Examination of Witnesses (Questions 180-184)|
25 FEBRUARY 2008
Q180 Paul Holmes: None the less,
even under the new code, you cannot direct Academies. You can
ask but not direct, whereas you can direct mainstream schools.
Graham Badman: Well, please do
not tell them in that case.
Q181 Mrs Hodgson: With your permission,
Chairman, I have a similar question with regard to exclusions.
I do not have any statistics to hand to compare figures on exclusions
other than what PricewaterhouseCoopers has found and what I know
from my own experience and my own borough, which is that a greater
proportion of children are excluded from Academies. The evidence
is here; that is a matter of fact. Also, when a child is excluded
from a school, another school in the local authority area will
often take them, but that may not be the case with Academies.
Often that is because Academies are full. I am finding in my borough
that the one Academy often totally refuses to play ball and will
not take children excluded from another school, although when
the Academy excludes children, other schools are expected to take
them in, so there is now starting to be a worrying disparity among
Chairman: We are pressed for time and
I know colleagues are getting a little restless, but I must keep
a quorum here if we are to finish the last couple of questions,
so can you respond briefly to Sharon's question?
Martyn Coles: I have taken pupils
permanently excluded from other schools.
Jean Hickman: We are part of the
Walsall managed move/transfer policy and we do likewise.
Lucy Heller: The same would be
true for our schools.
Graham Badman: We do not have
that problem. Unless there is a managed move process, the Academies
will not do the job they are meant to do within a locality, so
we encourage them all and we have not had any difficulty in getting
our Academies to respond to a notion of managed moves where there
Chairman: Last tail gunner, I think we
used to call themAnnette Brooke.
Q182 Annette Brooke: I have been
reflecting on the relative importance of people in the system
and the structures of the system. Let me give just one example.
The fact that local authorities manage the admissions policies
of schools gives me a lot of confidence, but that is not necessarily
common to all Academies, so I would like to leave this meeting
convinced that we could have a structure that meant that Academies
were genuinely serving the public good. I am assuming that all
of yours are, so can you tell me which changes we should have,
apart from in the area of admissions policy, to get rid of all
the niggly questions round the edgesthe Saturday morning
test and so on? That worries me. I visited an Academy that did
that for the banding. What else is there that would ensure that
these dynamic people were serving the public good?
Chairman: Let us start with Graham this
time, rather than others leading all the time.
Graham Badman: I will go back
to the issue of governance. The heads have made great play of
the fact that they have strategic, directive, on-the-ball governors.
That is great. It is not necessarily universal. I think we have
too many governors and they are too parochial. Within a structure
where you are getting school collaboration, you would take out
a lot of the parochialism and niggles between schools by having
a governance model that enabled schools to have their own governors
but also a wider set of governance arrangements, for a town or
a neighbourhood, where there was shared ownership of the problems
of all the schools within that. Every head, I think, has to take
responsibility for all the children, not just those within the
purview of their school.
Lucy Heller: I would just refer
to time. The Academies movement, perhaps like education in general,
has suffered from an overload of initiatives and changes. We have
already seen, in the relatively limited time that Academies have
had to show their stuff, that things seem to be moving in the
right direction. Generally, given time, people in local communities
who have been, in some cases, violently opposed to them have come
to change their mind once they have seen them in operation. I
would say let it be. I would not make changes to anything. I do
not see any instant
Q183 Annette Brooke: You would not
clip the wings of the freedom at all?
Lucy Heller: No, I would not.
The freedoms are important, but I do not think that they are overwhelming.
I do not see any signs that people are misusing them in any way.
The change in the curriculum requirement said that Academies must
follow the national curriculum in maths, science, ICT and English.
I thought that was unnecessary simply because I am not aware of
any Academy that has used the freedoms in a way that was at all
damaging. It was a response to a question that had not really
been asked. I am in favour of leaving things as they are and letting
them go. Have a look at the next PricewaterhouseCoopers report
when it comes.
Q184 Annette Brooke: There are obviously
issues in relation to the admissions policies of some Academies,
although not those here I am sure.
Jean Hickman: At the time, yes.
It is five years since we began and there are certainly great
differences now from the provision on the same site for the same
community in north Walsall. There also has to be an increased
clarity on what we are all about, which is probably why we are
here today. The clarity needs to be by definition. There are an
awful lot of words attached to every initiative; Academies have
endless words attached to them. Those words need to be clearly
defined so we all know what we mean when we talk about an independent
state-maintained school or a transitional budget. What do those
words definitely mean? At the moment, the clarity seems to be
that by me defining a specific word, I have a different understanding
of it than someone else. The definitions are not clear and clarity
in time is what we need.
Martyn Coles: Indeed. I am almost
turning full circle in saying that Academies on the whole have
most definitely brought better standards to areas or institutions
that have not previously had themI do not care to comment
on the whole country because I do not have experience of that.
I agree with you: full and clearly transparent admissions policies
should be the case for all state schools.
Annette Brooke: Thank you. Is that a
good note to end on?
Chairman: A good note to end on. We wish
that clearer and more understandable admissions policies were
true right across the piece, not just in Academies. This has been
an excellent session and I hope that you have realised how generous
the Chairman has been in giving everyone plenty of questions.
Thank you very much for the time you have given us. It has been
a really good session and we have learned a lot.