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Academies: inadequately academic

anastasia de waal, 19 July 2010

Part of an ongoing examination of academies’ curricula, the latest revelation from Parliamentary Questions tabled by Tristram Hunt MP, is that there is a huge shortfall of academic entries in academies.

For example for 2008/09:

* Academies’ GCSE entries for geography over a third lower than the average for all maintained schools: 17% vs. 26%

* Academies’ GCSE entries for modern foreign languages over a third lower than the average for all maintained schools: 26% vs. 41%

* Academies’ GCSE entries for physics a third lower than the average for all maintained schools: 8% vs. 12%

* Academies GCSE entries for history nearly a third lower than the average for all maintained schools: 21% vs. 30%

It is clear that if the academic subject is not compulsory, academies are much less likely to enter their students for it than is the case in other state schools. As academies are supposed to be improving not impoverishing education, to find that the proportion of academy students doing core academic subjects is much lower than the state school average, is as ironic as it is depressing.

We know from this same data, that a number of academies are providing an excellent curriculum: i.e. a genuinely broad and balanced selection of academic and more practical options, with success being achieved in both. However, the pervasive dropping of academic GCSEs is ultimately down to the disastrous combination of authorised secrecy, bogus equivalence and sub-standard pseudo-vocational qualifications which academies. Withdrawing academic GCSEs and replacing them with weak substitutes has been highly beneficial for academies’ league table position but hugely detrimental to the already often limited opportunities available to the young people they serve.

So, in order to ensure that students with often already limited opportunities do not have them shrunk even further, the government must finally put an end to scope for such distortions.

1 comment on “Academies: inadequately academic”

  1. The main reason any school wants to change to Academy status is to be able to deal with the issue of challenging behaviour in an educationally politicised manner. More money and freedom from local authorities enable a variety of strategies to be employed. One of these is to continue to make the exams easier – the easiest of all the potential options. As exam boards only move slowly to affect political change it is easier for the Academy to alter the subject’s students study!

    The educational establishment, with their large comprehensives and inclusion of challenging behaviour ‘at all costs’ without sanctions, have failed white working class kids – especially boys. The politicised inclusion of disruptive behaviour, which is normally perpetrated by kids from good homes, which is never challenged in class as the view is that ‘it would disadvantage challenging pupils’ is so wrong and unfair to those who want to study that it is a national disgrace – most OFSTED ‘good’ comprehensives in this country have disruption in most classes every day of the week as a result of this. The damage is appalling in terms of lost social mobility and resultant crime on our streets.

    Unfortunately Michael Gove’s response by making more Academies with greater freedom of action and the change in statute to enable more powers for teachers will go only a very small way to answering this difficult problem.

    A Nixon said ‘when you get them by the ***** their minds soon follow’. When Headteachers see that exams are becoming more rigorous again, with academic content going up’ they will soon change their setting and behaviour management arrangements, with inclusion (of challenging behaviour – other inclusion is OK) being kicked out the back door.


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