Saturday, January 22, 2011
Tidemill says no
Deptford Says No to Tidemill Academy reports that governors at Tidemill Primary School have withdrawn their application to the Department for Education to become one of the Government's new primary academy schools.
The move follows an extensive campaign against the proposals by Deptford Says No! They have demonstrated outside the school, supported a legal challenge by a Tidemill parent and their posters are everywhere to be seen in the area. They also made a video which doubles up as an excellent documentation of the community around Deptford High Street today:
The decision by the Governors to withdraw the application seems to have been prompted by a reconsideration of the financial benefits to the school. Academies will receive their funding directly from the Government rather than via the local Council, and their budgets will increase. But they will then have to pay themselves for all the services that the Local Authority provides. So it's a moot point how much better off they would end up - never mind the fact that any increase in funding to academies would be at the expense of other schools (since the overall budget is not growing, an increase to academies could only reduce the budget share for the rest).
The Tidemill controversy has highlighted one of the many contradictions of government policy - the rhetoric is all about localism and the community owning its schools but in reality a handful of governors can vote through a drastic proposal whatever the community actually wants. Schools who expressed an interest last summer in becoming academies were put under enormous government pressure to apply as quickly as possible, with constant phonecalls from DfE officials. In the case of Tidemill the proposal was rushed through with meaningful consultation seemingly an after thought.
We don't have to attribute bad faith to those governors and staff who supported the bid. With an uncertain future for education funding, some schools are making the leap of faith that becoming an academy will give them more security. Some schools may benefit in the short term from this, others will fail, but the real issue is the broader picture. Apart from the negative impact on other local schools, academies are also paving the way for a break up of the comprehensive education system. The Government's aim is clearly for education to become a market in which individual schools compete with each other as businesses, with an increasing role for the private sector.