The wheels are starting to come off the academies programme, and not before time. It was back in 2000 that Blair’s Labour government introduced them, keen like all governments to cut down the role of all possible centres of opposition, such as local authorities.
Predictably, academy schools have become a magnet for dodgy characters on the make, each handling millions of pounds a year with precious little accountability (see article on the Kings Science Academy, Bradford, page 5). The ensuing publicity hasn’t helped Education Secretary Michael Gove. Nor has the indifferent performance of many academies.
Meanwhile teachers and parents are still putting up dogged resistance, even after a decade and a half. And now the judiciary is joining in, blocking the attempted automatic conversion into an academy of The Warren School in east London. Mr Justice Collins said at the end of January that Gove “thinks academies are the cat’s whiskers, but we know some of them are not”.
The free schools programme – Gove’s invention – has been panned by the National Audit Office for spending money like water. The brakes are being slammed on a number of pre-approved free schools as the general election looms.
Recent governments have been ever keener to centralise and control education in the hope of asserting power over the minds of the young, probably a vain hope.
But the dismantling of the state education system is turning into a shameful, chaotic mess. It is only where professionals take control in their workplaces that sanity can prevail and they can get on the with job of educating. ■