Already in the second month of the year, so I’m going to skip the pleasantries and head straight into this.
The more I write this blog, the more I realise that the target audience may not be those who already know about the UK education system, but people who actually know very little about it. Nothing made me surer than today’s key speech on education by Prime Minister, David Cameron.
I was at work, so had to catch up on the speech by re-watching the whole 43 minutes of it.
In a school in north London, after Nicky Morgan
probably lied said how education had always been one of her great passions,and finished delivering dead jokes, the Prime Minister set out his party’s plans for education if the Conservative party win a majority in this year’s general election. (You can tell that Morgan gets no ratings from me, can’t you?)
You may have seen the headlines from his speech. Ring fencing. Cuts. Best possible starts in life. However, one thing that stood out for me, was the word “academy”.
Cameron said that his party would turn “every failing and coasting school into an academy”.
I’m not too fussed about dissecting any policy announcements, partly because I don’t know how to.
But I thought it would be handy to give a few pointers on what an academy is, the difference between it and a free school, and other useful bobs, as I feel the word is bandied about a lot, while many are in the dark about how they function. I certainly was until I got my Public Affairs book for my NCTJ journalism study. Much of what will follow is quite “Essential Public Affairs” heavy.
It was Tony Blair’s Labour government that introduced academies and they were initially for schools that weren’t seen to be doing so well. However former Conservative Education Secretary, Michael Gove, liked the academy vibe and decided to widen the movement.
- Academies are publicly funded schools that are free from local authority control
- They receive funds directly from government, rather than through the local council
- Under Labour, they were prioritised for failing schools, and used public-private partnerships for capital
- They are run by academy trusts
- Academies have flexibility in managing their internal affairs, choosing much of their own curriculum, pay for teachers, and term-time length
- Academies can decide on their own admissions arrangements
Education has been through such a topsy turvy time in the past ten years or so, that I used to wonder what the difference was between this type of school and an academy. It isn’t all that bad – ten years ago I was in school myself, so knew little about subtle differences between types of education establishments.
- Free schools were established under the Conservative-led coalition government. If I remember correctly, it came off the back of “The Big Society”
- They can be set up by nearly anyone, so parents can apply for approval to set up a free school
- Like academies, they are free of local authority control
- They can set up their own pay for teachers and decide on term-time length
- However, free schools are non selective in their admissions, and have to admit children of all abilities
When you’re in school, you don’t realise that you’re a little cog in a big education machine. Political fodder for people using your achievements (or failures) as a route into Downing Street, or part of a “problem inherited” by the next government.
So, have I got this right? Or utterly wrong? Let me know in the comments. I’ll update accordingly if I made a shocking error, and I may add other types of schools later on just for fun.
Broadcast Belle fact: I may be tweaking the direction of this blog again, geared towards those studying politics for journalism. The blog is screaming “new year, new me.”