An academy is …

a school at an inflated cost.

Mr Gove wants to build even more academies than his predecessor did. Doesn’t he realise that his predecessor was Labour and therefore only followed policies which cost money (there is nothing left remember?) but were not necessarily clever?

I was involved in a school which has just been turned into an academy and I have seldom witnessed a series of decisions which were more costly, stupid and had less involvement from the locals than these, yet Mr Gove seems to like this Labour plan. Let me share some of my experience with you – I know you are interested. I promise I will only touch on a few highlights. Buy the book if you want to know the full story.

Our County Council, in their infinite wisdom, started a school improvement program in our town, after spending 15 years actively destroying them. Better late than never, they achieved the following:

–       they tried to federate three secondary schools, only to be told by Ofsted that they couldn’t and the Governors were right, not the bunch in County Hall;

–       of the three head teachers they managed to lose the best one, and the only one with clearly improving results;

–       they managed to replace as many GCSEs as possible things called BTECs, whatever they are. I have never seen a job or university asking for a minimum number of BTECs – have you?;

–       they spent over £10million in consultants and other hangers on plus of course endless meetings;

–       they got less than half the Academy money they had told everyone they would get (the rest went to the bankers).

Undeterred, County Hall marched on – in fact they never got out of their ivory towers at all, so it should be ‘on they sat in County Hall’.

The first thing an Academy needs is a sponsor. These geniuses got 3 – none of which had any experience at all except County, which was frightening. I remember sitting in meetings with representatives from the well meaning sponsors and watching their jaws drop as the truth started to come out. Academies are supposed to improve local input and County wanted none of that and got the backing of Mr. Gove et al. The Governors were sacked, given a thank you dinner and County, with its new best friends, put their own team in. Few, if any, locals in so far as I can find and no Freedom of Information access anymore either. The message: you locals are too stupid. Keep out – we are Big Society!

The second thing they need is a Chief Executive. This is what we used to called the Head Teacher but at 4 times the price. So they spent at least £50,000 in various fees and found …………. you guessed it – nobody! Good move! The message: you teachers need a competent person to lead this school because you are all ……….. and we are going to pay that person the equivalent of 5 times your salary, plus a big office, plus a couple of PAs plus a parking space with his or her name on it.

The third ingredient is a new building – I never figured this one out, but it was the prize item. The local population was conned into a few new buildings which were going to be absolutely stunning. Tours were organised to other Academies built by Norman Foster and other stars. Drawings were circulated, and then, when the Academies were approved and the locals sacked …………….. no new buildings – at least not as promised. Guess what? The money had been given to the bankers instead. The message: bankers rule!

Mr Gove – an Academy is a School by a different name with an inflated overhead structure. The fact is that the structure of our education system is out of date and following the flawed Labour policy through is not clever. Look at the underlying problem and stop trying to put expenisve plaster over the cracks.

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