Posted by: devonteacherblog | March 1, 2012

Primary Academies: Jump before we’re pushed?

Academies have been discussed a lot in the media recently. They were originally set up to support failing Secondary Schools and we are told that they have increased standards and therefore ‘saved’ these struggling schools.

With Primary Schools it is a bit different. Primary Schools began gaining Academy Status after the initial proposal to save these Secondary Schools. Under new government plans, academies are set to become ‘the norm’. They are state maintained but independently-run with the help of an outside sponsor. So these types of academies that we hear about seem to have a different motive. They are not specifically set up just to support failing schools. Some academies may well aid failing schools but what about the rest of us ‘good’ and ‘outstanding’ schools? We are not failing and don’t need “saving”. Do we become an academy anyway just to fit the trend? If the government is looking for all schools to become academies then surely we should? But why? What are the benefits?

We are told that these academies will have more freedom in terms of the curriculum. As a teacher I am not so sure I would change the curriculum I teach. I am happy that what and how I teach is beneficial to the children, hence them making good progress and enjoying their curriculum. I teach the International Primary Curriculum so the children’s learning is very cross curricular and thematic. For example, I don’t think I would suddenly scrap teaching numeracy if my school was to become an academy.

There is also more freedom about the hours of the school day and term times. This does sound interesting and tempting but I guess it would depend how your school decided to play this. I’m not sure that staff and parents would welcome any drastic changes unless it had a dramatic positive impact on the children.

There is a financial gain for academies which seems a fairly healthy sum at first, but when you take out the costs your school will pay to the local authority for admin jobs etc and then compare the remaining figure to your schools annual budget, it barely deserves a mention.

I read that academies were originally named ‘City Academies’ but they dropped the city part so that academies could be set up by rural schools. As a Devon School I’m not sure where that leaves us? We are obviously encouraged to apply for academy status but is this more of a domino effect rather than something that was intended for us?

Rural academies?

It does seem there are some noteworthy and honest sponsors for academies out there but I can’t help thinking that surely some sponsors will have their own motive. If we were to choose the wrong one will their ideas on education be forced upon us? Once your school has become an academy it cannot be undone, you cannot un-academy the school! It also seems near impossible to remove the ‘members’ who have main control of the academy too. Governors still have an important role to play in the running of the academy but it seems these ‘members’ have the final say.

I recently read about Downhills Primary School in Tottenham. They have been placed in special measures and may be forced to become an academy against the will of their children, parents, staff and governors. They have created a song ‘Save Our School’. Their Head Teacher, Leslie Church has recently resigned. I can’t imagine being in the position of being forced to make such a big leap. Their video is very touching and well worth a look:

Save Our School

Their open letter to Michael Gove can also be viewed here: http://antiacademies.org.uk/2012/02/open-letter-%E2%80%93-an-invitation-to-secretary-of-state-michael-gove-mp/

As a class teacher and a governor I have had recent academy training. I was quite intrigued by the idea that our school could potentially become an academy but if I’m totally honest, after the training, I felt that I couldn’t find any real benefits to get excited about. There was nothing concrete that would change our school for the better. I could see how they might benefit other schools and I do think we should never say never, but for now I think we need to stay strong. Fight the urge to jump before we are pushed; we may not have to be pushed at all.

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Posted by: devonteacherblog | February 27, 2012

Life in Devon

I consider myself very lucky to live and teach in such a beautiful county. Within this blog I hope to give a little insight in to what it is like to teach in Devon. I would also like to share teaching ideas, classroom resources and my general thoughts on Education.

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