Journalist and Writer
Hilary Wilce specialising in all aspects of education
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The Quandary - 04 Sep 2008

Why should Academies be put in charge of primary schools? What do they know about primary education?

Hillary's Advice

What indeed? Although as you, dear cynical primary school teacher, point out, being affiliated to an Academy is bound to improve intakes at the chosen primary schools, so standards will rise at a stroke. What happens to all the children displaced by the sudden surge in these schools’ popularity is, of course, another question altogether.

In fact this is the perennial problem with improving education by inventing new school structures. These can work well enough in themselves, but almost inevitably impact badly on the schools all around them that have less money, less attention, older buildings and more problem children.

In my book, you improve education most widely and effectively by investing in teachers and school leaders, and encouraging parents to send their children to school ready to learn. Anything else, like setting up Academies and specialist secondary schools, is an expensive detour away from the main agenda – and I must be very stupid because I still can’t understand what, exactly, private sponsors are supposed to add to the educational mix, especially now that they no longer have to cough up the millions originally asked for.

There may be something to be said for families of local primary and secondary schools getting together to collaborate and set out a common culture of good behaviour and high standards. But it goes without saying that primary schooling is quite different from secondary education, and that secondary school experts should never tell primary schools how to operate.