Sunday, 27 June 2010

Claremont headteacher rises to the academy bait

Getting 10% more money (at the expense of other schools and centrally provided services) and more curriculum freedom (which the Green Party argue all schools should have), is the bait provided by the government to entice schools to become academies - and Terry Malloy, headteacher of Claremont High School in Kenton has swallowed it hook, line and sinker. He remarks, 'It enhances your income giving you more money to spend on pupils and that's a good thing.' As someone remarked this is a cash grab that will deprive other schools of income and ruin central services that provide support to all schools.

Malloy was speaking somewhat prematurely as the issue has not yet been discussed by Claremont's governing body. That was another government ploy: they wrote to headteachers rather than governing bodies with the 'academy offer' revealing their disregard for the democratic structures currently in place in schools. Headteachers are in charge of the day to day management of schools, governing bodies are responsible for their strategic direction. Changing status is clearly a strategic matter and governing body as community as well as school representatives should take account of the wider impact on other schools and the community.

Labour having so strongly backed the Trojan horse of academies under Blair and Brown are now backtracking, but lack credibility. Ed Balls, speaking to the Guardian, claims that Labour's academy programme was 'a progressive and comprehensive education policy' and 'What the Tories are proposing is a total perversion of that policy. It will be focused on the schools that are already doing well not those who need extra support. And for all the rhetoric about parent power and decentralisation it will remove the requirement to consult local parents or the local authority and will mean thousands of schools reporting directly to the secretary of state.'

In fact under Labour academy governing bodies appointed governors and the academy sponsor was guaranteed a built in majority. The role of local authorities was only latterly partially restored and academy agreements made subject to agreed admissions criteria. We in Brent know how little consultation there was with local parents and community over the Ark Academy and also remember the council survey (quoted recently by John Christie, Brent's Director of Children and Families against the Coalition policy)that showed the majority of Brent residents wanted schools to be run by the local authority - not by charities, private sponsors or faith groups.Labour had already prepared the ground which the Tories are now  enthusiastically occupying.

Sarah Teather Lib Dem, Brent Central, now Children's Minister, was strongly opposed to Labour's version of academies when she was shadow minister for education, but was demoted when the Lib Dem party leadership changed and their policy softened (just in time for Brent Lib Dems to change their line on the ARK Academy). Now in the Coalition she is having to support an even worse version of the Labour policy she so vigorously criticised. During the General Election campaign she described the Tory free school policy as a 'shambles, unless you give local authorities that power to plan and unless you actually make sure that there is money is available, it's just a gimmick'.

 "Trust in me"

Michael Gove, behind the polite, mild manner and silver tongue,(resembling Kaa in the Jungle Book) is a right-wing Conservative who is implementing potentially devastating, ill-thought out policies at reckless speed. He is Teather's boss - how long can she go along with undemocratic, cash grabbing academies and the 'shambles' of free schools?  The fig leaf of the Lib Dem's pupil premium, on the back burner anyway, will not make up for the cuts and privatising that will wreak havoc in local schools.

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