August Ramblings from Simon
School’s out the summer holidays are in.
In many ways it might seem strange to be thinking about schools during the holidays, but although the children might not be at school, the wheels of governance move on.
Recently, the old government’s policy to change all schools into academies was reversed because of pressure and outcry. Yet for many schools this may still happen on the quiet. Under the current OFSTED inspection scheme if a school doesn’t perform then it can be made into an academy. But few people realise that if the local authority fails its OFSTED inspection, on how it is supporting schools, then the schools it isn’t supporting to
OFSTED’S standards can also be made into academies, so that they can function without reference to what might be considered a failing local authority. If that were to become the case for South Northants then it would affect our local schools.
Now I don’t have anything against academies in principle. We all want children to get the best education possible and I believe that all children should receive the same high standard of education, without reference to race, faith or their post code.
One of the things about academies is that they control their own admission process—they can decide who they want to attend the academy. They can also opt out of the national curriculum and teach their own preferred
subjects. The control of the school starts to move from the head teacher and governors to paid board members looking after several schools, physically divorced from each other. Already some private providers run large ‘chains’ of schools and some of these grew very fast—taking on more schools than they could cope with. This led to some of the largest chains being stopped from taking on any more schools. The control is patchy and
detached—which may remind some of what it was like under a local authority. Recently, the Ofsted chief
Sir Michael Wilshaw criticised seven sizeable academy chains for failing to improve the results of too many pupils in their schools, while paying board members large salaries.
On top of all this, there are added issues for Church schools both Voluntary Aided and Voluntary Controlled.
Currently these schools have foundation governors that have an interest in preserving the Christian nature and values of the school. But if they are forced to join with other non church schools (nothing wrong with that in
principal as there are many good schools). But as the control passes up the chain to the board of governors, then it will become harder in the school and classroom for our schools to remain Christian in character. Where schools can decide on their own curriculum or it is decided by an external governing board, where do we expect the place of assemblies and worship to fall, if not out of the bottom of the agenda.
The Department for Education confirms that “collective worship…. helps shape fundamental British values of
tolerance, respect and understanding for others”.
Children can already opt out of attending collective worship but rarely do “as the children enjoy this time of day”.
We now have a new Education Secretary, Justine Greening. It has been reported that she is ‘open
minded’ about the education system so maybe now is the time to write to her and let her know how
important church schools are, especially in our rural communities, and help to support them in the future.
Have a good holiday Simon