One estimate using the new definition has calculated that there could be as many as 2500 maintained schools under threat, mainly schools whose only 'fault' is to be supporting pupils with greater levels of need. As the NUT's press release rightly responded, the announcement amounts to a "a crude attack on state comprehensive education and a further step towards full school privatisation.”
A coasting secondary school will be defined as one where in 2014 and 2015 fewer than 60% of children achieve 5 A*-C including English and mathematics and they are below the median level of expected progress”. This compares to the present ‘floor target’ of 40% - putting hundreds more schools at risk of academisation. Henry Stewart's initial calculation suggests that around 810 secondaries might fall into that harsh definition, around 470 of them maintained schools.
Of course, around another 340 of these ‘coasting’ secondary schools are already academies but Morgan won’t want that awkward fact to get in the way of the greater aim of privatising public services. However, the threat may well be used to push stand-alone academies into the hands of the bigger academy chains or expanding ‘Multi-Academy Trusts’.
After all, the Tories’ real aim is to replace democratically accountable Local Authorities with these unaccountable education businesses. Local schooling will be torn apart leaving no elected body to be in charge of pupil places, admissions and what schools really need – support and advice.
By further driving down staff morale, academisation will also only worsen the growing crisis of teacher turnover and shortages. It certainly won’t improve education – and a gathering volume of information continues to show that there is no evidence to suggest that academisation has educational benefits.
Of course, reducing workload and providing proper support to schools means increasing funding, not more Tory cuts. Instead of meeting real needs, the Tories seem happy to hand over assets and precious resources to education businesses so that they can pay themselves large salaries and, at some point, be allowed to openly declare a profit too.
Shamefully, instead of addressing the real issues, Labour’s shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt has criticised the Bill only for failing to address supposedly “sub-standard school leadership and poor classroom teaching". At least some Labour backbenchers, like Clive Lewis from Norwich South, have been prepared to speak out, describing the Bill in Parliament as “a smash and grab on our schools” and “an attack on fundamental values that we all hold dear: democracy, accountability and transparency." How many other Labour MPs are prepared to do so – including those in Lewisham for example?
It mustn’t be forgotten that it’s likely to be the primary sector where the Education and Adoption Bill really bites. After all, for now most primaries remain in the maintained sector. A coasting primary school will be defined as one where for three years “fewer than 85% of children [are] achieving level 4 in reading, writing and maths and which have also seen below average proportions of pupils making expected progress between age seven and age eleven.” Stewart estimates this could target over 2,000 primaries.
Of course, by definition, some schools have to be ‘below average’ – but why let mathematical necessity get in the way of free-market ideology?
What kinds of schools will fall ‘below average’? Stewart’s analysis explains that the ‘coasting’ definitions, based largely on absolute results, of course target ‘schools with lower ability entries’. As he explains, “when Morgan first started talking of coasting schools, I assumed a key target would be schools with strong entries that do not add sufficient value in terms of exam results achieved. Such schools will in fact be almost totally unaffected by Morgan’s new definition”.
As Kevin Courtney, Deputy General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, says in the NUT’s Press Release: “Very many good secondary and primary schools – as defined by Ofsted, and as defined by parents – will now be classified as coasting. They will now stand the risk of losing their Heads and other staff as uncertainty reigns in their school.
He added that “schools are already under enormous pressure to placate the whims of Government and Ofsted. Today’s arbitrary target will only serve to sharpen teaching to the test and a concentration on borderline students. This already results in a narrowed curriculum and, for many pupils, disengagement”.
At least Morgan’s announcement reveals the reality of her proposals. This has nothing to do with education and all to do with privatisation of public services. The strong support in the local community for ‘Stop Academies In Lewisham’ and other campaigns across the country shows that staff, parents and students can already see through the false claims of those supporting yet further academy expansion. Now we have to build those campaigns further and link them up into a national campaign to oppose and expose the reality behind the Tories’ attacks.
“For secondary schools, a school will be coasting if in 2014 and 2015 fewer than 60% of children achieve 5 A*-C including English and mathematics and they are below the median level of expected progress” - See more at: http://www.localschoolsnetwork.org.uk/2015/06/morgan-targets-almost-3000-schools-as-coasting/#sthash.wxhlYzZD.dpuf
Secondaries: 814 set to be targetted as “coasting”The DfE definition: “For secondary schools, a school will be coasting if in 2014 and 2015 fewer than 60% of children achieve 5 A*-C including English and mathematics and they are below the median level of expected progress”
- See more at: http://www.localschoolsnetwork.org.uk/2015/06/morgan-targets-almost-3000-schools-as-coasting/#sthash.wxhlYzZD.dpuf