Sunday 27 January 2013

The contradiction at the heart of Gove's school policy

This is the full version of my letter to the Guardian which was published on Tuesday. The last paragraph was omitted:

The decision to send Ofsted into 'under-performing' local authorities is another step in the transformation of Ofsted into the political agent of Michael Gove. The main  contradiction of Tory education policy is that it preaches autonomy for schools but at the same time seizes centralised control of them via converting them into academies, answerable only to Michael Gove. 

The DfEs official directions say that Michael Gove's powers to force schools to become academies should only be used after a school has been under performing for some time and if the problems are not being tackled. The DfE is currently acting beyond that direction..

Roke Primary School in Croydon and Gladstone Park Primary in Brent, the former previously graded Outstanding and the latter Good, have recently been downgraded by Ofsted and immediately forced to become academies. Roke's Outstanding was given only 7 months before the Inadequate grade. Gladstone Park got a Good assessment in January 2011. Gladstone Park, an inner city school, has SAT results above the national average and twice the national average at Level.6.

The DfE sends in someone who can only be described as a kind of Commissar, unyielding and not interested in dialogue, just intent on imposing a private sponsor on the school. Deadlines are tight and governors, staff and parents find themselves faced with a fait accompli. In both schools parents are organising in defence of their children's education and against becoming a forced academy.

Ofsted inspectors now know that if they grade just one area of a school 'Inadequate' the DfE will move in and turn it into an academy. With the jury out on whether academies actually improve the quality of education we are faced with a hugely risky strategy that threatens to massively destabilise our schools.  The outcome is in direct  contraction to the Government's supposed support for localisation and  will move more power to the centre.

Gove's policy on academies and free schools, the curriculum, the examination system, and even the exclusion of Mary Seacole from the National Curriculum, exposes a Secretary of State who is committed to seizing control of schools, not liberating them.

Gladstone Park Primary School Governors in order to be open and transparent with parents have published their e-mail communications with Jack Griffin, the DfE's academisation officer, on the school website LINK

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