A new bill in the United Kingdom would turn up to 1,000 English schools into academies, including all those rated inadequate by government education watchdog Ofsted.
The Education and Adoption Bill, if passed, would give regional commissioners the responsibility of making academy orders, and potential academy sponsors would no longer be required to consult the local community. This would allow for failing schools to quickly acquire new management, and hopefully improve the quality of their education.
Academies are state-funded schools that are run by charitable trusts or chains, which are not allowed to make a profit and are inspected by Ofsted the same as traditional schools. Some oppose academies on the grounds that local citizens and leaders do not have enough say in their management.
Right now, 235 schools are designated to be failing by Ofsted, but the government estimates that by 2020 around 1,000 schools will become academies. It is unknown which schools will constitute the remainder, reports Judith Burns of the BBC.
Peter Dominiczak of the Telegraph quoted Education Secretary Nicky Morgan on the importance of passing reforms:
Today’s landmark Bill will allow the best education experts to intervene in poor schools from the first day we spot failure. It will sweep away the bureaucratic and legal loopholes previously exploited by those who put ideological objections above the best interests of the children.
At the heart of our commitment to delivering real social justice is our belief that every pupil deserves an excellent education and that no parent should have to be content with their child spending a single day in a failing school.
However, the issue is strongly partisan, and some are strongly opposed – particularly union representatives, notes Jason Beattie of the Mirror. Brian Lightman, of the Association of School and College leaders, reminds the public that:
In many cases academisation may be the best solution. However, in itself it is not a magic wand.
Others have stronger opinions, like Russel Hobby, leader of the National Association of Head Teachers, who said that the government had resorted to “sanctions and threats when our education system desperately needs investment and support.” Richard Adams and Frances Perraudin of the Guardian quoted Christine Blower, the general secretary of the National Union of Teachers:
Campaigners will not take any lectures from Nicky Morgan on social justice. There are academies deemed inadequate by Ofsted. A change in structure is not axiomatically the path to school improvement. It is irresponsible to tell parents otherwise.
A pledge to convert up to 1,000 schools is as irrational as it is impractical. Headteachers are already in short supply, so the promise to sack more of them will simply exacerbate the problem. Where does Nicky Morgan imagine that new teachers and heads will come from?