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Mel Stride

Education and Freedom

Mon 6 Sep 2010

By Mel Stride
The Academies Bill has recently gone through Parliament. It allows state schools to break freefrom local authority control with greater authority over the curriculum andteacher pay and the removal of educational bureaucracy and associated costs.The evidence is that Academies (brought in by Labour) raise standards includingwhen the social background of those attending is taken into account. The Billallows for maintained state schools classed as ‘outstanding’ by OFSTED to befast-tracked to academy status. The bill allows new ‘free schools’ to becreated by parents, charities, churches and others and for them to enjoyAcademy freedoms. Primary and special schools are included. None will beallowed to make a profit and each will provide free education with fundingfollowing the pupil. The better a school is the more pupils and funding it willattract. This model has been successful in countries like the US and Sweden and sees increased parentalchoice improve standards.
This approach has its detractors. Some say these new schools will cream off thebest pupils and leave sink schools struggling in their wake. But the evidenceis the opposite. Where free schools take root attainment typically improvesacross all local schools and new Academies will be expected to partner weakerschools. Another factor is the pupil premium which will be available forchildren from less advantaged backgrounds with schools having a clear incentiveto offer them places. Another objection relates to the impact that Academiesand free schools might have on the remaining local authority maintained schoolsin their area as a result of them buying services from outside the localauthority so leaving the local authority with diminished resources (withunchanged overhead) for those schools that remain under their control. Heremuch is made by the opposition of the effects that this dynamic might have onSpecial Educational Needs (SEN) provision. A vital area given the key roleeducation plays in improving life chances. There are several aspects of thebill that matter here including that Academies and free schools will haverequirements for SEN provision that are identical to those of maintainedschools. Also where SEN provision is not being provided to the requiredstandard the Secretary of State may intervene. Finally of course Academies andfree schools will still be able to buy their SEN provision from localauthorities and where the standard and value are high (as one would hope itwould be) then presumably they will do so.
The Academies Bill is permissive in that it is up to schools to decide whetherthey wish to opt in or not. I hope that many do and that over the yearsthousands of young people will look back on this bill as one that gave them avery great deal.

Other columns by Mel Stride

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Investing in local public services - Mon 2 Aug 2021
Corona - A year on - Mon 14 Jun 2021
Supporting our Local Communities in difficult times - Mon 1 Mar 2021
The PM’s first year - Thu 1 Oct 2020
Quizzing the PM - Tue 7 Jul 2020
It’s the economy, stupid! - Tue 11 Feb 2020
Vision for the Future - Mon 2 Dec 2019
Into the Cabinet - Thu 1 Aug 2019
Local Apprenticeships Matter - Fri 3 May 2019
Huge shot in the arm for our High Streets - Thu 24 Jan 2019
Reading - Thu 8 Nov 2018
EU - In or Out? - Mon 11 Mar 2013
Opportunity. - Tue 22 Jan 2013
Where do we begin? - Tue 13 Nov 2012
To Infinity and Beyond - Wed 5 Sep 2012
Working in Westminster - Sun 1 Jul 2012
A Better Balance - Thu 5 Jan 2012
Capital Shame - Mon 7 Nov 2011
Olympic Feat... - Sun 11 Sep 2011
The Coalition - A year on - Mon 11 Jul 2011
Labour Dreams - Sun 17 Apr 2011
Now we really must mean Business - Thu 10 Mar 2011
Freedom and Responsibility - Sun 9 Jan 2011
A leader for Labour - Thu 4 Nov 2010
Tradition and Words - Mon 6 Sep 2010
Mel Stride - Early Days in Westminster - Tue 6 Jul 2010
Mel Stride Conservative Parliamentary Candidate on The Big Society - Mon 3 May 2010
A look back over my years as Conservative parliamentary candidate and contributor to The Cottage - Sun 28 Feb 2010
Building the homes of the Future means giving Power to the People - Thu 3 Dec 2009
Early memories... - Wed 4 Nov 2009
As General Franco lay dying... - Tue 20 Oct 2009

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