Thursday, April 12, 2007

A complete no-brainer

The Government claim that Academies are ‘popular’ with parents. Let’s put it another way, you have a choice between a brand spanking new academy with state of the art facilities or the comp down the road with the leaking roof, windows that fall out of the rotting frames and toilets that stink so much the children refuse to use them. A complete no-brainer, even Charles Ingram wouldn’t need prompting on that one. A pupil in an academy will get £21,000 in funding as opposed to £14,000 for those in “bog standard” comprehensives.

Some of the ‘consultations’ on academies have involved asking parents if they wanted a new school in their borough. A bit like asking – do you want an operation on that tumour? Do you object to queuing in the Post Office for an hour? Do you want an NHS dentist in your town?

One of the more controversial bids is the proposal to turn St Mary Magdalene Church of England Primary School in Islington, into an academy for children aged five to 19. This is based on public school educated Lord Adonis’ assumption that what works for small posh public schools will also work for large inner-city schools. You might ask where is the research for this proposal, but no it’s another “initiative” drawn up on the back of a menu in a trendy restaurant.

The money for Building Schools for the Future in Islington was tied to the council agreeing to an academy, so much for ‘choice’. There’s also the fact that as church attendances decline the government is insisting that there should be more church schools. Do middle class people really want a church school or a selective one?

St Mary Magdalene Academy was created on the basis that as 40% of Islington children were educated outside the borough it would help to create more school places. A recent article in ‘The Guardian’ showed that all the new academy is doing is undermining the existing schools. St Mary Magdalene is four times over subscribed for its 180 places whereas nearby Highbury Grove only has 100 applicants for 210 places in September. Highbury Grove is fighting back by trying to poach students from Hampstead and William Ellis schools through newspaper adverts.

Maybe they should try the Republican Party tactic and use negative advertising to run down all the other schools.

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