For too long politicians have played politics with our education system. There are numerous reports that detail the negative impact of academy schools on the most disadvantaged pupils in Britain. Given that this scheme has been in motion for more than a decade it seems suspect that the Tories have not moved to counter this obvious problem.
Perhaps I am being foolish to expect that the Government would see any issue with a scheme that hurts the most disadvantaged. At the same time that inheritance tax is cut for the rich at the expense of the poor and disabled, why should we expect the Government to do any different when it comes to education?
A report released this week from the University of Oxford in collaboration with the University of Kingston shares a series of “recommendations” and “learnings” for academies from the project so far And the fourth conclusion? In order to improve admissions, academies “exclude poor quality students”.
This is simply astonishing. Given such attitudes it can be no surprise that, in its own research, the Sutton Trust continues to find poor children in academies perform significantly below their contemporaries in mainstream schools.
I used to call the academy programme the privatisation of state education, but it is much more than that: it is a state-sponsored form of social cleansing. Just as the poor and vulnerable have been removed from London, through the introduction of the bedroom tax and a failure to tackle the housing crisis, we now have a move to deliberately exclude poor students from the best state education.
The Oxford/Kingston report does later criticise academies for enacting policies that exclude “poor quality” students. The report notes that academies “have developed behaviours that may have a negative long-term impact on society” as they “have become selective, do not teach their local community”, do not teach ‘White British’ students” and “exclude poor performing students.” The fact that such results are woven into the academy plan is nothing short of a disgrace
As Prime Minister. David Cameron has a duty to serve all. Whether it is the forced academisation programme, the decision to treble student fees for undergraduates or the exclusion of under-25s from the National Living Wage (which still isn’t enough to live off), this Government is firmly on the opposite to young, poor and disadvantaged people trying to get on.
Rather than moving power over schools from local communities into the hands of the academy sponsors and the Education Secretary, the Government should be focusing on increasing local community involvement. Instead of ignoring teachers, school heads and governors, the Government should be listening to them. Instead of ushering a generation onto the scrap heap, the Tories should wake up and realise the damage of their ideologically-driven education policies.
It is time to stand up and tell Government that we will not accept the privatisation of our state education system. We must not allow academies to cleanse our nation’s schools of the students that feel they simply do not have time for.
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