It was probably not the Chinese who cursed: “May you live in interesting times!” but if there’s any truth in it, we must be cursed indeed. It’s that time of year when pundits, commentators and the like (and I suppose I’m one) either review the year that’s just gone or — much riskier — preview the one we’re about to get.
In education, academies will be high on the agenda as Gove tries to get as many as possible before he leaves office. He must be calculating that he has another two years, given that Cameron is not going to re-shuffle him before the election in 2015. Gove moved swiftly on attaining office and with over half the secondary schools across the country having converted one wonders if the ‘tipping point’ has already been reached. This year will see the focus switch to primaries with those closely linked to secondary academies being tempted; meanwhile Gove works to force both primaries and secondaries identified as ‘failing’ into the academies camp. The calculation early on for schools (or rather heads and governors) was how much money they could make by conversion. As time goes on, one element of the calculation must be: what chance of a reversal if (as seems likely) the government changes in 2015? Unlike Andy Burnham at ‘shadow’ Health, Stephen Twigg, shadow Education Secretary, has been less than forthcoming about this. It is a dilemma for Labour, as the academies programme seems to be a continuation of their own. No doubt they will want to see how popular academies are with parents before risking the upheaval of reversal.
‘Free’ schools are a bit different although, by definition, they are part of this ‘privatised’ landscape. With no existing school and its reputation to ‘inherit’, these schools will be successful in establishing themselves in some cases but nose-dive in others. Once established they will, as I’ve said, be part of the ‘new order’ with little input from parents or teachers and greater influence from unelected representatives of ‘trusts’.
Don’t miss Part 2 coming up almost immediately, looking at the EBACC Cert. and Year 6 Grammar Tests!