The title being a pun on the erstwhile BBC talent show… (Yes, I miss it too.)
The News Line editorial today is on the calamities facing recently-privatised schools:
THE Academy school project – to replace state owned schools, with ‘independent’, millionaire sponsored, and privately run schools, who hire the staff that they want, decide on the syllabus, and decide on rates of pay – is crashing down around the Labour government which created it.
The millionaire sponsors, now hard hit by the capitalist crisis, are no longer keen to splash their cash, and the system is proving to be grossly inferior to the local authority run state schools that they are meant to supplant.
Just where the Academy system is right now, can be seen by the crisis being undergone by the Richard Rose Academy, in Carlisle.
It was formed from a school and a college and opened just five months ago, at the gallop so to speak, with its ‘trademark’ modern buildings not even having planning permission.
It has just been put under a ‘special measures’ regime after parents complained to the schools inspectors, Ofsted.
Last Friday the academy was closed for a day as pupils staged a protest, which was supported by their parents, on the grounds that the gross understaffing of the Academy made it an unsafe place for children. Well, necessary staffing levels cost money!
Ofsted’s report, released on Wednesday evening, says that 90 per cent of parents had ‘serious concerns’ about their child’s welfare, safety and education.
The report found that the school failed to give pupils ‘an acceptable standard of education’ and that those leading it were not ‘demonstrating the capacity to secure the necessary improvement’.
It added that ‘The academy’s senior leaders’ hired by employees of the sponsor, ‘underestimated the levels of challenge presented by the amalgamation of the two schools serving different communities’.
Parents said the main problem was an acute shortage of teaching staff which completely undermined what education programme there was.
It turns out that the children were being taught in temporary classrooms with no heating and no toilets, and that the most proficient teachers had left, leaving the teaching to relatively inexperienced supply teachers.
Such a situation would never be tolerated at a state run school.
Schools Minister Jim Knight, whose department had allowed this anarchic situation to develop, said last week that he would do all he could to turn the school around.
This statement has been greeted by parents with understandable scepticism since it is Knight’s Ministry that allowed the ‘academy’ to start without the necessary permanent buildings in the first place.
The Academy was ‘fast tracked’ by the government in its stampede to eradicate the state education system.
It did not seem to matter to the Ministry that pupils were being taught in temporary accommodation, and that this would continue to be so for a considerable period ahead. Even if the permanent buildings got planning permission, they would take some time to be built – that is if they were going to be built at all.
Christine Blower, Acting General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said: ‘The Richard Rose Academy is a victim of the government’s fixation with private providers for education. The fast track to opening this Academy has left pupils, parents and the local community without a well functioning school.
‘Richard Rose Academy should return to the local authority which can provide support and back-up.’
Academies must be scrapped, and free state education restored with proper funding.
This means that all students’ fees must be scrapped and full living grants restored to every student to restore the right of free state education to every young person.