There’s been a slow start to converting to academy status – so far 32 schools have transferred although there are another 110 with approval that will convert during the year. Not quite the thousands that the Government had hoped for, according to The Independent ‘A mixture of teaching union pressure, legal hitches and a lack of interest from schools marred the first day of the Government’s blitz to boost the academies programme yesterday.’ Interestingly, within the article was a telling comment from a Rotherham headteacher – “If we were to become an academy, it would in essence take money and resources from all the other Rotherham schools and schools across the nation and simply give it to us. I am head of an outstanding, high-performing school. I’m already doing very nicely, thank you very much, so why give me extra money at the expense of other schools that need it?”
As a reminder – how the new academy system works…..
Under the Government’s revamped programme, all schools can now seek academy status.
Those ranked as “outstanding” by the standards watchdog Ofsted can automatically transfer to academy status – and for the first time, primary schools can also choose to become one.
As an academy, a school is funded directly by Whitehall so the headteacher and its governing body have control over how to spend the budget – buying in services such as special needs support rather than receiving them from their local authority.
The school is also given freedom from the national curriculum, gaining more control over what it teaches its pupils. Under Labour’s old programme, academies were sponsored either by businesses or universities and were concentrated in areas of social deprivation. The status was also conferred on schools considered to be under-performing.
However – it looks like the transfer to academy status for under-performing schools will continue and be extended to include primary schools. From The Telegraph – The Education Secretary says the worst primaries will be transformed into independent state schools under the leadership of a new head teacher amid claims that too many children are still struggling to master the basics at 11. Mr Gove says that Ofsted will be tasked with identifying schools with ‘persistent serious problems’ that are in need of the most urgent intervention. “Either they improve fast or they will have their management replaced by an academy sponsor with a proven track record,” he says.
The National Audit Office is, however, warning that the rapid expansion of the academies programme could prove to be ‘poor value for money’ in an article in Education Investor.
On the Free School front some 16 will be set up over the next year according to the BBC and The Telegraph. Mr Gove has declared himself to be ‘excited’ by the levels of interest in this flagship programme. If you believe everything you read in the Daily Mail, we should be starting the process of canonisation so we can create a new ‘St Michael’ brand! Regrettably, under the Vatican rules, the process cannot start until 5 years after death although they did waive this rule for Mother Teresa.
September has seen the opening of more BSF funded secondary schools and I hope for success for all those involved. However in an article in The Guardian, the Department for Education has now concluded that “Children from the poorest homes will suffer the most from the coalition’s decision to axe the school rebuilding programme.”
In the article, Ed Balls, the shadow schools secretary, said: “Michael Gove has got the wrong priorities. He has spent four months working on a plan for just 16 free schools while some 700,000 children have started the new term in schools that will now be condemned to having second-class facilities.”
So the rumblings continue and the rumours abound. We’ve had Mark 1 academies and now we’re seeing the first wave of the Mark 2 academies. We’ve had Mark 1 BSF schools and we’re hearing about rumours for Mark 2 BSF – more functional buildings, built on a reproducible design hence cheaper and quicker to construct. They’ll keep the rain out but will they raise the spirits and be as flexible? Let’s hope so – good architecture and construction can continue to inspire after tens or even hundreds of years.
Not enough cash? Not enough equipment? Then encourage pupils to bring in their own devices. An article on Merlin John’s website celebrates just that – Scargill Junior’s innovative use of ICT is changing learning. Pupils are bringing in and using their own devices to support learning – their success hasn’t happened overnight but according to the headteacher it’s been worthwhile.
Here at Synetrix we’re looking at a range of technologies that will make it easier for those that wish to follow Scargill Junior School’s example – these range from cloud based services that can be accessed from anywhere at any time to innovative use of wired and wireless LAN technologies that will make it easier for learners (and others) to bring their own devices into school, connect to the networks and access resources and the Internet, without impacting on the safety and security of the users or the information stored on the network.
Finally, a couple of technology bits and pieces from the The Telegraph – students using Facebook achieve significantly lower examination grades and technology has become the most popular homework excuse.