I don’t know if there is a name for the practice in the UK but on the border of Ireland and Northern Ireland, quite near Derry / Londonderry, there is a practice called ‘granny-ing’ whereby children or families go and live with a relative in Northern Ireland to get a school there or in the Republic to get a school there when in fact their normal residence is the other country. This is quite extreme but I mention it because it has a name I know about. The not dissimilar practice in much of England does not have a name though so I’m going to give it one. I’m going to call it Corrupt Underhand Neighbourhood Tweaking. Or C.U.N.T. Snappy eh?
People who indulge in being a C.U.N.T. in England generally do so thus. They find out the local OFSTEAD outstanding schools then they find that they are outside the likely catchment area for these schools. Then they find out that little Milly and Josh aren’t quite in that area and so they do one of two things. Firstly they actually short term rent in the catchment area until their application has been approved, at which time they move back, safe in the knowledge that not only will Milly now get in but Josh will too thanks to the sibling link. Those with less cash but just as much underhand corruptness simply pretend that they live at an address in the catchment area when really it’s a relative or friend, get their post redirected for a few months and hope they don’t get caught.
In such a way local schools become less local. Community schools become less about community. Class barriers are maintained as property becomes prohibitively expensive close to outstanding schools in middle class areas and the middle class gentrify working class areas with outstanding schools.
A couple of years ago I would have said I would never indulge in the behaviour of a C.U.N.T. but that was before Michael Gove came along. Michael Gove loves Academies and my local secondary school has just become one. I do not want my children attending an Academy. Firstly they are, by and large ex-failing schools. At Infant and Junior level this is less of an issue but at Secondary level you are talking about complete breakdown among hormone laden teenagers, some the size of adults, some about to take exams that will map out the path of the rest of their life. Rebrand all you like but the same kids will largely be in the school even if it will have a new name, logo and teachers. It will have teachers right? Well yes. But not all of them will be qualified.
On 27 July 2012 the BBC Education Correspondent Angela Harrison reported that England’s new academy schools can hire unqualified teachers with immediate effect. Government officials were quoted in the piece as saying this would mean they could hire “great linguists, computer scientists and other specialists who have not worked in state schools before”.
Excuse me while I choke on my lunch.
Great linguists I would expect to be in Universities or abroad, researching and lecturing. Not teaching French in an Academy in the middle of Stoke’s roughest council estate. Great computer scientists I would expect to be earning hundreds of pounds a day contracting or working at Google where they can choose a bit of personal space, get gourmet food and work out all without leaving the office cum chill out area. Not teaching I.C.T. in an academy in the middle of Stoke’s roughest council estate. So let me correct that for you oh Government Official. You should have said “this will allow them to hire unqualified people very cheaply who know a bit about the subject matter but nothing about pastoral care or how to control a class of 16 year olds, some of who may be high and/or tooled up.”
Why cheap? Academies are not meant to be profit making. However they don’t need to. All they need to do is demonstrate that they can be run more cheaply than the local authority schools and those on the right believe that they have demonstrated that Acadamy good, LEA bad purely on the basis of cost. However, anything close to a normal education is going to be thrown away as a result. Think I’m paranoid? Here is a quote from the Aldridge Foundation’s website (The Aldridge Foundation run my local comprehensive).
“Each Academy has entrepreneurship as its lead specialism which is integrated into all areas of Academy life – focusing on the development of entrepreneurial attributes, rather than just enterprise skills. Our definition of the entrepreneurial mindset is one ‘which strives to take action, solve problems, and rejects the status quo’. The attributes that we reward in students and prioritise in all our work are passion, creativity, teamwork, risk taking, determination, discipline, problem solving and vision. ”
In other words the kids are going to be taught how to sell stuff in an office environment. Never mind if you’re from an area with an Academy and you want to be a poet or an artist or a nurse or a policeman or a writer or a truck driver or any of the thousands of other professions out there that DON’T need entrepreneurial attributes. Risk taking? REALLY? Yeah cos that worked out well in the banking sector. There are jobs where risk taking is an absolute necessity but of the ones I listed above risk taking would be a pretty bad idea for a nurse or a truck driver. How much teamwork does an artist or writer really do? What the actual fark does “vision” have to do with understanding Shakespeare or “creativity” to do with translating French? “Michael Gove est merveilleux”. Yeah I just creatively translated that as Michael Gove is a total fuckstick.
How about a balanced curriculum where the kids can shine naturally at what they’re good at, with teachers that a trained to recognise this? What, really, is so bad with that? Are we THAT far away from that with LEA schools?
Furthermore they say their schools run in “areas of disadvantage, low aspiration and poor attainment” Now if you have ever been to a football match and been in the market for a ticket or one of those ridiculous half and half memorial scarves, if you have ever drunk in a dodgy pub or been to a rave or festival or bought from a car boot sale you will know that entrepreneurial skills are not lacking in ‘areas of disadvantage’. We are talking about people who have had to make ends meet for generations in ways which are not actually dissimilar to corporations or bankers, simply on a much smaller scale. Del Boy and Rodney were funny for a reason – because they were instantly recognisable characters. The removal of the possibility of extracting yourself from such a place by means of education, science and art is an absolute scandal and it is being got away with largely because the people it’s being perpetrated on don’t realise.
Of course there’s the chance that Labour will get in to power in 2015 and start repealing the Academy laws but I suspect this will end up with things no better. It will be back to new (but qualified) staff, new Governors, new curriculum. The only losers will be the kids.
Our plan is to get out of the current house way before we end up having to select the Academy as one of our choices, a choice that is only open to us in my current circumstances which is rather unfortunate as we are talking about 5 years time. There is no doubt though – none at all – that if all that fell through I would consider being a C.U.N.T. rather than taking the Academy place.