The announcements in the White Paper recently propose that all schools will become academies or have started the process by the next election. The government seems determined not only to marginalise local authorities’ involvement in the provision of education in their areas but to irradiate it completely.
Curiously, though, the government seems that whilst it does not trust local authorities to provide education in their own areas it equally does not trust academies to arrange and organise school appeals for oversubscribed schools which will become the responsibility of local authorities.
There does appear to be some confused logic here!
Now the dust has settled on the proposals in the White Paper, the troops on both sides of the divide are preparing their battle plans which will be fought out in the public arena. It would seem that the teaching unions will want to resist the march towards all schools becoming academies and it would seem that other organisations representing the teaching professions also seem opposed to the idea that academies represent the only way that education can be successfully delivered.
Whilst there is no doubt that some academies are very successful, it is also true to say that so are many maintained schools which would suggest that the contention that only academies are able to deliver successful education is somewhat flawed and adds credence to the view that the proposals are driven by political ideology rather than based on substantive evidence.
We all know that the quality of education is affected by a number of different factors; the quality of teachers and the social background of parents and children to name but a couple. It goes without saying that all parents want their children to attend good and successful schools and if this happens the annual scramble for school places will largely be a thing of the past. But how can this all be achieved? All governments announce that education is a priority but have different views as to how this can be achieved. One only has to look at all of the different interests to see that it is a pipe dream and that this is never going to be achieved.
Politicians are very good at criticising what has happened in the past and have a vision for the future but all have failed to deliver on promises made. If education is a priority then why are we still in the position that we are? If we are to move forward we need a concerted effort for the political parties to put their political differences aside and to work towards a system that is not going to be tinkered with each and every time we have a change in government. At the moment a change in government means a change in direction which is putting an intolerable burden on teachers.
It is inevitable that children will only be able to attend a school that is located close to their home as this would otherwise involve a long journey to and from home. I am not surprised therefore that the majority of school admissions are determined by some form of distance factor. The natural consequence of this is that those parents that have the ability to move house will do so in order to maximise their chances of a successful application and those that cannot will often resort to using fraudulent means of gaining places.
Is it right therefore that an increasing number of academies are using random allocation as a means of allocating places? Should childrens’ education be determined by a lottery?
The School Admissions Code requires that admission arrangements must be clear, fair and objective. Quite laudable aims in the circumstances. However, the more equitable that admission arrangements are made, the less clear they become. If one looks at the traditional admission criteria of exceptional social or medical reasons, siblings and distance, they are easy to understand. But if you then seek to include banding, it becomes increasingly complicated for parents to understand.
It is extremely unlikely that agreement will be reached between all of the various factions, not about the aim of providing excellent education but how it is to be achieved. It can only be hoped that when the various proposals are subject to consultation that the politicians will remember what we were taught in school; you have one mouth and two ears and that they listen twice as much as they speak. I suspect that the reverse will happen!