FORUM
ISSN 0963-8253


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Volume 50 Number 1 2008

Archive

CONTENTS [click on author's name for abstract and full text]

 

SPECIAL ISSUE
Theme: The Academy Fiasco

Clyde Chitty
. Editorial. A Government Totally Adrift, pages 3‑4
Francis Beckett. Further Reflections on the Great City Academy Fraud, pages 5‑10
Derek Gillard. Blair’s Academies: the story so far, pages 11‑22
Clyde Chitty. The School Academies Programme: a new direction or total abandonment?, pages 23‑32
Melissa Benn. Academies in Action: case studies from Camden and Pimlico, 2007, pages 33‑40
Steve Sinnott. Academies: a breakthrough or yet more spin?, pages 41‑47
Roger Titcombe. How Academies Threaten the Comprehensive Curriculum, pages 49‑59
Martin Powell-Davies. Haberdashers’ Aske’s: the campaign against academies in Lewisham, pages 61‑69
Ken Muller. Hey! Bankers! Leave Those Kids Alone: the fight to save Islington Green School, pages 71‑83
Kevin Avison. Why a Steiner Academy?, pages 85‑95
Dave Clinch. The Devon NUT Campaign Against Trust Schools, pages 97‑102
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Rosalyn George & John Clay
. Reforming Teachers and Uncompromising ‘Standards’: implications for social justice in schools, pages 103‑111
Patrick Yarker. Personalised Corruption: testing, cheating and teacher-integrity, pages 113‑125
Phil Jackson & Jeff Serf. The 2007 Revised Standards for Qualified Teacher Status: doubts, challenges and opportunities, pages 127‑136
David Rosenberg. Not National but Local and Global, pages 137‑145

BOOK REVIEWS, pages 147‑159 VIEW FULL TEXT doi:10.2304/forum.2008.50.1.147
The Great City Academy Fraud (Francis Beckett), reviewed by Clive Griggs
The Rise and Rise of Meritocracy (Geoff Dench, Ed.), reviewed by Clyde Chitty
Education by Numbers: the tyranny of testing (Warwick Mansell), reviewed by Patrick Yarker
Eugenics, Race and Intelligence in Education (Clyde Chitty), reviewed by Lucy Russell


 

Editorial. A Government Totally Adrift

doi:10.2304/forum.2008.50.1.3

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It is obviously far too early to provide a detailed assessment of the new Brown administration’s attitude towards education and social policy. As I write this, the New Labour Government is, in fact in the middle of a period of profound crisis, due largely to the whole issue of illegal financial donations to the Labour Party by proxy. But it is important to emphasise that, notwithstanding all the problems of the past few weeks, the real difficulty with the new Government is tied up with Gordon Brown’s own lack of consistency and with the curious and indeed fatal contradictions at the heart of the Brown project. So often Brown says one thing to one audience and something else to another; and this approach leads inevitably to confusion and paralysis.

Some of the more obvious contradictions were highlighted by Martin Kettle in an article published in The Guardian on the 24 November. Gordon Brown says he is passionate about liberty but is also committed to the idea of identity cards and to an extension of the number of days that a ‘suspect’ can be detained without being charged with anything. He wants to distance himself from the ‘Neocons’ in Washington, but also says he is America’s greatest ally. He wants a huge drive on renewable energy, but approves of expansion at Heathrow. He wants a ‘ministry of all the talents’, but then insists on everyone toeing the party line. He orders a review of future plans for the new City Academies, while endorsing Tony Blair’s pledge to build many more of them. In Martin Kettle’s words: ‘he is a social democrat in the morning and a free marketeer after lunch.’

Where education is concerned, it is not clear that Gordon Brown has any understanding of the nature and seriousness of the problems facing the system. Nothing is being done about what Warwick Mansell refers to as ‘the tyranny of testing’ (his book of that title is reviewed by Patrick Yarker elsewhere in this number); the Academies Programme is being expanded despite the enormous amount of local opposition; and at the post-14 level, new diplomas have been launched without the realisation that as long as A-levels remain unreformed, diplomas will always end up being looked upon as a poor relation’.

The last issue of Forum focussed on the arguments for and against Faith Schools. In this number we look at Academies and Trust Schools and, in particular, at the campaigns against them in Lewisham, Islington and Devon. Common to all the articles is a concern that New Labour should be so obsessed with business and private sponsorship. In the world that Blair and Brown and their ministers inhabit, private money is always good and public always bad.

And this brings us back neatly to the current political crisis caused by New Labour’s acceptance of more than £650,000 from an eccentric millionaire property developer determined to preserve his anonymity. In a recent article in The Guardian (28 November 2007), Simon Jenkins placed the funding scandal in the context of the shortcomings of a party ‘infatuated with finance at the expense of the ethos of public service’. It is clear that Blair and Brown have always been mesmerised by the word ‘business’. To build a school or hospital, run a prison or plan an urban renewal, you have to pledge partnership with a ‘businessman’. In Jenkins’s view, the word ‘business’ conjured up for Brown the concept of ‘a mysterious priesthood of infinite competence’. He went on: ‘in Brown’s Britain, there is no longer a public service ethos, only a business ethos applied to public services. No longer do the Presbyterians render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s. Everything goes to Caesar under a private finance initiative.’

Clyde Chitty

 

Further Reflections on the Great City Academy Fraud

doi:10.2304/forum.2008.50.1.5

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Academy sponsors have generally behaved with great arrogance, knowing that they enjoyed the enthusiastic support of Tony Blair’s Government. And this has been particularly true of Catholic and evangelical sponsors, who believed that Blair’s premiership was the best chance they would ever have of bringing about a seismic shift of power in schools from the state to the churches. Yet it seems clear that the academy project is not working out as its supporters originally intended, and it might well be that Gordon Brown’s new Government will feel obliged to jettison large parts of the original scheme.

 

Blair’s academies: the story so far

doi:10.2304/forum.2008.50.1.11

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Of all Tony Blair’s education policies during his decade as prime minister, one of the most controversial was his plan to create a network of academies – effectively, private schools funded by the taxpayer. This piece explores the origins of the policy and recounts the widespread concerns and criticisms with which it has been beset.

 

The School Academies Programme: a new direction or total abandonment?

doi:10.2304/forum.2008.50.1.23

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The concept of City Academies owes much to the plan for a network of City Technology Colleges announced by Conservative Education Secretary Kenneth Baker in 1986. This article argues that all this can be viewed as part of the inroad of business into state education, with private sponsorship seen by government as the magical solution to the ‘problems’ faced by state schools. Moreover, recent additions to the network of Academies appear to share the ethos of the early CTCs in specialising in business and enterprise and other vocational specialisms. In response to some of the criticisms that Academies have received, some commentators are now arguing for a new direction for these schools and for a model which emphasises local co-operation and social cohesion. But it can be argued that all this falls far short of what is really needed: a long-term strategy for restoring Academies to the maintained sector and for making them accountable to the communities they serve.

 

Academies in Action: case studies from Camden and Pimlico, 2007

doi:10.2304/forum.2008.50.1.33

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Both main UK political parties lend enthusiastic public support to academies, in the name of supporting the nation’s poorest pupils. But Gordon Brown’s Labour is, in reality, unsure about this undemocratic model while the Tories may well in the future exploit academy ‘independence’ for retrograde ends. Two contemporary case studies from London, in Camden and Pimlico, show the inherent dangers of this controversial national programme; they represent a blow to a truly modernised comprehensive model and give too much power to private interests. The private sector is keen to get involved for its own, often defensive, reasons. Meanwhile, Brown’s Government has little time left to make truly substantive changes to our education system that will really benefit those that need it most.

 

Academies: a breakthrough or yet more spin?

doi:10.2304/forum.2008.50.1.41

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In this article the General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers outlines the reasons why the Union opposes Academies, and gives an overview of the changes in the relationship between local authorities and Academies. The NUT recognises that the change of government presents an opportunity for a change of direction and welcomes reports that a study has been commissioned. An analysis of recent evidence on Academies, including that of the influential House of Commons Committee of Public Accounts, is followed by the NUT’s views of the what the next steps should be on Academies and on supporting schools in challenging circumstances.

 

How Academies Threaten the Comprehensive Curriculum

doi:10.2304/forum.2008.50.1.49

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The Freedom of Information Act was used over a three-year period to investigate the curriculum of state schools and academies. The resulting data has shown that spectacular apparent school improvement, in terms of five or more A*-C GCSE /GNVQ passes has been largely brought about by the substitution of mainstream curriculum subjects by much easier vocational alternatives with disproportionate and unjustifiable equivalence to GCSE. Despite academies being exempt from FOI, and their refusal, supported by DCSF, to reveal their subject examination results, strong evidence has been found in individual cases of an extreme use of this strategy to boost headline results and league table performance. Examples are given of worryingly degraded curriculum opportunities in a number of academies for which data has been indirectly obtained, giving rise to concerns that some or even all pupils in some of these schools are being denied a right to a broad and balanced educational experience appropriate to full participatory citizenship in a modern European democracy. Private control of academies is revealed as likely to give rise to the differentiation of curriculum pathways with academic or vocational outcomes designed to meet the needs of the business interests of the sponsor. Questions are raised over the ability of academies to staff a full range of subjects at GCSE and sixth form level with serious consequences for progression to higher education especially for those pupils drafted at an early age into vocational pathways.

 

Haberdashers’ Aske’s: the campaign against academies in Lewisham

doi:10.2304/forum.2008.50.1.61

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The National Union of Teachers’ 2007 pamphlet Academies – Looking Beyond the Spin: why the NUT calls for a different approach lists six reasons why the NUT opposes Academies, schools run by private sponsors using public money. In this article, the Secretary of the Lewisham NUT presents evidence to show how the Academies operated by the Haberdashers’ Company in Lewisham, South London, carry out each of these six threats to education.

 

Hey! Bankers! Leave Those Kids Alone: the fight to save Islington Green School

doi:10.2304/forum.2008.50.1.71

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The author traces the history of the campaign to stop Islington Green School being closed and turned into an academy specialising in business and financial services. Although the campaign, after a number of successes now looks as if it might fail in its immediate objective, the author argues that the battle was still worth fighting because of the contribution it has made to the growing anti-academies movement in England.

 

Why a Steiner Academy?

doi:10.2304/forum.2008.50.1.85

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This article examines the curious position of the Academy model in the English school system and how a potential Hereford Steiner Waldorf Academy might figure in this. It sketches the background to the Steiner movement in the UK and goes on to set out the key aspirations and concerns of Steiner educators regarding an Academy. The article provides a Steiner Waldorf rationale for seeking Academy status and suggests a positive critique beyond the piecemeal ‘agenda’ that appears to drive current education policy in this area.

 

The Devon NUT Campaign Against Trust Schools

doi:10.2304/forum.2008.50.1.97

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When the Devon County Council announced that six secondary schools in the South Devon area were to become ‘Pathfinder Schools’ for trust status, the Devon National Union of Teachers set about organising a campaign to defend the county’s comprehensive schools. This campaign has proved successful in the case of Tavistock College, causing other schools to review their position, but the NUT is not allowing itself to be complacent, and recognises that the very concept of community comprehensive schools is under threat from Gordon Brown’s Government.

 

Reforming Teachers and Uncompromising ‘Standards’: implications for social justice in schools

doi:10.2304/forum.2008.50.1.103

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As a major consumer of public funds education has become one of the most highly surveilled and accountable professions in the United Kingdom. In this article the authors chart the changes and reforms to teacher training and in particular the impact of the ‘standards’ agenda on the teaching profession. They analyse the impact that the Teacher Development Agency (formally the Teacher Training Agency) and the Every Child Matters agenda has had on the promotion of an agenda for social justice and equality in schools.

 

Personalised Corruption: testing, cheating and teacher-integrity

doi:10.2304/forum.2008.50.1.113

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The government’s plans for students in KS2 and KS3 to be ‘tested when ready’ mark an attempt further to embed instrumentalist views of education. ‘Testing-when-ready’ is seen as an intensification of the harmful regime of testing, targets and League Tables which Mansell (2007) labels ‘hyper-accountability’. Highlighting aspects of Mansell’s book together with recent research into teacher-’cheating’ and resistance to high stakes testing in the USA, this article concludes with a call for teachers here to safeguard their willingness to consider and understand the learning which tests don’t see.

 

The 2007 Revised Standards for Qualified Teacher Status: doubts, challenges and opportunities

doi:10.2304/forum.2008.50.1.127

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September 2007 saw the introduction of the new ‘Q’ standards for the award of Qualified Teacher Status. Drawing on a meeting of 140 primary and secondary school ITT tutors, this article sets out to record and discuss the teachers’ initial reactions to these new standards a few weeks before their introduction. The article shows classroom teachers have significant concerns about a significant minority of the standards and this indicates that HEIs and other ITT providers now have a challenging management of change agenda.

 

Not National but Local and Global

doi:10.2304/forum.2008.50.1.137

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The author describes the theory and practice of a project that took place in Summer 2007 in four classes within three inner city primary schools, that brought together History, Geography and Global citizenship within a progressive educational framework.

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