The government’s prevailing need to cut back on expenditure will largely bypass the educational budgets. But if we invest in academies and free schools the need for the current format of the Department for Education (DFE) could be greatly reduced. Could this pass further savings down the line to fund improved teaching resources.
The largest savings generally occur by starting at the top, something maybe the BBC still need to grasp. The advent of academies and free schools will see more of the learning process pass to localised control. Providing each school in turn zealously grasps the operational role this would clearly reduce the support needed at a central level. We have a long way to go to achieve world class academic efficiencies and performance standards. But unfettered by bureaucracy could provide the incentive to Head Teachers to go the extra mile.
Academy groups have a scaling benefit in their buying power but the single academy or free school could also benefit from purchasing freedom. Enforced use of central academic supply organisations, structured to make substantial profits, could cease. Teachers could deal in the real world and make efficient use of shopping on-line. It’s the way the general market is moving and would allow schools to practice what they preach in grooming children to be cost savvy in adulthood.
The increased freedom of multi academy groups to control the teaching resource and modus operandi benefits over its state equivalent. The Harris Federation, Ark and United Learning Trust Academies are clearly demonstrating the benefits of devolved control with improved performance.
The introduction of new academies in previous under performing schools have proven they are far from hopeless cases. Some are now outperforming the previous state model by a factor of 14. High immigrant content and poor social background have not dragged performance down. Quite the reverse, a fresh localised view and rules of engagement from a positive management team is certainly a winning formula.
Whilst this laudable achievement is starting to yield benefits care is needed else the new school clusters get too big and negative comparisons with the existing system emerge. Perhaps the maximum size of Academy groups needs defining to avoid a ‘Tesco’ scenario that look primarily at the needs of their shareholders.
In the meantime, interestingly the main influence behind academic status appears to be driven by teacher unions. They urge Head teachers to liaise with parents and local communities before opting for academy status. Maybe this influence is protectionism but then we do need some considered thought before we go gung-ho into a new era. The last major school initiative, the introduction of comprehensive schools some 40 years ago hasn’t been the success hoped for. Still independent school outpace the academic performance of the state system by a huge margin. Academies have their place as localized clusters but we need to watch for the Trojan Horse if they become national.