Thursday, 23 June 2011

Academy experiment

North East Lincolnshire is about to become part of an accidental educational experiment as all of its Secondary Schools become Academies, each independent of the others and of the local authority, and essentially each in competition with the others and of any new schools which might be created.

Each can to do its own thing, and there should be positive outcomes from this freedom to be creative. But there will be lots of unintended consequences, some of which may well sort themselves out, and some of which may continue to irritate or worse as time goes by.

For example, most Academies will continue to set the same term dates as the local authority sets for the Primary Schools, but some will not, and there is a possibility that some parents who teach may even end up seeking to juggle three quite different sets of dates for themselves, their Primary School aged children and their Secondary School aged children.

I tripped over another one today when I went to take an assembly in a Primary School to find that all my preparation was redundant (grr) as they’d inserted a special assembly for those in their final year about to leave for a particular existing Academy which takes in its new pupils for the last few weeks of the Summer Term. The Primary School is left to sort out for itself how it creatively rounds off work with a year group some members of which leave early and some others of which remain for the rest of term.

Not quite related is a further frustration a couple of Headteachers have mentioned to me recently. I hadn’t realised that ‘part year’ funding does not follow a child who moves between schools. You may find a school which quite readily excludes pupils who are difficult to deal with; it will keep the whole year funding for each of those pupils. You may find a school with spare places in which a disproportionate number of those excluded children are placed; it will not get any funding for the extra work involved for the rest of the academic year.

One attempt to ameliorate this problem is for the local authority to administer a ‘Fair Access Protocol’, and I’ve been glad to look over one recently agreed for North East Lincolnshire which aims (among other things) not to end up sending a disproportionate number of excluded pupils to any one school. I wait to hear what the answer is to the question about how the local authority funds its residual educational responsibilities which includes administering such things. At present this is funded by ‘top slicing’ the money which comes in for each local authority school, money which would all be due to be paid direct to the Academies.

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