Monday 21 March 2016

The Education White Paper - condemned in its own words

Ignoring the Evidence (1)
Remarkably, the word 'evidence' appears over 80 times in the Government's new White Paper "Educational Excellence Everywhere".

Apparently, the Government will "ensure discredited ideas unsupported by firm evidence are not promoted" in education. Yes, read that again, 'discredited ideas unsupported by firm evidence'. Has someone at the DfE got a malicious sense of humour or have they just forgotten to point out to Nicky Morgan that this is about as good a definition of the academy programme as you could write?

There is no evidence supporting the ideologically motivated, profit-driven educational vandalism of forced academies. This is a Government in chaos seeking to inflict chaos on education as a whole.

Ignoring the Evidence (2)
This Government is not just ignoring evidence when it comes to all-out academisation. Driven by a determination to lower costs, they have already introduced a divisive system of performance pay designed to deny teachers pay progression and bully staff into take on even greater workload.

The White Paper consistently talks about using the evidence provided by the Education Endowment Foundation and "spreading the evidence on what works in education". 

Again, perhaps the DfE need to study the evidence more closely, because this is what the  EEF have to say about performance pay: "the results of more rigorous evaluations, such as those with experimental trials or with well-controlled groups, suggest that the actual average impact has been close to zero".

Parental and Community Involvement
One of the strategies for 'educational excellence' highlighted by the EEF above is, of course, parental involvement. In the White Paper, the Government claims it will "empower pupils, parents and local communities". How do they propose to do that exactly? Well by removing any accountability to local communities through democratically elected local authorities of course. 

The White Paper says that it recognises that "the crucial role of governance makes it more important than ever to ensure that only the right individuals are involved". Parents, of course, are not the right individuals. What do they know or care about education? Their rights to be elected on to Governing Bodies will be removed. Under the White Paper, "we will no longer require academy trusts to reserve places for elected parents on governing boards".

Empowering 'great leaders'
Of course, the 'right' kind of people do need empowering - starting with the sponsors of course. Already, academy chains use their control over contracts to generate significant profits for linked subsidiaries. As Stephen Ball explains in a post for the British Educational Research Association, "Ms Morgan seems not to have noticed that for-profit activity already plays a huge role in public education in England".

When the White Paper states that Government "are working with the publishing industry and with schools, MATs and others to encourage them to develop and share a new generation of teaching materials, textbooks and resources to help teachers deliver new curricula effectively", you can be sure that some major multinationals are looking to cash in.

Taken from

Then, of course, there's the unscrupulous empire-building Heads of Multi-Academy Trusts, or 'CEOs' as they often prefer to be labelled. As a principled Headteacher put it in the TES last week, "we see even smallish multi-academy trusts with chief executives earning more – sometimes much more – than the prime minister. We see chains employing small armies of pinstriped executives who talk of standards but rarely set foot in a classroom to teach a lesson they have prepared themselves or give back books that they have marked".

Ending the two-tier system
I could go on, but let me finish with the policy that has already seen angry opposition result in two different online petitions securing over 100,000 signatories in just a few days: "This white paper sets out how, by the end of 2020, all remaining maintained schools will be academies or in the process of conversion".

The Conservatives are - or were - arrogant and insulated enough from 'public opinion' to think that they could go all out to put an end to the 'two-tier' system of academies and maintained schools by forcing through total academisation. Perhaps already some of them are beginning to realise they may have overreached themselves.

London is host to just one of the demonstrations taking place this Wednesday

A groundswell of angry opposition is emerging. Concerns are even now coming from within the Tory party itself with the Conservative lead for Education in David Cameron's own Oxfordshire Council saying that the academies plan is 'big brother gone mad'!

The cracks emerging within the Conservative Party should give confidence to everyone building the movement to defend education against this White Paper. So let's keep up the pressure to defeat these attacks - but let's not limit our objectives just to halting this latest attempt to sweep away democratically accountable comprehensive education. 

Yes, there is a way to end the 'two-tier' system - and that's to call for the law to be changed so that academies can be returned back to the maintained sector and so that the new schools needed to meet rising pupil numbers can be opened as community schools, not as 'free school' academies.

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