Why Academies Don’t Work And Michael Gove Must Resign

There has been much concern raised, from a wide variety of quarters, in recent months about the DfE’s headlong rush to convert as many state maintained schools as possible to academy status. The BBC Q&A on academies http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-13274090 explores the expansion of academies under the Coalition Government.

The most important question that surely needs to be asked is whether the academy model improves attainment for the students attending the converted school. To date much of the data produced to assess the efficacy of academies on this basis are not convincing. According to the National Audit Office report into academies in September 2010 academies were a long way from matching the national average for the percentage of pupils achieving five or more A* – C grade GCSEs or equivalent particularly when English and Maths were included. They were however, assessed as making good progress against comparable maintained schools, both in absolute attainment and relative to prior attainment.  Furthermore it was judged that the overall performance trend masked  “wide variation between individual academies with some performing exceptionally well and others making little progress”. The NAO were unable to produce a full explanation whether in regard to relative local deprivation or pupil’s prior attainment.

The same report also testifies that for later academies entries for GCSEs decreased more rapidly than other schools between 2006-07 and 2008-09. This was part of a general trend for including an increasing number of GCSE equivalent subjects on the school curriculum. But for later academies the proportion of entries to GCSE equivalents in 2008-09 was 7% higher than earlier academies and 10% higher than maintained schools. This would suggest that the primary reason for any progress achieved has been the exponential growth in vocational courses recently discredited by Michael Gove and many of which are now to be removed from the secondary education system. The Anti Academies Alliance goes even further in its criticism of the lack of educational improvements in academies when it drills into the Ebacc results and removes what it classes as the government’s idealogical spin. Only 1 in 33 pupils in academies achieved this benchmark qualification even though most of their students are not disadvantaged. The national average number of students who got 5 A-Cs achieving an EBacc was 33% whilst it was just 12% in academies. Worse still this figure drops to a dreadful 8% once you strip out academies that were formerly independent, grammar or high achieving schools. If you remove grammar and other selective schools from the equation approximately 80% of academies saw 5% or fewer students achieving an EBacc. The inference therefore, is that by the Government’s own acadamic standards academies don’t work.

Mossbourne Academy in Hackney has been held up as an exemplar for the potential success of academies in turning failing schools in deprived areas around but according to those in the know former head of Mossbourne Sir Michael Wilshaw previously achieved the same spectacular results at St. Bonaventures in Newham without the multimillion pound investment from a sponsor, brand new buildings and all the structural upheavals that accompany conversion to academy status.

Aside from the academic aspects are academies financially sustainable? According to the NAO report as of March 2010 at least 58% of academies had received none of their pledged funding from sponsors. By January 2011 the Public Accounts Committee reported that:

The Department has failed to collect all the financial contributions due from sponsors. The status of some of these contributions remains unclear as payment schedules are abandoned, and now that future sponsors have no such obligations. The Department should clarify the status and recoverability of these outstanding debts, negotiate clear and realistic payment schedules with the relevant sponsors, and monitor repayment.

In addition there were concerns about a number of academies failing to follow the guidance of the Academies Financial Handbook. There were also serious concerns about the processes for monitoring academies’ financial position and performance which were judged as not fit for purpose. Worrying too is the fact that according to the NAO report The Young People’s Learning Agency (the body overseeing the academy programme) has identified that just over a quarter of academies may require additional financial or managerial support to secure their longer-term financial health.

As of January 2011 even then the DfE was admitting that the administration of the academies programme was a stretch given the 33% budget cuts needed. And this was before the rapidly accelerating rate of academy conversions we are now witnessing. Additionally, according to the DfE’s website an initial start-up grant of £25,000 is made available to each new academy while they would annually receive an extra £300-£500 per pupil. But clearly this money is not always spent as well as it should be. A growing proportion of a shrinking education budget is being diverted to fund an ideologically driven policy that doesn’t work on an academic level and is not financially sustainable either.

Furthermore, the ratio of inclusion of local representatives on the board of governors for academies means that local accountability has been affected and not for the better.  For example the ratio of parent governors has been reduced from 22%-25% by law in maintained primary schools to an average of 11%  for academies while the teacher representation has been reduced from a legally required 12.5% to a non-obligatory average of 9% of board members. All this serves to reduce local accountability and input into the running of academies and ensuring that they meet locally specific needs of students, families and the wider community.

It is becoming increasingly clear that this scheme needs a massive rethink. The changes needed to improve schools will not come from massive upheavals for teachers and students and new buildings accompanied by reduced local accountability and  governance restructuring. The real improvements to students’ academic outcomes will be driven by highly motivated teachers and head-teachers who are respected as professionals and are confidently able to work in conjunction with Ofsted and the DfE to put in place empirically proven educational developments that are guided by education professionals with knowledge and experience of what is best for all students.


This blog was first posted on 23rd Feb 2012 by me on behalf of Kip McGrath Education Centre Scunthorpe and since then two more articles have appeared in the news that have given rise to further concerns about Michael Gove’s obsession with converting schools into academies and allowing for profit firms a greater role in our schools.

Academy schools attain fewer good GCSEs, study shows: On 25th February a study was published that shows academies achieve fewer good GCSE results than comparative local authority run schools. –


The schools crusade that links Michael Gove to Rupert Murdoch: On 27th February the Guardian published an article revealing the unhealthily close links between Michael Gove and Rupert Murdoch who now has ambitions to dominate our education system in the same manner in which he has come to dominate our news media: –


The British arm of Murdoch’s newspaper empire is still under investigation for illegal practices and we currently have no idea how high up the chain of command within News Group the illegal activities have taken place. Michael Gove’s education policies have proven to be a failure and are clearly driven by his pre-Parliament business relationships which have not been severed. Worse still Gove has shown a woeful lack of judgement by aligning himself so closely with a man like Rupert Murdoch and he doesn’t care about the millions of children and teenagers whose academic futures and life chances are being blighted by his destruction of the state education system. It is time he was made to resign and replaced by an Education Secretary whose policies are based upon real academic improvements and who has a genuine desire to see every student in this country achieve their potential. The whole academies programme must be halted immediately in order to limit the damage already caused by these failed reforms and no school should ever be placed in the hands of a for profit firm.


Tax Doesn’t Have To Be Taxing

We are embarking on a new tax year and I am currently using my employer’s head to wrestle with P60s for employees and reconcile the end of year tax and national insurance contributions for last year. This laborious and complicated process has led me to wonder whether employers and employees each pay their fair share in tax.

My research began with discovering the total UK government tax income for 2008 as revealed by the budget records in 2009. The image below shows the data broken down into categories of tax levied and their percentage of the overall tax revenue. As can be seen from the right hand column of figures some levies are paid by businesses and usually directly passed onto consumers, some are paid solely by consumers and the rest are paid by businesses.

A peremptory glance reveals that of the 24 categories of tax only 7 are levied solely on businesses and the rest are paid by consumers at the point of earning or spending; the NI contributions are split between businesses and their employees.   This equates to approximately 77% of the tax being paid by consumers!

Of course, this tax distribution does not automatically indicate  that consumers pay more than their fair share, as the population of the United Kingdom is  61m while there are somewhere in the region of  2.16m businesses registered for VAT and PAYE purposes.  In order to try and understand better whether the burden of tax is indeed as unfair as it first appears my thinking took me in, what might for trained economists, appear to be a slightly strange direction. I decided to calculate the average tax burden per company and per capita as a percentage of their contribution to the country’s GDP in the same year.  The UK GDP for 2008 was approximately £1.8trn and this equated to around £22,851 per individual citizen or £80m per business. This figure was arrived at by simply dividing the overall GDP by the number of people or businesses.  In order to find the average tax burden I then took the overall tax revenue levied against both and again divided by the number of people or businesses. The figures obtained were then converted into a percentage.


The red column is the tax burden pecentage for consumers whilst the blue column for the business percentage is so small that you can’t read it on the chart so you will have to trust me when I tell you that it is barely 0.07%.

Therefore, on this basis alone the burden of tax appears to fall disproportionately heavily on the consumer.  This doesn’t even take into account the fact that in order for most businesses to make a profit they will almost inevitably pass the cost of most pre-profit taxes on to the customer.  This means that even in relation to non-corporate based taxes we the consumer are paying a large part of their tax bill.

So does it make sound economic sense for the Chancellor in his recent budget to begin the process of reducing the corporate tax rate by 5% over the next few years to just 23%; when compared with the minimal income tax changes? Some experts have calculated that the recent proposed tax changes for the man in the street will, by 2015, mean that each citizen is a mere £2.45 better off per annum when based on a smaller overall income tax burden of £500m.  Given the inevitable rise in inflation and cost of living this will probably result in a net loss for the tax payer.  On the other side of the coin the approximate drop in corporate tax revenue based on 2008 figures will be £23bn. When offset against the slight government gain from income tax changes this will mean the country’s annual income will be reduced by roughly £22.5bn.

I am not an economic expert, but as a layman it seems to me that the way to grow the economy is by leaving the corporation rates at the current level and reducing the tax burden of the consumer so they have more to spend. This will increase demand and profits for companies who will hire more staff and therefore create more consumers who will also pay more taxes.  As a result the private sector will be able to take on a percentage of  those made redundant through the public sector cutbacks and the government will receive an increased tax revenue from both consumer and businesses, but at least it will be more evenly distributed between the two.

Exactly which consumer taxes should be reduced or removed I will leave for the experts to decide but I do believe that it is worth re-examining the whole taxation strategy to make it fairer and more economically viable.

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