Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Academies: Where's the alternative?

Sarah Teather was on the front page of today's Guardian. The paper has discovered that:
Most of the sponsors who agreed to fund the prime minister's flagship academy programme have not paid the £2m they pledged ... Four academies that opened last September have received no cash at all, and 10 others have received some money but nowhere near the promised sum. Only four have received the full amount. In all, 23 of the 27 academies opened so far are still waiting to receive what was pledged.
And Sarah was quoted as saying:

"The government has led everybody to believe that the £2m would be handed over from the first day the doors open at each academy - after all this is when the sponsor can exercise control over the curriculum, staffing and admissions.

"At no point have ministers made it clear that sponsors needn't have handed over the full £2m by that point."

It was a good story for the Guardian - even if no other paper would be quite so surprised that the government is bad at collecting the money it is owed. And Sarah's comments will impress many of the paper's readers.

But what I would really like to hear is how the Liberal Democrats would help parents whose children are in poor schools and who cannot afford private education or to move into the catchment areas of good comprehensives. I think the voters would like to hear it too.

1 comment:

James said...

Bring back the 11 plus and Grammar schools. Rigorous academic standards and selection is the only way to restore credibility to the state system - and in fact it was well on the way to closing most of the private schools in UK by the early seventies. Since then there has been an enormous expansion in private schooling because of the failure of comprehensive schooling to maintain that system of selection - instead it pursued accredition, which has lead to a profusion, and consequent devaluation, of all academic qualifications.

If academic standards are not maintained within the state sector then the wealthy send their children to private schools which produce the required results and have the resources to allow the gifted (and the not so gifted ;-) to excell. This entrenches wealth within a closed circle, and so by an unfortunate irony undoes the main aim of comprehensive schooling; social equality.

Bringing back a universal selection test to all, irrespective of wealth, would allow gifted poorer pupils to attend grammar schools and then university. This is exactly what happened in the 50s, 60s and 70s when social mobility was greater than it is now. What's more, smaller numbers at university drawn by a more rigorous system of selection meant that the government could provide grants to students.

Ironically, it seems to be the poor and clever who benefit from selection, while the proliferation of ever more worthless qualifications benefits those who have the wealth to purchase the best or run the whole course through MAs to PhDs.