The past week has seen debate over the initial levels of interest in Free Schools and Academies.  Whilst much media comment has been focussed upon the numbers (just over 200 in all or less than 1% of state schools) there has been less comment on what this means for how we work.

Playing a numbers game misses the point - these 200+ are the first wave, they will allow us to explore and test new ways of doing things.  This is an opportunity for everyone in education to learn from the past history of GM, academies and free schools elsewhere.  We need to reflect, especially given the haste with which the Academies legislation was pushed through.  So none of us can bury our heads (no pun intended) we need to focus on protecting and enhancing the learning experience of all children and young people.

I was struck by the EducationGuardian this week - with the first in a series of stories about a primary school aiming to become an academy in September.  The article raised well rehearsed questions about the impact of free schools and academies on the viability and value of local authority services.  The piece also raised poignant questions about the impact on children not attending academies.  

The market is going to be shaken up and this first wave gives all of us the opportunity and duty to seize  the moment and learn how to collaborate better, across sectors, in providing great quality, high value services through schools.  We need to think about how we can build effective and trusting commissioning arrangements for these services...otherwise we will not learn, and the risk of an unequal education system increases.

Finally in this week's numbers game Eric Pickles, the Community Secretary, has signalled an end to lobbying by public bodies.  He is right - government should just listen to the experts on the ground who know what is what and how to best deal with local needs.  He has said 'Local activism and localism don't need lobbyists' again he is right but people and needs must have a voice... this just underlines the need for us all to work together, gather and share knowledge and act as advocates for what we know works.


Leave a Reply