Mr Gove and educational reforms

18 Oct

In yesterday’s Guardian there was more comment on schools. Plans to build two new state schools in Coventry, funded by developers of land previously occupied by Massey Ferguson and Marconi factories, have been scrapped after Coventry city council realised that all new schools must now be academies or free schools. The Guardian comments, “A little-noticed clause in the Education Act 2011 states: ‘If a local authority in England thinks a new school needs to be established, they must seek proposals for the establishment of an academy’.” Coventry council may now decide to spend the money on upgrading existing schools.

This prompted me to look at the Department for Education’s website to find out exactly what academies and free schools are. Written (surprise, surprise) in rather ungrammatical English – mixing singular and plural in one sentence and splitting infinitives, for example – it appears that both are state funded. “Some academies, generally those set up to replace underperforming schools, will have a sponsor. Sponsors…[include] successful schools, businesses, universities, charities and faith bodies” – and followers of this blog will already know my views on faith schools, on running schools for profit (which, presumably a business would be doing), and on the Education Secretary, Michael Gove.

The DfE site continues: “Academies benefit from greater freedoms [why is this plural?] to innovate and raise standards.” These include:
freedom from local authority control
Academies and free schools receive their funding from the Education Funding Agency (EFA), rather than from local authorities. The EFA also supports “the delivery of building and maintenance programmes for schools, academies, Free Schools and sixth-form colleges”, but who controls the educational standards?
the ability to set their own pay and conditions for staff
Is this an underhand way of emasculating the teaching unions, which Gove says exhibit “soft bigotry [can someone explain hard bigotry to me?] and low expectations”?
freedoms around the delivery of the curriculum
How does this conflate with raising academic standards and does it mean that schools can teach nonsensical theories, including creationism? According to the Telegraph, only 22 per cent of teachers support Gove’s plans to scrap GCSEs, although 77 per cent sensibly did agree that only one exam board should administer each subject, nationwide.
the ability to change the lengths of terms and school days
In principle, this seems logical, but how will working parents manage if they have children at different schools and those schools have different timings and holidays?

Gove was a journalist before he became an MP and (clearly) has no experience of teaching. He thinks teachers should “go the extra mile” by running after-school clubs and working on Saturdays. Teaching is tough – imagine spending all day controlling 30-or-so children as well as trying to teach them – and most teachers already “go the extra mile” by preparing lessons and marking homework out of school hours. Gove told the BBC that one of the “Five things I have learned” is that “you can’t spend too much time with your children”. Presumably, he thinks teachers don’t have children.

Today’s picture
And now for something a little more cheerful! My friends and I were excited to see this tortoise in Mallorca a couple of weeks ago. We’d only ever seen them as pets before.

Image

Photograph by Al Taylor

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  1. Mr Gove and educational reforms « alswordsnpictures - October 18, 2012

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