Created: Monday, 07 December 2015 21:14
At the end of November, the first-ever Academies Show took place in Birmingham. Just like a car or garden show, over 200 suppliers laid out their stalls, pitching for sales. The programme highlight was the ministerial keynote speech, ‘Unlocking the power of academies for a world-class education system’. Panel discussions were held throughout the day with a special session on ‘Identifying Radicalisation Early and Ensuring the Protection of Vulnerable Children Within Schools’. Sponsors included the Department for Education (DfE), the Crown Commercial Service, Microsoft, Sage, and PS Financials.
What exactly is on sale here is the nation’s education system. The Academies Show aims to find sponsors to take over schools. Local Education Authority (LEA) schools are on offer to education businesses, multi-national corporations or religious foundations. In this unusual marketing enterprise it is the British state that is putting up the capital yet demanding no returns on investment.
Academy schools are state-funded schools under the patronage of sponsors and accountable only to central government. When ‘free’ schools and ‘academies’ started under the Blair government in 2000, sponsors were expected to donate £2 million to buy into the right to impose their chosen ‘ethos’ on a school – Christian, traditional or whatever. By 2005 academies were being transferred freely to sponsors and today the government is desperately offering cash inducements to sponsors to take the nation’s schools out of LEA control, or to take over failing existing academies. The political agenda of cutting state welfare expenditure requires an attack on public sector provision as a whole and must create divisions and competition within it. And so the amount of state funding given to ‘free’ schools in 2013-14 was £7,761 per pupil compared with £4,767 for LEA schools.
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