Many of you will no doubt have read the recent news story about Michael Gove’s plans
to increase the target for pass rates at GCSE. By 2015 he expects every secondary school in England to be achieving the current national average of at least 50% of pupils achieving five A*-C grades at GCSE, including English and maths. If not the school will be regarded as underperforming. (.)
Apparently this is “to end what he [Gove] sees as the low-expectations culture in some schools”.
But I can’t help thinking there may be something else going on here. If you look at one of the proposals in the Education Bill currently going through Parliament, the Bill seeks to extend the power of the Secretary of State to close all schools eligible for intervention (rather than, as at present, only those schools deemed by Ofsted to be in need of "special measures").
So what does “eligible for intervention” mean? Can it—or, more to the point, will it--be tied down more specifically?
Combining this with information revealed in a recent speech given by Bruce Liddington, Director General of the Academy Chain, E-ACT, at the Education 2011 Conference, possibly can provide some of the subtext behind Gove’s most recent pronouncement.
Sir Bruce unveiled his ‘5-year Plan for Academies and Free Schools’. By the end of 2011 E-ACT will have 17 ‘traditional’ academies and one free school. By 2015 he is hoping to have 126, comprising 65 ‘converter’ academies, 21 free schools and 40 ‘traditional’ academies. Then he revealed what he believed would be future schools policy—contained in four bullet points:
•All schools to be academies
•Free schools are academies
• A market for more school places
• Profit-making schools? (Note the question mark for this point.)
Of course E-ACT is only one of the chains of academies that are now emerging. So if you do the maths, it is easy to work out the possible size of the academy universe in 2015. Where wlll they all come from?
It seems to me that 50% pass rate is a very optimistic target in a very narrow time frame. Presumably, this is a chance for Gove to ‘intervene’ and hand over schools to ‘any willing provider’ (to use an NHS phrase). Liddington, et al, will clear up. How, though, are this lot going to be held to account, I wonder? Or will the rules suddenly change about what is a ‘good’ school, and what isn’t?
Go to this site
, if you want to see the whole of Sir Bruce’s presentation.