Monday 6 September 2010

Ed Balls: How Coalition's academies have lost focus on disadvantage

It's a very big education day in the Katwala household this morning, as my four year old daughter starts her first day at primary school. That is probably a good enough cause to be a little bit late when then scurrying off to catch a Fabian Society seminar on "applying the fairness test to education".

Ed Balls will be among the speakers. As well as discussing new Fabian research on educational inequality, to be published later this week, the Shadow Schools Secretary will be talking about his own new analysis of new academy schools, comparing the profile of those opening under Labour and Coalition schools policies.

Balls' analysis compares the GCSE results, proportion of children with a special educational need and deprivation of the 64 schools being replaced by Academies opening this term under the Labour government’s Academies programme and the 32 schools converting into Academies under the coalition’s new policy following this summer's legislation.

Here is a summary of the key findings of his research:

Compared to the schools being replaced by ‘Labour Academies’ this term, the schools converting to be new ‘Conservative-Lib Dem’ Academies and which all have an ‘outstanding’ rating from Ofsted:

- have just half the proportion of pupils with special educational needs – just 6.9 per cent compared to 13.8 per cent

- achieved GCSE results well above the national average with 72.6 per cent getting five A*-C grades including English and maths – compared to a national average of 50.7 per cent and an average of just 30.8 per cent in the schools being replaced by Labour Academies

- are on average located in areas with significantly fewer deprived children than schools being replaced by Labour Academies. Based on the 2007 Income Deprivation Affecting Children Index, the new Academies are located in areas with average child deprivation of 17 per cent compared to 27 per cent for schools being replaced by Labour Academies.

Ed Balls says that these differences show that the Coalition's policy "fails the fairness test".

"This analysis of Academies opening this term highlights the stark contrast between a progressive education policy under Labour to tackle disadvantage and under-performance and Michael Gove’s elitist policy which is simply about rewarding schools that are already doing well.

Through this new Tory Academies policy, the Education Secretary is giving high-performing schools in less deprived areas and with fewer children with special educational needs more funding at the expense of schools which need it most. That cannot be fair by any definition of the word.

Schools in more deprived areas with more children with special educational needs and lower results will be left with fewer resources than they need to tackle the barriers to learning their children face. That’s because these new Academies will take an equal share of the funding local authorities have to provide a range of services for children with special educational needs, behavioural problems and things like school food and transport, rather than a fair share based on the needs of the children in that school.

“Our Academies also worked in co-operation with other local schools on issues like behaviour and exclusions and went ahead with the agreement of local authorities, the new Tory Academies simply opt out and go it alone with no role for local authorities. The only similarity between Labour’s Academies policy and Michael Gove’s is that they have the same name".

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