Academisation. The cornerstone of David Cameron’s education policy.
The programme increased the number of academies from 203 in 2010 to 2075 in 2016. Now however, we see the Conservative party has changed tact in terms of policy under Theresa May. Grammar schools seem to be at the top of the agenda rather than the continued push for academisation. As a Conservative member and voter this to me was a crucial mistake. It only adds to the left’s rhetoric that the Conservatives are a party for the rich.
Rising standards in academies:
Academies are non selective schools funded directly by central government, independently overseen by an academy trust. These schools have much more control over their curriculum and budget in comparison to their comprehensive counterparts. They also have a greater focus on things like discipline and behaviour, creating an environment fit for learning. This has meant they’ve become a driver of improving school standards across the country with GCSE results 7.2% higher than the national average, and make up a substantial part of the 1.9million increase of children in good or outstanding education since 2010.
A shining example of academy schools improving standards is the Magna Academy in a deprived area of Poole. Magna was in 2012 a comprehensive state school in special measures struggling with behavioural problems. The new Headmaster Mr Tutt upon academisation used the freedom academies give to take a hard line against bad behaviour. He introduced discipline and strict rules to the school which included silence between lesson transition, a ban on mobile phones, and a zero tolerance policy on disruption. Mr Tutt’s strict reforms ultimately meant Magna transformed from an unsatisfactory school to an outstanding one being in the top 1% of schools nationwide. Magna now has 48% of students achieving grade 5 or above in English and Maths compared to the national average of 39%.
“Magna truly inspiring and an example for all schools” – David Cameron, former Prime Ministerhttps://www.bournemouthecho.co.uk/news/11710572.amp/
This clearly shows the positive impact academisation has on schools even in economically deprived areas. It also shows the power of greater freedom, which allows frontline academy staff to drive improving standards across the country irrespective of a person’s wealth. That’s why as someone who champions social mobility I find it totally unacceptable that the Conservatives rowed back on the academisation programme.
Grammars damage social mobility:
Grammar schools by comparison are selective state schools funded by local authorities. These schools are some of the best in the country providing quality education for all who attend. However the process of selection for grammars is the 11+ exam, an exam that the more affluent within society are able to tutor their children to pass. This puts their poorer counterparts at a severe disadvantage. Some say this is a total myth. They say it’s due to a lack of grammar schools in certain areas. However the facts still add up to the same conclusion. Grammars damage social mobility in our society.
“Is every child in this country entitled to an excellent academic education? For me the answer is yes.” – Nicky Morgan, former Education Secretaryhttps://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/oct/03/nicky-morgan-grammar-schools-plan-could-undermine-progress
Grammar schools on average have less than 3% of their pupils on free school meals. This is nowhere near the 14% of pupils nationwide who are eligible for free school meals. To make these figures even more damning, 17% of pupils in areas with grammar school are eligible for free school meals. This means despite more availability of grammar schools in poorer areas, the poorest in society are still massively disadvantaged by them.
Despite the quality education grammar schools provide to pupils, they’re clearly damaging to social mobility within our society. Poor children are left behind whilst their middle class and rich peers flourish. This is a disgrace, and only adds to this idea that the Conservatives are a party for the rich. We need to be supporting working people in our society, not working against them.
The way forward:
As a party of opportunity the Conservatives of course should be championing quality education. But this should be available to everyone within our society. Not at the expense of social mobility. That is why as Conservatives we need to end this obsession with grammar schools. Rid ourselves of this party of the rich image. We need to champion the academisation programme that has drived up education standards for all since 2010.