The Queen hath spoken and British “charters” are one step closer to reality. Tuesday’s “Queen’s Speech,” a monarchical tradition that sets the agenda for a new session of Parliament, announced an “Academies Bill” (officially introduced yesterday) that would make it tons easier for state-run schools to become “academies.” These are publically-funded privately-run schools, originally created by Tony Blair to fix the lowest-performing schools in the land. This time around, though, all schools are eligible—indeed encouraged. Newly seated Education Secretary Michael Gove hopes academies will become the “norm.” High-performing schools’ conversion process will be fast tracked so that as early as this September, there could be as many as 3,000 of them (up from fewer than 300 now). A second bill to be introduced this summer would add “free” schools, new schools started by teachers, parents, or community groups, also publically-funded but largely freed from state oversight. (In American parlance, we might say “academies” are conversion charters and “free” schools are start-ups.) Further, the fall bill will overhaul the country’s school oversight system, change the ways in which principals are held responsible for achievement levels and gap closing, slim down the national curriculum, and provide extra per-pupil dollars for the poorest students. Is this a revolution for choice and accountability? We’ll have to wait and see.
“EVERY school should become an academy: Gove’s challenge to England’s 20,000 headteachers,” The Daily Mail, May 26, 2010