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Chris Woodhead: Academies plan “in principle, excellent” June 11, 2010

Posted by Alex, Managing Director in Independent Education.

As Tribune Magazine report today, teachers are voicing their concerns about the government’s plans for more academy schools.

All three teaching unions – the National Union of Teachers, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers and the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers – have come together to oppose plans they believe are being “rushed through” Parliament.

The recently released issue of Which London School? & the South-East contains a forward written by Chris Woodhead, former HM Chief Inspector of Schools, and leading commentator on educational policy.

As you can read below, Chris generally approves of the academies plan – although he does have some reservations…

“More children are educated in independent schools in London and the south-east than in any other part of the country. Why? Because more parents in the south-east can afford to educate their children privately, but equally, because in London in particular, demand for a good education outstrips supply.

Your guess about the continuing affordability of private education is as good as mine. We may or may not be escaping the recession and those responsible for setting fees in independent schools may or may not have realised that the annual above-inflation hike is unsustainable. What I do know is that demand for private schooling will continue. In the south-east, as in every other region of England, there are some wonderful state schools, but there are not nearly enough of them. If you live within spitting distance of the front gates, you might stand a chance of securing a place in a successful and therefore over-subscribed school. Otherwise, forget it.

The previous Labour Government would, of course, like us all to believe that the number of failing schools has been reduced, that the Academy and Specialist Schools initiatives have resulted in many more highly effective schools, and that you only have to look at each year’s record GCSE and A level statistics to realise that all is rosy in the world of state education.

In real terms we spend two thirds more on education than we did in 1997. As the Public Accounts Committee has pointed out, there has not been a commensurate improvement in educational standards. The truth is that billions of pounds of public money have been poured down the drain and many parents have and will continue to have no option other than to dig deep into their pockets and go private.

All may, perhaps, change following the election. In principle, the Conservatives’ plan to enable parents to set up their own schools is excellent. The more schools we have competing with one another to meet the aspirations of parents as consumers the better. Any initiative which undermines state monopoly provision must be good.

But, in practice, how independent will these so called ‘independent state schools’ be? They will still have to teach the discredited National Curriculum. They will still be inspected by a discredited Ofsted. They will not, crucially, be allowed to set their own admissions policy. So, if you want your academically-able child to attend an academically-selective school, a change of Government will leave you no better off than you are now.

And how many parents have the time, energy and knowledge to set up their own school? The jury is, I am afraid, very much out on Mr Cameron’s flagship education reforms…”



1. Will Jackson - December 30, 2010

“They will still have to teach the discredited National Curriculum. They will still be inspected by a discredited Ofsted. ”

Chris Woodhead himself is both morally and intellectually discredited. He is a ‘edu-preneur’. In it for the money, not for the life of the mind, love of learning or indeed the well-being of children. He knows it and so do many others.

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