Thursday, April 03, 2008

Know what we need? More faith schools...

Faith schools, a law unto themselves - Education News, Education - The Independent
The vast majority of faith schools are breaking the law when admitting pupils, according to Government research published yesterday. The study shows that some seek money from parents and fail to give priority to children in care.

A survey of 106 voluntary-aided schools by the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) revealed that 96 are in breach of a new statutory code on admissions. Of those, 87 are faith schools.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Faith schools (mainly) charge for admissions...

State schools demanding payments from parents to secure places, ministers find | Schools special reports |
Ed Balls, the children's secretary, said abuse of the system was disproportionately occurring in faith schools and others which control their own admissions. Ministers met Roman Catholic, Anglican and Jewish leaders this week to express concerns. The evidence was so shocking, ministers said, that at one point they considered suspending this year's offers of school places pending a full inquiry.

Jim Knight, Schools Minister, described the situations as "shocking", and councils are to get more powers to oversee admissions to faith schools.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Faith dentistry?

National Secular Society - Faith-based welfare: the hand-over accelerates
Mr Dow revealed that: “The church is signing 25-year contracts for the new academies. Christian groups bidding to deliver dentistry are getting 20-year contracts.”

Bishop Dow revealed that the Government had, for more than two years, “been in conversation with church leaders about the possibility of the church providing extensive welfare services, rather in the way that the church plays a major part in education.”

This is just plain worrying...

Lancing and Shoreham academies?

Teachers Furious At Academy Plans (from The Argus)
West Sussex members of the NUT have already unanimously voted to oppose academies in the county.

Now three coastal schools are threatened with sponsorship from Woodard Schools.

Whither the government's review of academies?

Fiona Millar on the government's review of academies | Schools comment |
The deadly silence since then implies that, like everything else about academies, the review is closed and secretive, although at some stage there will no doubt be a covert briefing, hinting that a report no one can actually read has proved that academies are a huge success.

And third, the grassroots campaigns all tell a similar story about the opaque process by which academies come into being. Key features are a lack of any clear definition of what justifies an academy, covert bludgeoning of local authorities through Building Schools for the Future, and the wholly undemocratic "preferred sponsor" route that hands schools over to sponsors without any of the public scrutiny required by the 2006 Education and Inspections Act.

Fiona Millar rightly highlights many of the most worrying aspects of academies, those that centre around who a sponsor is allowed to be, and the process through which they can take over a school.

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Oldham faith schools

Rochdale News & Features
A two-year research project, launched after the riots in neighbouring Oldham, found that mono-culture schools should be avoided as they divide communities.

Teachers’ unions backed the findings, by experts at Lancaster University, and said academies led by faith groups would not achieve the diversity needed to unite the borough.

Unfit for Mission

MPs investigate Catholic influence on schools - Education News, Education -
The move comes after a 66-page circular from the Bishop of Lancaster, Patrick O'Donoghue, instructed Catholic schools in the North-west to stop "safe sex" education and place crucifixes in every classroom. Schools were also told not to support charities that promote or fund pro-choice policies, singling out Amnesty International – which is in favour of abortion for women who have been raped in war zones. Barry Sheerman, the Labour chairman of the committee, said there was evidence from other areas of the country of Catholic schools being told to adopt a more fundamentalist line.

Yet again taxpayers' money is being used to fund the propagation of religious propaganda in schools.

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Heartsease to go ahead

EDP24 - Government go-ahead for Heartsease academy
A bitter battle for the future of thousands of Norfolk children looked to be over last night as the Government gave the go-ahead to the county's first academy school - and kept the two Christian sponsors at the helm. Schools secretary Ed Balls has sent a letter to those involved in the plan, telling them they can press ahead with the £20m Open Academy in the place of Heartsease High in Norwich.

This despite the controversial involvement of Graham Dacre. There are some minor concessions, however: the academy will not be a faith school, and will have to teach the agreed Norfolk religious education syllabus. What this means for science lessons is not clear...

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Bullied by Lord Adonis

We're being bullied over academies - Halifax Today
We are being bullied and bribed into accepting an academy rather than being persuaded of the benefits of academies over community or foundation schools.

The Church of England plans to build 100 academies by 2010 while acknowledging the jury is still out on whether they are successful. Rather than prop- erly researching the academies it controls, the Church prefers to have faith and multiply.

The public meeting at Holy Trinity was packed and overwhelmingly anti-academy and yet the Labour councillors, who were there "to listen", have now decided they will all endorse an expression of interest in an academy.
This decision has even been taken before the extraordinary council meeting on February 27 to discuss the matter.

Vardy's venom

Politics put before children – Sir Peter - JournalLive
“And I am sick and tired of people referring to our academies as faith schools. Roman Catholic schools are faith schools, Church of England schools are, so are Jewish schools, but ours are not."

Sir Peter Vardy's spiteful comments here show his inability to conceive of why a council might prefer an academy run by Durham University, the North East Chamber of Commerce, and the county council, to one run by his Emmanuel Schools Foundation. he seems toi assume that all academies should be, as a first choice, ESF-run. The only reason not to choose ESF, for him, is because one is putting politics before children (rather than thinking children might not be better off in a fundamentalist, evangelical institution).

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Saturday, March 08, 2008

Oldham Non-Faith Academy?

National Secular Society - Christian-Muslim academy project hits the buffers
Plans for a joint Christian-Muslim academy in Oldham have been dropped by the local authority, because it says there are enough “faith school” places in the town. The real reason is that the religious bodies couldn’t agree on the proportions of places that should be available for each of their followers. The academy will now be sponsored by someone other than the Church and will be designated a “community academy”.
This article also contains a quotation from Ed Balls, which suggests that academies, in future, will have to follow the National Curriculum in science, which is a blow for Peter Vardy, and the other fundamentalists looking to get a foothold in our schools.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Exclusions at academies

Academy looks like a done deal - Halifax Today
According to the Anti-Academies Alliance, academies are excluding students at more than twice the national average, with a higher proportion of children from black, ethnic minority or low-income families being excluded.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Late baptisms soar as parents chase Catholic school places - Independent Online Edition > Education News

Late baptisms soar as parents chase Catholic school places - Independent Online Edition > Education News: "Meanwhile, Britain's faith schools are facing a recruitment crisis with a lack of committed Christian teachers available to take up headship or teaching roles. Liverpool Hope University, the only ecumenical university in Europe, is holding a careers fair next Tuesday specifically aimed at students considering a career as a teacher in a faith school."

This, however, is just sad. The idea that only Christian teachers should teach at a Christian school is, quite frankly, baffling. I went to a religious school, it is now an independent school run by the Church Schools Company, yet I would have difficulty in naming more than five or six or the teachers who were committed Christians.

Indeed, I would go so far as to say that two-thirds of the teaching staff grudgingly sat through the hymns and assemblies, and a few were actively hostile to organised religion. They had no problem in having a job at a nominally religious school, whilst remaining quiet about their own beliefs. Maybe what we need is teachers who are better liars, rather than better Christians...

Late baptisms soar as parents chase Catholic school places - Independent Online Edition > Education News

Late baptisms soar as parents chase Catholic school places - Independent Online Edition > Education News: "Research published today shows baptisms of children aged between one and 13 make up nearly a third of all entrants into the Church (30.3 per cent) compared with just 5.4 per cent 50 years ago. This represents a rise from 6,925 children to 20,141.

In the same period, the percentage of 'cradle' baptisms into the Church has gone down from 85 per cent to 64 per cent in the same period. The figures show there were 108,996 cradle baptisms in 1958 and 42,425 in 2005 – the last year for which figures are available."

It's good to see that even the immortal souls of our children are up for sale, at the moment...

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Doubts surface over multi-faith schools | Schools special reports |

Doubts surface over multi-faith schools | Schools special reports | "'It is not the policy of the government or my department to promote more faith schools. There are no plans to expand the number - that should be a matter for the local community."

This is utterly disingenuous, of course. Whilst it is true that many different types of groups can become sponsors of academies; those with the time, resources and desire to get their hands on the minds of the young tend to be religious or business groups.

Whilst it might not be the policy of the government to promote faith schools, it is the policy of the government to continue a scheme which has seen the number of faith schools rise, and faith groups have said they will use to increase the number of faith schools in the future...

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Evening News 24 - Parents slam academy decision

Evening News 24 - Parents slam academy decision: "However today Rosalie Monbiot, the council's cabinet member for children's services, said they had noted the petition, but felt that the signatories were mistaken in believing the new academy would be a faith school.

She said: “Whereas before the opinion from consultations had been in favour of the academy, this time we had the reservations expressed by the governors of Heartsease and the local parents. We recognised that to some extent and I think to be fair, the petition was based on a lot of misinformation."

This shows, quite clearly, that the academy programme is not meant to be as responsive to the concerns of parents and local people as it is to those of potential sponsors of schools. The fact that the council member feels free to dismiss legitimate concerns as 'disinformation', whilst pushing through a plan to which there is considerable local opposition.

Central government is being appealed to, to force Heartsease to close, even after academy plans were rejected by the local council. This move shows the venality of the academies programme, the desire, at any cost, to sell our children's education to the highest (or, in some cases, lowest) bidder.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Big green teaching machine | Special Reports | Guardian Unlimited Politics

Big green teaching machine | Special Reports | Guardian Unlimited Politics

"In the library, an alphabetical list of random buzzwords runs down one wall: 'organic grown, ostrich, outperform'."

This is a long article extolling the architectural virtues of Westminster Academy. However, because the building has only been in use since September: "its performance educationally is impossible to assess." Hopefully, all of its problems will be solved by a "straightforward atrium layout".

Saturday, January 05, 2008

This is a report of a study by Edinburgh University that found that the 'successes' in academy schools were largely down to pupils being encouraged to take easier subkects. Of course, that's not the whole story, even PwC, in their study for the government, concede that some of the improvement is down to academies having to educate fewer 'problem pupils'.

"But Terry Wrigley, a senior lecturer at Edinburgh University, warns in his study that there has been a 'serious erosion' of traditional subjects as children are enrolled on so-called soft courses to inflate test scores.

His report says there has been a huge growth in pupils taking GNVQs, which can be worth up to four good GCSEs, despite concerns by employers that they are easier to pass than other courses. There has also been a drop in the number of teenagers studying languages, history and geography, it is claimed.

'By the standards of European and other competitor countries, these pupils are poorly educated,' the report says." / World - Press baron courted over academies / World - Press baron courted over academies: "The government’s top education adviser tried to enlist the owner of the Daily Mail into backing several city academies intended to force children from different ethnic and religious backgrounds to study together under one roof.

In spite of detailed discussions with Lord Rothermere to set up five so-called “community academies”, the plans were abandoned after company executives feared involvement would muzzle critical coverage by the group’s local newspapers."

There is so much that is disturbing in these two paragraphs, I can't even begin to dissect them now...

Academy Set To Be Most Expensive In Uk (from Lancashire Telegraph)

Academy Set To Be Most Expensive In Uk (from Lancashire Telegraph): "THE CONTROVERSIAL Darwen academy is on course to become the most expensive school of its type ever built.

The final cost of the project, originally put at £34million, is now nearer £49million, according to a leaked borough council document.

The Department for Children, Schools and Families reveals that only two other academies, which are opening in September, have come close to this sum, with The Bridge Academy in London costing about £47million and the Thomas Deacon Academy, Peterborough, about £46million."

New Statesman - Schools need to be fair, not free

New Statesman - Schools need to be fair, not free: "Whether sponsored by universities or not, city academies remain independent institutions with deeply undemocratic governance arrangements, which give total control to sponsors in return for little or no capital investment, and which pay lip service to parental representation at any level. They are not covered by the body of education law that governs parents' and pupils' rights on admissions, special needs and exclusions in maintained schools, and are under no obligation to co- operate with other local schools.

I have yet to see a reasonable explanation for why they need these freedoms; unless it is, as many suspect, so that they can improve results by changing their intakes. Independent research carried out for the government in 2005 by PricewaterhouseCoopers seems to suggest that this might be so, given that academies are excluding more children and benefiting from more advantaged intakes than their predecessor schools."

Evening News 24 - Councillors reject city academy

Evening News 24 - Councillors reject city academy

Old news (I'm just going through some old emails), but good news about Heartsease...

New Academies Could Double Councils Transport Costs (from This is Hampshire)

New Academies Could Double Councils Transport Costs (from This is Hampshire): "Councillor Peter Baillie, Cabinet member for education, admitted: 'While the academies will not be faith schools, because the academy sponsors ticked the faith box then pupils will be able to use that for free transport. It's a quirk in the legislation.'"

This is just bizarre...

TES - Teaching jobs, resources & ideas from the Times Educational Supplement

TES - Teaching jobs, resources & ideas from the Times Educational Supplement: "The launch of Faith in the System allowed ministers to present a united front with faith schools after a battle last year over admission quotas. Alan Johnson, the former education secretary, wanted new faith schools to offer guaranteed places to children of a different faith or none but was forced into an embarrassing U-turn."

Pop Star Helps Open Academy (from Enfield Independent)

Pop Star Helps Open Academy (from Enfield Independent): "POP STAR Daniel Bedingfield performed at Enfield's first city academy last week to mark its official opening."

Excellent. The scheme must work, then.

Steve Chalke, Baptist minister and founder of the Oasis trust, which sponsors the academy, said: "For quite a number of years we dreamed of a school opening."

Well, now he's had a school opening. Shame he didn't dream of good, comprehensive education for all, really...

If Balls wants better schools, he must scrap faith selection | Comment | Guardian Unlimited Politics

If Balls wants better schools, he must scrap faith selection | Comment | Guardian Unlimited Politics: "Here is what the IPPR study found, to the rage of the Mail on Sunday: faith schools that administer their own admissions policies are 10 times more likely to be unrepresentative of the social mix in their area than faith schools where the local authority is the admissions authority. Non-religious schools that are allowed to administer their own admissions (academies and foundations) are six times more likely to be unrepresentative of their areas."

Free our schools from a fatally flawed system | Comment | Guardian Unlimited Politics

Free our schools from a fatally flawed system | Comment | Guardian Unlimited Politics: "One in seven was prepared to lie, such as about their faith. The desperate search for a good education is turning middle-class parents into fraudsters."

Poll forces Church to re-examine way it teaches religion in schools -Times Online

Poll forces Church to re-examine way it teaches religion in schools -Times Online: "The Church of England is to re-examine its approach to teaching religion in its schools after a 'surprising' number of people told pollsters that church schools promote 'narrow religious teaching'.

Nearly half of more than 1,000 people polled by The Opinion Research Business said that church schools are different from state run schools, more than a third said they were the same and the rest said they did not know."

This is the same survey Ekklesia referred to, the one the CofE claimed showed that people supported faith schools...

C of E should stop 'spinning' around church schools - think-tank :: Inspire Magazine

C of E should stop 'spinning' around church schools - think-tank :: Inspire Magazine

Ekklesia once again burst the Church of England's bubble, by examining the figures that the CofE claims indicate that the public support faith schools. What they reveal instead is a public deeply skeptical about the quality of sex education in religious schools, and stringly suspicious that they cause social division.



This story from the Camden New Journal should not surprise any of us. The story is that a Lib Dem leader of Camden council wrote a briefing note about the plans for the UCL academy in Camden that suggested that the project could be used to curry favour with voters, and worried that the CofE and other religious groups might predominate if the academy were up for an open bid. It also expressed concerned that an open process would not have the school open in time for the next election.

So far, so local politics.

The worry is that the academy scheme has politicised the provision of education. Now there are worries about the timing of schools, their sponsors, and what effects these will have on local elections. In a move that appeared, ostensibly, to be a challenge to the powers of local government, the powers of local governments has been enhanced in the same way that the planning process does. This opens it to the same sorts of abuses, and does not serve the interests of those who wish to educate children.

Labour leader Theo Blackwell said: "The public interest has taken second place to rather crude political jockeying.” The tragedy is that that is the effect this scheme was bound to have, opening the schooling of pupils up to the highest (or, as we have seen, sometimes lowest) bidder.

Concern about head's job over school change - Aylesbury Today

Concern about head's job over school change - Aylesbury Today: "Jonathan Johnson is well respected for pulling Quarrendon out of special measures last year after only 11 months in the job. He is popular with staff, parents and pupils, but if the Government approves Bucks County Council's proposal he will be the only member of staff to not have an automatic job transfer."

This is especially interesting when one realises that the school is to become an academy run by the Church of England, and that academy schools are allowed to make exceptions in their hiring policies. It might be a good time to be a fundamentalist with a desire to run a school...

This also raises questions as to why the school is becoming an academy at all. The school has been pulled out of special measures, and the plan for it to become an academy will mean that no money is spent on the school's facilities until a new school is built in 2011.

Cllr Clayton said: "When it becomes an academy there will be some capital to spend on the school. We will not be able to spend the £4 million needed to bring it up to scratch, but there will be some improvement."

It's also good to know that the money spent will not even bring the school 'up to scratch'...

NHS trusts asked to help run city academies - Telegraph

NHS trusts asked to help run city academies - Telegraph: "David Laws, the Lib Dem children's spokesman, said: 'People will be amazed to discover that the Government is bringing in the NHS to sort out the management of under-performing schools.

'What time and skills do NHS managers have that will improve the standards of state education?'"

Of course, the same question could be asked of religious groups and second-hand car salesmen...