It’s all Academic now.

As an old unreconstructed lefty I had hoped to end my days in a Local Authority run “State Comprehensive” such has been my place for the last three decades. It’s not just a resistance to change, I have worked my conviction. It is not to be. I belong to an ambitious MAT just at the watershed of patience when Government policy became honest and admitted that we will all be Academies soon.

I had been intrigued by the report “Chain Effects” when explained by the authors Professors Francis and Hutchings at ResearchEd15 which seemed to me to show clearly that some schools got better and some worse after academisation and that some MATs were more successful than others: exactly what one would expect if Governance were not the real issue. I am sure that @oldandrew is right about his school and his objections to demonising Academies rather than Academisation as policy.

Nonetheless, I held a faint hope that perhaps there was magic in the formula; an unaccounted benefit that would rescue my ‘sinking ship’. After the LA had thrown every consultant it could find from the Consultancy-with-the-very-impressive-title at the school and we had changed everything then made sure that everything had changed the results headed for the Earth’s core. It wasn’t really a surprise that the LA couldn’t arrange help: we were in the Special Measures death-grip designed for forced academisation, the consultants appeared to be previously failed SLT and the Authority had made all of its school improvement team redundant some years previously. The Chief Exec of the MAT gave his best speech: the future was bright, hopeful; commitments were publicly made. Perhaps this really was a new dawn?

A short while later: all of the publicly made commitments have been broken, the redundancy express is rolling and most worryingly of all we are now a thrice Headed beast! Yes, as we make teachers who interact with pupils redundant we have gained an Executive Principal to stand above the Principal and the advisory Principal. These were transported in from MATland without notice let alone appointment procedure. The consultants that were rightly cut off from their gravy-train have been replaced by others from MATland, frighteningly similar to their predecessors they look for inspirational teaching, enrichment and the curriculum to secure ‘engagement’. No-one would argue that these can play a part in raising results but they are not magic bullets.

More and more I am fighting the old battles about ‘learning styles’, ‘less teacher talk’, ‘active learning’, ‘red and green pen’ and ending lessons with an opinion poll about how much pupils feel  they have learnt rather than finding out with a test question. Meanwhile, a saviour appeared. A new member of SLT with a determination to establish discipline via a rigorously supported and enforced behaviour policy, some extra hands for the withdrawal rooms and a demand for extra teacher duties. 

A further sadness is that the new Governing Body has fewer parents and less community representation; that local people will have much less say in the school. Trivial examples have been: no consultation on a name change or uniform both of which have had extensive consideration in the past. Probably the biggest influence on the school will be a rumoured new ‘free’ school in the area by a competing MAT rather than the views of locals.

It seems to me that the new ‘ship’ may float in the long term but it will be in spite of academisation, not because of it. Meanwhile community representation and logical service organisation are becoming vestigial.

I feel that I may be entering a ‘Brave New World’ of Secondary schooling; I will let you know……..

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