re-election, the cabinet re-shuffle has rocketed Andrew Adonis, Blair’s
adviser and the architect of the academies’ strategy, into the House of
Lords and a key position as junior education minister. The government has
re-affirmed its commitment to create 200 academies by 2010.
No Quick Fix
This year’s Key Stage 3
test results undermined the claim that academies can rapidly boost
achievement in the inner city. The first academies have been in existence
since September 2002 yet ‘nine out of eleven featured among the bottom 200
schools … the results in maths, science and English will raise further
questions about the academy programme, which has already been attacked for
diverting resources away from other schools and placing too much power in
the hands of private sponsors’ (TES, 18.03.05). A Price Waterhouse Cooper’s
report in June revealed that in many academies exam results and pupil
behaviour have not improved at all.
More faith schools?
Many academies are
sponsored by Christian trusts, increasing the proportion of faith-based
schools in the UK. Even more sinister is the involvement of fundamentalist
Christian sects such as the Emmanuel Schools Foundation led by Peter Vardy
which is behind academies in Middlesbrough and Gateshead. Vardy believes
that evolution is only a theory and the curriculum in his schools gives
equal weight to creationism.
for academies means that in exchange for the relatively small sum of £2
million sponsors take over a brand new school, declare whatever working
conditions they like, appoint the majority of the governing body and teach
whatever curriculum they want. However, proposals for an academy in
Blackburn, Lancashire, have run into trouble. The sponsor for the planned
academy in the Darwen township was due to be Ron Aldridge, chief executive
of Capita. However, in 2001 Capita won a £150 million, 15-year contract
with Blackburn with Darwen council to provide council services. Even the
government recognises a potential conflict of interest in Capita sponsoring
an academy in the area, and the deal may not go through.