[Note – front page of the UK parliament’s website is currently broken. This link works.]
The Academies Bill [Latest Draft] is on the final stretch in parliament, and seems likely to pass before the summer recess. The blurb is:
Academies are all-ability state funded schools. They have sponsors from a wide range of backgrounds, including universities and colleges, educational trusts, charities, the business sector and faith communities.
The big difference with (new) Academies is that they are entirely removed from Local Authority oversight (they are not “maintained”). Now my usual working theory is that life will be a lot easier for everyone if we get rid of as many layers of government bureaucracy as possible, starting at the centre. This Bill concerns itself with the middle-men at the Local Authorities, whereas I would have opted for a massive reduction in head count amongst the mandarins at the Department for Education (no longer the “Department for children, schools and families” and properly capitalised).
Will this legislation improve state education in Bristol, or indeed Britain? Not for a few years, no. This new legal status won’t magically solve the three major problems of parental indifference, weak senior management teams and teachers motivated more by ideology than idealism. But it’s a start, and once passed the Act will remove most of the obligations on a school to adhere to the National Curriculum, and create some opportunities for cost savings in Local Government.
Cuts in Local Government: break out the Chaumet Sparkling Perry (£1 at Lidl)
Since Academies will not be maintained, they will be funded directly by a grant (per pupil) from central government, I believe the affect on Councils will be a reduction in the council’s Dedicated Schools Grant, and probably the Area Based Grant and its share of National Non-Domestic [Business] Rates by the time some of the other marginal programmes have been cleared out.
As soon as this Bill becomes an Act of parliament, the theory is that all schools currently deemed “outstanding” by Ofsted will automatically be able to tell their Local Authority to get stuffed, thus – again, in theory – the process could start as early as September/October 2010 after parliament returns.
There is a slight fly in the appointment: none of Bristol’s existing maintained secondary schools have an outstanding ratings; only the Voluntary Aided School St Bede’s Catholic College manages that.
- Total number of state secondary schools in BCC area: 20 (see here)
- Total number of BCC maintained schools and existing academies: 20 (see here)
- Number of maintained secondary schools with “Outstanding” ratings: ZERO (via Ofsted)
Which is pretty amazing when you look at the numbers involved:
But if we look at Primary Schools as well:
- Total number of state primary schools in BCC area: 138 (see here)
- Number of maintained secondary schools with “Outstanding” ratings: 9 (via Trym Tales)
then we’re in business. Taking 6.5% of schools out of LEA control is a reasonable basis for a headcount cut of say… 5% as a starter? Rounding up, let’s say 30 Full Time Equivalent LEA Staff.
As to what affect this will have on Bristol Council’s £400m annual budget (yes, really, £400 million, and that doesn’t count the running costs of the schools), my guess would be a reduction of around £8-10 million in the dedicated schools grant. A 30-person cull within CYPS could potentially bolster this with a £750,000 cut in Council Tax next year. That’s only about £5 for each tax paying household, but it’s better than a kick in the teeth.
Add in a few non-job holders like the Enrichment Coordination team (£57k), the Playing for Success Scheme (£50k), the Business Partnership Manager (£62k), the Drugs Coordinator team (£149k), the 14-19 Advisor consulting contract (£159k), the EMAS service (£35k), and cheaper biscuits for the SACRE meetings (£17k) then suddenly you’ve got a fairly decent set of cuts; maybe an easy £10 off a typical Band D council tax bill.
The recently deflowered Charlotte Leslie MP (Coalition, Bristol North West) has got herself a place on the Education Select Committee, so she’ll no doubt be front and centre with subsequent Academies legislation.