Blame academy: Even schools designed to be free from regulation need some oversight, as a Sutton Trust report shows

 

Share

If the Government’s educational policy is really as unideological and fact-based as ministers make out, then the latest study into the performance of England’s academy schools makes for uncomfortable reading, indicating that the facts do not fit official policy.

Some academy chains are “highly ineffective” at improving the prospects of disadvantaged pupils, according to the Sutton Trust, a charity dedicated to promoting social mobility, a commodity in short supply in contemporary Britain. The trust supplies ample empirical evidence that suggests reform of academies is urgently required to make them, in that other phrase so beloved of politicians, “fit for purpose”.

Forget the vested interests, the unions, the education “Blob’” and a succession of ministers guided apparently only by instinct alone; on this objective assessment, academies are failing at what they are supposed to do. They were designed to provide a ladder of opportunity for children from poor backgrounds who possessed real academic ability, a sort of modernised version of the old grammar schools. The freedoms they were granted from local-authority control and Ofsted inspection were intended to give heads and governors the flexibility to generate academic excellence.

What is the reality? Academy schools that are failing disadvantaged pupils; a crop of  so-called Trojan Horse abuses, with allegations that some academies have become incubators for religious extremism; Ofsted unable  to suggest improvements or exercise  oversight; and, of course, a total absence of democratic accountability. So there is a need to improve academies and stop them becoming a middle-class racket.

There seems no good reason why they should not be placed on the same footing as other publicly funded establishments and be subject to the rigours, such as they are,  of Ofsted inspection. Boards of governors  should be subject to examination by local authorities and elections to them properly supervised by those authorities. Above all, much more can and should be done to bring them back to their core objective: raising standards, widening opportunity and reversing the recent trend towards slower social mobility and greater inequality.

That, of course, is easier said than done, and many academies, as well as other types of schools, do their best to boost the life chances for poorer pupils. The answer, perhaps, lies less in quotas and targets – though they would provide a structure for measuring performance – than in heads, governors and teachers recognising that there is a problem with social mobility and encouraging the children who they know come from disadvantaged backgrounds to apply and to thrive when they come to school.

If academies cannot reform themselves to promote social ability, then they may be judged to have underperformed in precisely the same way that so many “bog standard” comprehensive schools failed, and England will have walked away from yet another failed educational experiment, with yet another generation of children denied the fruits of a proper education and the best possible start in life.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sheridan Maine: Accounts Assistant

£30,000 Annual: Sheridan Maine: A fantastic opportunity has arisen for a perso...

Sheridan Maine: Accounts Payable Clerk

£21,000 - £24,000 Annual: Sheridan Maine: Are you looking for a new opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Regional Sales Manager - East Region - OTE £45,000

£30000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Sheridan Maine: Finance Manager

£55,000 - £65,000 Annual: Sheridan Maine: Are you a qualified accountant with ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Daily catch-up: opening round in the election contest of the YouTube videos

John Rentoul
Anthony Burgess, the author of 'A Clockwork Orange' and 'Earthly Powers,' died 17 years ago  

If Anthony Burgess doesn’t merit a blue plaque, then few do

John Walsh
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor