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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Shame Academy

Wonderful news this morning. The government is (once again) threatening to close the country’s ‘failing’ schools if they don’t buck up their ideas and improve their exam results:

Almost one in five secondary schools in England is to be given a warning to improve exam results or face closure.
The government is targeting 638 schools, in which less than 30% of pupils achieve at least five good GCSEs including English and maths.
The £400m standards drive, which will create up to 70 new academies, is to be launched by Schools Secretary Ed Balls.
Academies in deprived areas could "break the link between poverty and attainment", said Mr Balls.
The National Challenge, to be launched on Tuesday, will require every secondary school in England to have achieved this GCSE benchmark within three years.

This appears, on the surface, to be the same tired routine this haven’t-a-fucking-clue government has been churing out for the last couple of years. In the face of a total lack of voluntary interest from schools (run by people who actually work in the teaching profession and therefore tend to know better), this is its not-particularly-subtle way of forcing them to sign up to one or the other of its wildly unpopular academy and trust school programmes (which, taken together, effectively amount to the privatisation of state education). After all, they can’t just abandon them as a bad idea, given that central government and the DfES have backed the programmes and several billion has already been spent.

“If you don’t sort yourselves out, we’re going to turn you into academy schools! Yes we are. Look at us, and our tough no nonsense approach to education. More money over here, throw more money on the fire! That’s the ticket!”:

There are 27 secondary schools in Birmingham, 33 in Kent and 13 in Manchester facing this exams ultimatum.
The improvement plans will mean the acceleration of the academy programme, with 313 of these independent state schools set to be running by September 2010.

Look a little closer, though. The list of schools in question, released by the BBC today, actually includes 26 ACADEMY SCHOOLS. That is, those schools that have ALREADY been strong-armed into adopting academy status, and for which the move has made ABSOLUTELY NO POSITIVE DIFFERENCE WHATSOEVER. What a heart-stopping surprise this must have been to everyone except the schools, their teaching staff, everyone at the DfES and the cuddly Ed Balls himself. Or not.

What are they going to threaten to do with the academy schools that are failing, turn them into ‘Super Academy’ Schools? Extra Strong Academy Schools? ‘New’ Academy Schools? Or will they just raze them to the ground and be done with it, safe in the knowledge that no child of a ludicrously-overpaid Education Dept MP will ever set foot in a ‘failing’ school?

So the long and the short of it is, they’re going to close down a load more schools, knocking a few of them down and rebuilding them at a cost of millions for the sheer hell of it (well, if you’ve got the budget you may as well spend it, eh?), and reopening them as all singing, all-dancing academy schools, part-sponsored by mad right wing christians, second-hand car salesmen-turned-creationists (Google VARDY and ACADEMY SCHOOLS, I haven’t the heart to go into it this morning) and anyone else with a raging ego problem, a desire to control malleable young minds and a spare two million quid. (The bulk of the cost of this continuing farce will be shouldered by you and I, obviously, but don’t expect to be greeted warmly when you propose that all the children in YOUR chosen school should be taught that Jesus was made of blancmange and all French people are actually descended from Ghengis Khan. And you can forget about the knighthood, as well, since you ask).

This, people, is the end of state education in the United Kingdom, as exercised by the stinking remains of what was once the Labour Party. If I still had any energy left from having tried in vain to explain this to people over the last few years, I’d weep from anger and, frankly, from the sheer sadness of the situation. But the fact is, nobody’s noticed what’s been going on in our country’s education system, and those that do don’t seem to care, so what’s the point?

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