairism (Crypto Tory) or Brownism (Give 'em the money)?
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Old 21st Jan 2011, 19:51   #4
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Default Re: Academies

It does seem strange. And unnecessary, since the school is regarded widely as very good indeed already, and Good with Outstanding features by OFSTED.

The Bill was passed through last July without green or white papers or consultation, and without any time for parliamentary scrutiny, and a proposed amendment by a LibDem to allow parents to be balloted on any proposed change to their school status was rejected by the schools minister as unecessarily bureaucratic.

Not to the parents who are dead against it. I have read of schools where 94% of the parents have stated their disapproval of the change but the governors voted with it anyway.
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Old 27th Jan 2011, 20:55   #5
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Default Re: Academies

The main motivation is financial. Successful schools in affluent areas have significant financial incentives to become academies (no doubt these conditions were carefuly arranged by the Govt to kickstart the policy...).

The most affluent areas of the country are impacted by the largest cuts in local authority grants from Govt. Coupled with this, local authorities need to spend a significant proportion of their income subsidising schools in poorer areas (school meals, special needs, other subsidies) - the most successful schools get a relatively small proportion of this funding. However, if a school opts out from the local authority, it gets a direct grant which is not dependent on the specific needs of its pupils and community, which it can spend on what it wishes - and little of it will be consumed meeting the needs of pupils from poorer backgrounds...

Hence, a good school in a good area in an affluent region will undoubtedly see its income significantly increase if it becomes an academy....

Not defending the policy in the slightest, just pointing out that schools have financial incentives - imperatives in some cases, as staying inside a local authority may well lead to significant budget cuts for good schools in good areas - it's not solely a grab for power by leadership teams.
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Old 28th Jan 2011, 0:13   #6
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Default Re: Academies

That is true, Eric, and with other funding streams drying up, it is not surprising that some schools are entertaining this as a possibility. In the end, however, it is removing money from other schools, at their expense, and opening up a realm of potential 'abuse' in terms of pay and conditions, a closed-shop of school leadership/trusteeship - not necessarily under those currently incumbent who are simply seeking lost revenue, but under future leadership teams.

And none of the LEA-valued stuff would be safeguarded: educational psychology budgets, governor training budgets, to name only two.
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Old 28th Jan 2011, 9:12   #7
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Default Re: Academies

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ang View Post
I didn't know they were exempt from FoI - how can that be right and just?
Since I've been doing a lot of reading around these last few days, it has just been announced by Nick Clegg in the last week, that as of next October, the F of I Act will apply to academy trusts (as well as various other bodies that are currently exempt). So that is one outstandingly bad thing cleared up, leaving a host of other issues to be concerned about.
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Old 28th Jan 2011, 9:25   #8
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Default Re: Academies

Phew, that's a relief.
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Old 28th Jan 2011, 9:32   #9
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Default Re: Academies

Quote:
Originally Posted by Eric View Post
The main motivation is financial. Successful schools in affluent areas have significant financial incentives to become academies (no doubt these conditions were carefuly arranged by the Govt to kickstart the policy...).

The most affluent areas of the country are impacted by the largest cuts in local authority grants from Govt. Coupled with this, local authorities need to spend a significant proportion of their income subsidising schools in poorer areas (school meals, special needs, other subsidies) - the most successful schools get a relatively small proportion of this funding. However, if a school opts out from the local authority, it gets a direct grant which is not dependent on the specific needs of its pupils and community, which it can spend on what it wishes - and little of it will be consumed meeting the needs of pupils from poorer backgrounds...

Hence, a good school in a good area in an affluent region will undoubtedly see its income significantly increase if it becomes an academy....

Not defending the policy in the slightest, just pointing out that schools have financial incentives - imperatives in some cases, as staying inside a local authority may well lead to significant budget cuts for good schools in good areas - it's not solely a grab for power by leadership teams.
Even the most affluent authorities have pockets of deprivation and these are generally not the students whose parents are appealing to get into the more successful schools (or should I say not winning the appeals). I suppose if all schools become academies then it would be considered a level playing field? Somehow I don't think it's going to turn out that way.

Under labour, secondary schools were going to have to work in a cooperative way to be able to offer the diplomas that were gradually being introduced. I am not qualified to say whether the diplomas were a good thing, but I sure liked the sound of local secondary schools cooperating with each other to benefit children. The academy route seems to be moving things in the opposite direction.
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Old 28th Jan 2011, 21:10   #10
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Default Re: Academies

Sorry, I didn't mean to suggest that the policy would result in a level playing field. I'm not defending it - just explaining the financial incentives for good schools in good areas. Sink schools in deprived areas would most likely suffer financial penalties if they converted to academy status, as they would lose the high level of local authority subsidies they currently receive.

So this will result in a two-tier system, which is actually no different to what we already have. Previous policies over several generations, from both ends of the political spectrum, have failed to level the playing field, but I doubt if the present govt is even trying to achieve this.
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