A damning report by a committee of MPs has called on the government to back off from its drive to break up state education through the introduction of city academies. The academy scheme, which is at the centre of New Labour’s education policy, allows private sponsors to take over a school and largely determine its curriculum and ethos.
Evangelical Christian groups have tried to set up academies. Any privateer can put forward £2 million and get control of up to 20 times that amount of public funds.
Last week’s House of Commons education select committee report backed warnings by teachers and parents’ groups that billions of pounds are being wasted on the government’s drive to create 200 academies — there are 17 already, with 36 in development.
A confidential government report has already warned that academies are likely to lead to a two-tier education system. And GCSE results last year showed there was no improvement in half the existing academies. Figures for the performance of 14 year olds, released last week, showed most academies are ranked in the bottom 200 schools.
The body set up to promote academies says they are needed to “replace failing schools in disadvantaged communities that have repeatedly proved immune to improvement in the past”.
But one school earmarked to become an academy is Islington Green in north London. It was improving until Chris Woodhead, the then head of schools inspectorate Ofsted, intervened to declare it failing in 1997.
Teachers’ union conferences were set to put opposition to academy plans at the centre of their campaigning this week.