B2 Questioning the revolution – The School Revolution Briefing introduced
English education is in the middle of a Revolution, driven by the Conservatives and supported across the Westminster Bubble. All that currently exists is being undermined to allow a Brave New World to emerge. Starting from the government video The Schools Revolution, still the only official statement, this pamphlet looks at some of the key issues raised by the radical new agenda and its contradictions. The core of the Revolution – the Academy/Free Schools programme – is proposed as the means of raising standards. Independent observers cannot find conclusive evidence. The Education Select Committee of MPs drawn across all parties concluded earlier this year that
“Current evidence does not allow us to draw conclusions on whether academies in themselves are a positive force for change… there is at present no convincing evidence of the impact of academy status on attainment in primary schools. The DfE should commission such research as a matter of urgency”
The research has not been conducted. The need for this to take place before the Academies Bill 2015 operates is vital.
It is equally vital to examine the chains of schools, replacing Local Authorities (LAs), increasingly favoured by government who will not allow OFSTED inspectors to report on them. Democratically elected councils are inspected, why not chains of schools?
The ‘opt out schools’ are not the only key problem posed by the Schools Revolution. This pamphlet looks at the way schools are being turned into Examination Factories, dominated by test results, and at the contradictions in the Academy-Free School opt out programme. In theory this is about giving power to individual schools, but in practice is transferring power to unaccountable figures in national – and international – Chains of Schools. There are serious risks of schools running out of supplies of teachers, buildings and money. Additionally, Conservative election claims that school budgets are protected from austerity are now in doubt – the TES (28th August) reports estimates of cuts over the next five years of 12 per cent in real terms.
Undermining the rhetoric of freedom is a an agenda of government control, with Primary Schools ordered to teach phonics and Secondary schools to teach the Ebac. Far from being a Brave New World, how close is the Schools Revolution to being an Orwellian nightmare? Is it not time to suspend the Revolution for a Royal Commission on improving schools to avoid the profound risk of long term damage to English schools?
Department of Education Comparison of Different Types of School, (DfE Website), July 14th 2014.
House of Commons Education Committee, Academies & Free Schools, HC 258 27th January 2015
Mansell Warwick, Education by Numbers, Politicos 2007
National Union of Teachers Exam Factories? Merryn Hutchings with Dr Naveed Kazmi, 2015
Wolf, Alison – Heading for the Precipice – can further and Higher education funding policies be sustained? Kings College London, June 2015
Further copies of this pamphlet and discussion material from SOSS, at enquries(at)soss.org.uk.
Published by the Symposium on Sustainable Schools, edited by Trevor Fisher. Editorial Board Richard Pring, Michael Bassey, Richard Sidley, Trevor Fisher.