Friday, 25 April 2008

Dunn Deal and Academy "Simplicities"

In simple terms, how does an Academy work?

An Academy operates as a normal state school, funded by central government but with additional funding from a private sponsor and the expertise and further resources the sponsor brings. It also gains certain freedoms in how it operates, how it organises the running of the school, the curriculum, the additional resources it calls upon and the partnership arrangements it makes, while being accountable to central government for the delivery of standards and the core curriculum.
It doesn’t operate as a normal state school. Normal state schools are usually maintained by the Local Authority and within a ‘family’ of maintained schools. ULT is one of the few who have actual educational expertise of any kind, but we think that Rother Valley teachers and administrators have the greatest expertise on our schools and educating our children! “The sponsor gains freedoms in how it operates”: freedoms or liberties? It’s accountable to central government, who at this stage, need for academies to seen to be as succeeding- not accountable to us.

Academies offer a broad and balanced curriculum to students of all abilities, and offer one or more specialisms. Money for all the core services (education and teaching, buildings and a wide range of support services) will come from central government.

MGS currently has a specialism. Broad and balanced curriculum in academies? RESEARCH HAS SHOWN THE EXACT OPPOSITE. See Roger Titcombe’s work.

All places at Academies are free of charge. Places at a Rother Valley Academy would be available to all local young people under an agreed and published admissions policy similar to those applying to all other secondary schools within West Sussex.
Similar to- not the same as- all other WS secondary schools. The admissions policy is agreed with central government. The sponsor will be its own admissions authority. Separate funding arrangements involving the local authority will deal with the continued provision of support to local children with special educational needs, who would be welcomed at the Academy, Academies are operated by not-for-profit Trusts.
This is interesting. When will we see these separate funding arrangements? What does ‘involving’ mean? Is this just a clause in the Funding Agreement (private contract between sponsor and secretary of state ONLY, not with Local Authority as is sometimes implied. The sponsors “consult” with local authorities, but ultimately the contract is theirs alone) in which the LA has had some input?
And as for children with SEN being welcomed at the academy, as a former teacher at a Special School, I hope that is the case. Please note, though, that the admissions criteria are for pupils with SEN who have a Statement (of SEN) naming the academy. Getting a statement of SEN for a pupil with special needs seems to get progressively more difficult every year- there are many pupils with a wide range of special needs, pupils catered for very well in some of our schools, who do not have statements. If parents and staff manage to overcome the many hurdles in the way and get a Statement for a child, they then have to get the academy written into the statement, stating why the academy is best suited for the pupil’s needs. Parents can influence the choice of school, but they are not guaranteed that in the actual statement. Advice on this is clear “However, if there's a suitable state school, the local authority has no legal duty to send your child to a non-maintained or independent school.” It isn’t clear that the academy would necessarily welcome all children with any form of special needs, unless they were able to get a statement, and name the academy in this.

They secure sponsorship of up to £2m to support the charitable purposes of the Academy: this money is not for the core educational functions, but is put into an endowment fund aimed at enhancing opportunities for local young people.
Please note the UP TO. Don’t bank on £2 million, literally. And that sponsorship is in cash or in kind. Services can be provided by the sponsor which are then valued by them as a cash equivalent as part of their sponsorship.
Can charities support local young people by enhancing their opportunities, and do so financially? Of course, they already do. But if it is a charitable act, why are sponsors expecting something in return, i.e. control of the school? If groups, philanthropists or even businesses want to provide an endowment, let’s ask them to do it. How many will put their money where their mouth is when we ask for it with no strings attached? Would ULT?

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