On becoming an Academy, some messy musings.


At a consultation meeting this week concerning our conversion to academy status something that the visiting Headteacher, who was speaking, said struck a chord.  What he said was along the lines of:

“My job as a Headteacher for the past 11 years has been to subvert schemes and national initiatives, and the money that comes with it, for good and good is better learning”

It resonated with me as for the past five years, I’ve subverted funding from projects to enable wider changes to take place.  It’s amazing how much impact a small grant aimed at helping a select bunch of students can do for a whole department.  For example:

These projects all started with a narrow aim, but ended up having a school-wide impact.

My point?  School leaders at all levels need to get real and get funding.

Of course, this creates a conflict of interests between our own personal, political values and those of our public personas that are focused on making teaching and learning better.

I’m not going to give away my own political thoughts about the Academy programme, although this post gives you a clue, but if:

  • choosing to become an Academy brings in much needed investment (I draw the distinction between being able to choose an Academy sponsor and being forced to convert), and
  • that investment in infrastructure, services and resources can improve learning for our students,

then why wouldn’t governing bodies choose to convert?

My main objection would be that that becoming an Academy can put the running of schools in the hands of those without teaching or educational experience.  However, I don;t see any difference here between that and an LA councillor or for that matter a Secretary of State leading councils and the country. 

In my, admittedly limited, experience of education, the demise of the LA is no big deal from the point of view of supporting teaching and learning.  I have worked with one exceptional LA adviser in Jeff Stanfield, but most have been irritating.  The best support has always come from the subject associations and other teachers.  In the ‘old’ days this used to be SLN Geography, now it’s twitter and reading other teacher’s blogs.  Networks such as Microsoft’s Partners in Learning; Google’s Certified Teacher Status and Apple’s Distinguished Educator programme all provide excellent support, as long as you remember to keep the focus on teaching and learning and be open with the fact that they are all trying to a) tie you in to something that makes them money and b) expose young people to their brand so that they can make more money. Come on, they are commercial, for-profit organisations.

But are they evil?  Or can we, using our professional judgement, take the best bits to use in the classrooms?

Isn’t advocating Google products the same as arguing for the Academy programme? 

My main point?  Nothing new.  I’m no politician, but I know how to create excellent teaching and learning.  I’ll do that for the students and staff in my care regardless of the situation nationally. My personal and professional views are separate, and I’ll exercise my right to vote and protest using legal means, however in the meantime I’m going to carry on teaching.

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