Next week this blog celebrates its third birthday. I would like to be more upbeat at this time, but many of the values that brought me into public service are now being eroded, seemingly faster than ever.
Yesterday I heard Sir Andrew Carter tell a conference on teacher recruitment that ‘all schools will become academies’. Later in the afternoon I had the same view that schools will be forcibly taken away from local authorities at some point in this parliament confirmed from two different sources: both said it was an open secret at Westminster. Such may be the consequence for the electorate of electing a Conservative government last year. We now await a White Paper on the future of schools that will precede a Bill, probably pencilled in for the autumn.
Whether schools become academies or some new form of organisation doesn’t really matter. What will be a consequence will be the ending the link between local government and the running of schools that has existed since 1902. I have written in the past that I can just about accept that for the secondary sector, but need to be convinced that a credible governance and planning structure, and reasonable funding model, has been devised for the primary sector and especially many of our small rural schools.
I am not sure what the consequences for the Tory party would be of any wholesale merger of village schools to save money, especially if the transport costs associated with busing pupils to the next village were left with the local authorities as part of a botched arrangement over who does what in the brave new world devised by Michael Gove and now implemented by Nick Gibb. Who will handle admissions if local authorities cannot force schools to take extra pupils and what is the future for pupils with special educational needs or children that are vulnerable in other ways?
The Church of England and, to a lesser extent, the Roman Catholic Church and other faiths responsible for schools will be under intense pressure if schooling is nationalised under the control of un-elected Regional Commissioners with no remit to support the historical pattern of primary education in England. There are no ‘voluntary’ academies as there are voluntary aided and controlled schools. Will the government allow single-faith multi-academy trusts in the new order along diocesan boundaries or compel different arrangements so that the faith schools will have to fight to retain their ethos?
I will be a real irony that the nationalisation of schools will take place under a Tory government in the name of, presumably, freedom. But, such is the world in which we live these days. I also wonder whether the days of governing bodies are numbered after an academy chain announced it was going to dispense with such local governance. This from a Tory government whose predecessors were once exercised about the fact that infant and junior schools were served by a single governing body.
I suppose one outcome will be that there won’t be any need for a national teaching force because all teachers, like schools, will be part of the national service.