Education round-up 5 Feb 2012

Academies failing and massaging results. Gove thinks everyone is a 'Trot'. Scientists boycott publishing racket.

Submitted by Choccy on February 5, 2012

Perhaps a week will go by where I don't mention Gove, but don't hold your breath.

A bad week for academies.

First came new data from the DfES that suggests academies are underperforming state schools on just about every yardstick imaginable. Local Schools Network have an analysis of the data and found that 'normal' state school outperformed academies for the last four years on the mostmeasure by which all schools are judged, the 5 A*-C gauge. When vocational qualifications were removed, the gap was bigger. When controlled for free-school meals (the standard indication of socio-economic bracket of pupil intake), academies were still lagging. When it was 5 A*-Cs inluding English & Maths, state schools still did better.

From LSN:
The overall figures have long been clear, for the key measure of % achieving 5 A-Cs at GCSE including English and Maths:
Academies: 47%
Non-academies: 60%

The data now includes a figure for the % achieving 5 A-Cs including English and Maths but without counting non-GCSE qualifications like Btecs. Here the difference is even more stark:
Academies: 34%
Non-academies: 54%

Examples abound, this week, parents and teachers at the City of London Academy in Islington called for the school to drop it's academy status, as the schools results have dropped from 34% 5A*-C to 31% in the four years since it converted. For every school like Mossbourne (flagship academy Gove hails) there's a City Of London Academy, or a Sandwell Shireland Collegiate, which went from 'outstanding' to 'inadequate' in four years when it converted. Of course they don't trumpet these gross contradictions.

It's clear, by their own measures, academies are not 'raising standards'. Thus, it's even clearer now, that the push toward academies is about chipping away at public education and handing it to businesses and smashing the unions in schools.

Massaging results
If that wasn't bad enough, next came the news that academies were fudging results with vocational qualifications. Now, it's true that lots of state schools do this too, but 68% of academies rely more heavily on 'alternative qualifications' than the average state school and this impacts on league tables.

Terry Wrigley, editor of the journal Improving Schools and visiting professor at Leeds Metropolitan University, said:

"We have got Michael Gove pushing massively for academies and now even primary schools are being pushed into becoming academies...At the same time as scrapping these equivalents for league table purposes, he is relying on these results as part of his argument that academies are better....He can't hold on to both policies now. He has gone a lot further than the previous government in pushing schools into academy status."

So Gove's whole schtick about academies being LIKE SO THE BEST EVAR!11!1! rings a little hollow, especially in the same week that Nick Gibbs, Schools Minister, has now guted the GCSE 'equivalents' from 3000 to 70 from 2014. This removed lots of courses that perviously counted toward league table scores. The real-world effect will means students studying these will feel worthless, the teachers teaching these will be under threat as the subjects are less in demand.

Now, on one level, as a classroom teacher, it's clear to me that BTECs and their like are not as 'demanding' as GCSEs, I know, I teach both. Kids can do a powerpoint about the periodic table, but they can't actually tell you anything about the periodic table. Because these qualifications assess 'skills not content knowledge' - ie do you have some transferrable menial skills rather than knowledge of the world?

But, these qualifications were sold to working class kids as if they would 'improve their life chances'. These kids were lied to. We know the qualifications are questionable, we knew employers didn't recognise them, we knew colleges and unis largely ignored them. But that never mattered to the people that make these decisions, because their kids go to private school and do 'real' qualifications like GCSE Latin and A-Level Classics before taking over daddies company or joining an investment bank.

These qualifications were part of a two-tier education system. The privileged to 'real' subjects, the rest make do with a distraction for five years before they join the dole queue or compete for low paid casualised jobs with shit conditions.

These changes only serve to pull the rug out from thousands of kids who were lied to by the educational system that was supposed to better them. This kind of move makes it all the more clear that it schools as they exist are nothing more than factories of workplace fodder.

At the minute, the academies agenda is a total mess of contradictions withe kids in the middle of this failed social engineering experiment.

Gove still labelling academy opponents 'trots'.
Not only are we 'enemies of promise' but anyone who is against academies is just a 'trot'. I'm sure the SWP would love the idea that they had that degree of influence, fact is, they don't.

It's analogous to the 50,000 on the late 2010 student demos in London being 'led by anarchists' - again, anarchists would wet ourselves at the prospect of being that influencial. The reality was that the student demos and the anti-academy campaigns in Downhills, Montgomery, Bournville, Brent etc are organic, working class fights against the education system being pissed all over. Whether its cuts, fees, or the hand of priivatisation, people are sick of it. 'Normal' people, not previously politicised people. They aren't 'trots spoiling for a fight', they are people pissed off at being treated like they don't matter.

He first uttered this revoltingly dismissive slight against parent and staff opposition to academies as 'trots spoiling for a fight'. A comment like this is all the more galling since he claims his reform will increase parent voice, all the while completely ignoring parents in Tottenham, Sparkbrook, Bournville, Brent and everywhere else where communities are opposing their schools being turned into academies.

Scientists boycott Elsevier
This week 3000 scientists and researchers began a boycott of publisher Elsevier over extortionate journals fees, and it's support for PIPA, Sopa and other measures that increase private control of information.

Of course, all notions of intellectual property are noxious, but sometimes it just really glaring. Academic publishing really is one of the worst rackets going. Most academic work is publicly funded, and the authors of research do not get paid by the journal publishers for the articles, yet publishers control the copyright, and charge astronomical fees for single articles.

Last year almost 20,000 articles were uploaded to in protest at this academic racketeering. A few more like that needed.