Myths about Academies

  The proposals by the ConDem Coalition Government to expand rapidly the number of Academy schools will, if unchallenged, see the ending of local democratic control over the provision of education by Local Councils. In Cambridgeshire we know that Crosshall Infant and Crosshall Junior Schools are aiming to become Academy schools as soon as they can, to be closely followed by Parkside and Coleridge Community Colleges and Linton Village College. Others will also be attracted by the so-called ‘freedoms’ to be gained by Academy status. These ‘freedoms’ are myths and are gained by giving away any democratic control of the school.

The biggest myth is that becoming an academy will improve the educational achievement of students. However, an evaluation of the Academies Programme commissioned by the Government and conducted by consultants PriceWaterhouseCoopers found that there was no evidence to suggest that overall academies were producing the promised improvements in education, with results and experiences varying widely. There was also evidence that where academies were improving, they were doing so by changing their intake rather than doing better with the same pupils. So to improve the academies have to introduce selection of students and move away from comprehensive education.

The second big myth is that academies help the disadvantaged. Some Academies in socially deprived areas have undoubtedly done well and helped children from disadvantaged backgrounds to achieve well academically. The same is true of many maintained community schools serving disadvantaged communities. Conversely many Academies have not been successful, results have not gone up and there is evidence of ‘dumbing down’ in terms of the taught curriculum. This will have far reaching consequences for children leaving school and seeking to find work or move on to further or higher education with qualifications that are not as highly regarded as traditional GCSE subjects. The consequences will become harsher as the ConDem cuts affect employment and HE funding. There is also evidence that show that permanent exclusion rates in Academies (0.42 per cent) are twice those at community secondary schools (0.21 per cent).  Overall children and young people with special needs, on free school meals and from certain ethnic minority groups are most likely to be excluded.  These children then become the responsibility of neighbouring schools.  Among permanently excluded children, 33 in every 10,000 are children with a special educational need compared to four in every 10,000 without.

So if academies do not improve students’ achievement and do not help combat disadvantage, why is the ConDem coalition pushing them so hard? There are two reasons for this. First, they hope to destroy local accountability of schools. If the schools are no longer to be run by Local Authority’s (LA) but become the responsibility of the Secretary of State for Education then LA can be cut back and in some cases removed. This will have disasterous effects on the planning of educational provision, on the support for students with special needs and the ability of the LA to support schools facing problems. Secondly, they hope that the breakup of the LA’s will encourage schools to attack the pay and conditions of teachers and support staff working in schools and by so doing weaken the unions in education. Cambridgeshire Against the Cuts with the support of all the unions in education will vigorously oppose any attempts to move to Academy status and defend the provision of a comprehensive education system under local democratic control.