Your money where his mouth is

Michael GoveProof, if any was needed, that Michael Gove, Education Secretary (above) is using education funding as a way of furthering his ideological agenda. The Guardian has trawled through government data about public spending and has found that, comparing the first year of the Coalition Government (2010-11) to the second (2011-12), the overall education budget reduced in real terms by 5.7%. However,  disproportionately, school infrastructure spending reduced by 81% (the continuing effect of Gove cancelling Labour’s ‘Building Schools for the Future’ programme), and the children, young people and families budget was reduced by 17%, reflecting the curbs on Labour’s ‘Sure Start’ programe. Nonetheless, the academies budget increased by 191% to £5.3 billion (see earlier post).

We now have schools receiving loads of dosh if they become academies – you’ll see them putting up for example a new ‘Expressive Arts Block’ as I saw in Rugby recently, whilst those who don’t take the bribe languish in ever-deteriorationg buildings. In September, the TES surveyed 2000 teachers and 20% thought their classrooms were unsuitable for good teaching and two-thirds said their school’s infrastructure was outdated.

Back in May, the Observer surveyed headteachers and 40% said their school buildings were not fit for purpose.

In July the DfE launched ‘Priority School Building’ for the most desperate examples but any work that does take place must conform to strict austerity guidelines: smaller corridors, cheaper materials, no curves, no glazed areas and no atriums.

picture of a brand new schoolDo our children deserve to be taught in decent buildings? Do our teachers deserve to work in decent conditions that are conducive to good teaching? There is now a real and stark divide in this country between those who ‘made the cut’ and got their new buildings before the rug was pulled (see example, left), or who have since taken the academy route, and the rest. Mr Gove and his friend Sir Michael Wilshaw at OFSTED, are keen on talking about the quality of education children deserve and, obviously, a state-of-the-art new building isn’t everything. But it helps.

The billion pound drop

‘An extra £1 billion was spent by the Government in the last two years on turning schools into academies, the spending watchdog has said.

The National Audit Office (NAO) said the Department for Education (DfE) was “unprepared” for the financial impact of rapidly expanding the programme.

In a new report, the NAO said the department had initially failed to anticipate the scale of interest from schools who would want to take on academy status.

Michael Gove at the Conservative Party conferenceSoon after the 2010 general election, Education Secretary Michael Gove [left] announced he was opening up the programme to allow all schools in England to apply for academy status.

[A] new NAO report concluded that while this expansion was a “significant achievement”, the DfE was not ready for it.

It found that between April 2010 and March 2012, the DfE had to find an estimated £1 billion of additional costs.

To stay within its overall spending limits, and still allow the expansion to continue at the same pace, the DfE found this money from its main schools settlement and other budgets.

“The department was unprepared for the financial implications of rapid expansion,” the report said.’

It adds that the DfE was unable to recover around £350 million of the £1 billion from local councils to offset against academy funding.

The above is a slightly edited version of something that appeared in the Huffington Post.

It also emerged that the budget set aside for the introduction of academies in this two-year period was 7 billion pounds. How many of us realised that, in a time of ‘austerity’ when savings had to be made hither and thither, such a massive sum was put aside for this ideological development? And to put it into perspective, Labour’s ‘Building Schools for the Future’ scheme, which Gove cancelled on taking office, was running at between 3 and 4 billion a year. Click on Mr Gove (go on, you know you want to!) to read the full article.

Picture of Michael Gove by PA.