The Academies Bill has been passed into legislation in Westminster this week. Already it has begun to unravel. http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2010/jul/29/michael-gove-academy-schools
The Conservative Party (which abandoned support for grammar schools and academic selection in 2007) has now come clean with an unequivocal quote from schools minister Nick Gibb MP,
“We are committed to comprehensive education and this bill will strengthen comprehensive education,”
Nick Gibb MP
he said. “Nor is this bill about scrapping the admissions code. All academies will be bound by the admissions code through the model funding agreement.”
Nick Gibb, said the bill would “grant greater autonomy to individual schools, give more freedom to teachers and inject a new level of dynamism into a programme that has been proven to raise standards for all children.”
Unfortunately for Msrs Cameron, Gove and Gibb the evidence for this claim is lacking.
Perhaps the Conservative Party in general and their “Friends of Grammar Schools” rebel Graham Brady in particular should examine the Northern Ireland experience closely.
When the Education Minister, Sinn Fein’s Caitriona Ruane attempted to end academic selection by withdrawing the official 11-plus parents demonstrated their objections and encouraged the development of a commercial replacement.
The number of pupils entered for the replacement 11-plus test was almost equivalent to the previous 11-plus. Parents were willing to fund the tests themselves. Unfortunately for some parents some grammar school heads have choosen to abandon the principle of academic selection and therefore the basis of grammar schools. Therein lies the dangers inherent in the English Academies Bill. Giving increased powers, without commensurate accountability, to headteachers, could result in disaster. Parents should not be surprised by the behaviour of politicians but should ask themselves about the decision making abilities and incentives behind the decisions of some grammar school heads to sign up for Academy status.
Caitriona Ruane learned a hard lesson. Time for David Cameron, Michael Gove and Nick Gibb to learn theirs too.