As the recession deepens and cuts are made in state education, we can find reasons to be cheerful. Resistance to further academy schools at the expense of local authority schools is growing, Ofsted the inspectorate are exposed as fools and privatisation plans are in a total mess.
The anti-academy alliance
Tony Blair’s pet idea of giving rich individuals and institutions ownership and control over state schools is in trouble. The list of wealthy sponsors with a taste for patronage who turn out to have dodgy business practices is growing. Carphone Warehouse mogul David Ross, who failed to declare that he had backed a personal loan with £120m-worth of shares, is the ‘first and founding sponsor’ of Havelock Academy in Grimsby. That means he appoints the majority of the governors and owns the land and buildings. Ross has resigned from the Olympic Games organising committee, but it is unclear whether he is still regarded as a suitable owner of an academy school. In March, Lord Bhatia, founder of Edutrust, an education business with the subsidiary Edutrust Academies Charitable Trust, had to resign. It was found that £60,000 ‘excess’ rent was paid to the Ethnic Minority Foundation of which Bhatia is co-founder. But irrespective of entrepreneurs who are a little too eager to put their hand in the till, the whole notion of the supremacy of the private sector over the public is shown to be a sham. Revelations about the incompetence and sheer greed for profits that has driven the banking sector into bankruptcy have knocked the academies agenda on the head. Council after council, often pushed on by parents’ and teachers’ protests, have abandoned plans to demolish local schools and open academies. Dudley, Sheffield and Ellesmere Port councils are among the growing list of local education authorities to axe academy proposals.
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