Academies Just Don’t Work

In 2013, local Labour Party MP Jon Ashworth (Leicester South) popped over to Samworth Enterprise Academy to give them a publicity boost in our city’s local newspaper, the Leicester Mercury (see “Jon Ashworth and the Class(room) Struggle”).

Jon Ashworth promoting Samworth Enterprise Academy in the Leicester Mercury
Jon Ashworth promoting Samworth Enterprise Academy in the Leicester Mercury

The following year, the head of this favoured academy was forced to step down because of their exceedingly poor GCSE results. This in the face of the success of the city’s other great comprehensive secondary schools (as outlined here by Peter Flack, assistant secretary of the Leicester branch of the National Union of Teachers).

Yet this notice of under-performance was not a first for the Samworth chain of academies, as earlier in the year the governors of Nottingham University Samworth Academy received a “pre-warning” letter from Lord Nash because their standards were unacceptably low.

An editorial in the Leicester Mercury heaped further criticism upon the poor performing Samworth Enterprise Academy, revealing that the Academy was running at a…

“…massive deficit and the £600,000 overspend is going to mean staff and teachers being made redundant. You can use all the mealy-mouthed management speak you like, but having fewer teachers is not going to help a struggling school.” (April 17, Mercury)

Here the reference to “mealy-mouthed management speak” might be connected to the pro-business arguments being banded about by the Samworth Enterprise Academy’s vice chair (John Day) who is also the chairman of the Leicestershire Chamber of Commerce.

But such management-speak could just as likely be coming from any one of Leicester three Labour MP’s. Last month Liz Kendall (Leicester West Labour MP) made clear that she was not adverse to a privatised education system, saying:

“I’m not going to waste time obsessing about school structures. If a school is providing a great education – whether it’s a local authority, academy or free school – we will back it. Full stop.” (May 21, Daily Mirror)

Contrary to Ms Kendall’s support for free schools, the NUT’s Peter Flack, has recently pointed out how…

“…Ofsted found primary pupils do better in state-run schools. In these, 79 per cent of primary pupils got to Level 4 or above in the three Rs, compared to 70 per cent of free school pupils. Ofsted figures also show that between 2012-14 the number achieving Level 4 at 11 rose by 4 per cent in state schools but fell by 13 per cent in free schools.” (March 18, Mercury)

In their shock at such criticism, the Tories quickly rushed to the defence of the need to privatise the British education system, and had their lengthy response to Mr Flack’s “first person” article published in the Mercury’s letter page. (March 30, Mercury)

The author of the deceptive rebuttal to Mr Flack’s article happened to be the Director the New Schools Network, a Tory propaganda outfit set that was set up in 2009 by Michael Gove’s education advisor, Rachel Wolf. The letter being written by Natalie Evans, who neglected to use her formal title Baroness Evans of Bowes Park, or that she formerly served as the deputy head of the privatisation-obsessed think tank, Policy Exchange.

Finally, returning to Leicester’s flagship Samworth Enterprise Academy, the latest news from the Mercury (June 25) is that it has been judged ”to be inadequate in almost all areas…” Ofsted inspectors having “found that pupils are making insufficient progress in almost all subjects.” Now if that isn’t a damming verdict on free schools, what is? But don’t expect the “incredible” Liz Kendall (as described by Jon Ashworth) to be changing her mind any time soon!

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