All schools in England invited to become academies

28 May 2010

Ahead of a full Education and Children’s Bill in the autumn, the Academies Bill outlined in the Queen’s Speech this week is the first schools reform for the new government. This “free schools policy” allows high achieving state-funded schools to become academies and leave Local Authority control, and for new academies to be set up by parents or other groups without consulting the Local Authority.

Education Secretary Michael Gove wants to give more control directly to schools and has said “the whole aim of this legislation is to end the culture where politicians and bureaucrats tell schools what to do and instead we put teachers and Heads in the driving seat”. He believes that academy freedoms can raise standards in schools.There is not across the board support for these changes. Teaching unions have voiced their concerns, particularly around the risk of establishing of a two-tier education system, with non-academy schools being seen as less successful.The autumn Education and Children’s Bill will give teachers more influence over the curriculum, introduce a pupil premium and put in place new rights to tackle poor pupil behaviour. In the government's first move to distance itself from directing the curriculum, it has announced that the quango responsible for curriculum, QCDA, is to be abolished.It’s yet to become clear how many schools will become academies and what impact this will have on cultural learning. Nor do we know how a move to a less centralised curriculum will impact. Will schools use this as an opportunity to specialise in the arts and culture or establish a whole school focus on a creative curriculum? We’ll be alert to how this plays out for culture and be open to listening to schools’ needs over the coming months.What do you think? Are these changes an opportunity for culture or do you think the risks are greater?