Journalist and Writer
Hilary Wilce specialising in all aspects of education
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The Quandary - 07 May 2009

Whatís wrong with giving primary schools more independence? Why do teachers hate change?

Hillary's Advice

Your query stems from the fact that your sister, who is a primary school teacher, is wildly opposed to Conservative plans to let primary schools become academies, but your husband says that this is just because all teachers are stick-in-the-muds who hate change.

I would be a stick-in-the-mud, too, if I was a teacher and had had to deal with all the successive changes that that have been thrown at schools by the Government in recent years. And what the Conservatives are signalling by this ill-thought-out policy is that when they come into office it will be business as usual.

Governments love to fiddle around with school structures. It gives them a strange illusion of power. But what are academies, really, except schools that have had a bit more money channelled in their direction? The so-called partnership model is distinctly variable, as are results. Some academies are doing well, but thatís because they have great heads and teachers, not because they are academies. In addition, there has been a problem finding enough sponsors for secondary schools, so who knows where sponsors for the more than 17,000 primary schools are going to come from. Especially in a recession.

And what, exactly, will these sponsors bring with them anyway? What primary schools need more than anything is stability, great heads and teachers, and a clear sense of what they are aiming to do. You donít need fancy, expensive and divisive re-brandings to get that. Your sister is right.