Don’t turn schools into big business

From: Dr David Drew

Psalter Lane, Sheffield S11

The headline was ‘Sponsors shortlist to help guide new city academies’ (March 22). The idea appears to be that Sheffield Council will link ‘underperforming’ schools with successful schools, colleges and national colleges.

Otherwise they will be forced to become academies by the Secretary of State.

Such a policy is unlikely to work because Michael Gove has his own agenda.

The results for 5+ GCSEs at grades A-C range from 30% for Park Wood Academy and 35% at Newfield to 69% for High Storrs and 75% for Silverdale.

This reflects the social mix of schools since it is well known that Sheffield is the most socially divided city in England with very affluent areas to the south west.

Defining a school as an academy will not change that and neither will it help the examination performance of its pupils much (as evidence elsewhere has shown).

What is now on offer is extra money for high-performing schools to become academies, so that the private sector can move in.

So governors at Tapton said that if they became an academy this would attract an extra £750k in funding, an offer they could not refuse.

The Secretary of State has arranged it that the governors make these decisions, not the parents or teachers, and therefore the vocal opposition of parents at, for example, Bradfield was ignored.

If the governors don’t have the right sort of views, as in Downhills School in Hackney, they are sacked and replaced by governors who favour the private sector people.

We should therefore be sanguine about Silverdale.

The governors say in a letter to parents: ‘while we believe that conversion [to academy status] is in the best interests of the students, our final decision will factor in the outcome of consultation with all our stakeholders, especially our staff’. So it looks like the governors have made a decision whilst the consultation is still going on.

The new academy system is a tool to wrest schools from local council control and make education a marketplace with winners and losers. This should be opposed.

We should support all our children in our schools and not turn schools into big business.