From an outside view, one could be forgiven for thinking now is a good time for academies in the UK. Figures show more than half of England’s children are now educated in academies – state schools run by independent charitable trusts but funded and overseen by central government – while one such academy Brampton Manor, in east London, recently made headlines thanks to 41 of its students winning offers from Oxbridge. However, not everyone agrees. Under Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour party is dead set against academies – its official policy is to halt the creation of any new academies or free schools should the party takes power.
So, Mr S was curious to see the findings of a new report from the Public Accounts Committee today has cast doubt on the merits of academies – calling on the government to ‘name and shame’ academy schools. It concludes that education of tens of thousands of children has been damaged by academy failures and the misuse of public funds. The chair of the committee Labour MP Meg Hillier has been quick to go on the attack – issuing a statement which calls out ‘the troubling consequences of poor governance and oversight of academy trusts.’
Only Mr S couldn’t help but notice that Hillier appears to hum a different tune when it comes to academies in her own constituency. The MP for Hackney South and Shoreditch previously waxed lyrical about the positive effect of academies in the area – suggesting that prior to their creation people were ‘fleeing’ Hackney over the poor education on offer:
‘A decade ago, Hackney schools were not delivering results; they were a byword for people fleeing Hackney. People were coming to see me about how they could get their children into schools outside the borough, but now they beg me to do anything I can to get their children into schools in Hackney. Through the London Challenge, and the local authority and elected mayor embracing every opportunity provided by any Government, we have new, fresh-start schools. The Labour Government provided us with academies and we have had another, along with a university technical college, agreed under this Government.’
Hillier has also singled out the Mossbourne Community Academy for providing an ‘exceptional’ education to pupils and praised the KPMG City Academy in her constituency as an example of how academies can use private sector expertise to create opportunity for disadvantaged pupils. In fact, Hillier went so far as to say she was ‘pleased’ when the Coalition government of Conservatives and Liberal Democrats granted permission for an 800-place academy in her constituency.
So, what’s behind the U-turn: has Hillier had a genuine change of heart or is she in a rush to toe the Corbynista line? Curiously, several Corbynistas were elected to CLP positions in Hillier’s constituency in 2017. Mr S will leave readers to decide.