Let me be clear: I would not be going down this road if I thought it would in any way set back the process of school improvement, if would in any way undermine the progress we need to make in our weakest or most challenged schools or if it would in any way fracture the culture of collaboration which has driven school improvement over the last decade. This policy is driven, like all our education policy, by our guiding moral purpose – the need to raise attainment for all children and close the gap between the richest and poorest. I believe this policy will only work if it strengthens the bonds between schools and leads to a step-change in system-led leadership. That is why I will expect of every school that acquires academy freedoms that it partners at least one other school to help drive improvement across the board.While Gove had previously recognised the importance of such collaborative work, he had not been quite so explicit in his expectations before. His challenge now is to develop an effective but flexible mechanism that enables such system leadership to flourish. I have written here before about the role that High Performing Specialist Schools - many of those targeted for the first wave of new academies - play alongside the NLE programme. But with flexibility to choose an appropriate system leadership role, there should also be some real incentive. One potential mechanism is the academy funding agreement: a straightforward link between a proportion of the additional funding that comes from no longer being attached to a local authority - or a tougher redesignation process for specialist schools - and embracing such a leadership role would help cement Gove's ambition. It would also provide the reassurance that many who support an extension of academies - but worry about the potential loss of the programme's social mission without such levers - have been seeking.
Thursday, 17 June 2010
Gove places stronger expectations on new academies
The new education secretary Michael Gove moved significantly forward in his recognition of the importance of outstanding schools that become academies working with other schools, in his first major speech as secretary of state this morning. In a well-received and policy-rich speech to heads at the National College conference in Birmingham, he made clear that he expected the new academies to work with at least one other school in a system leadership role, and that programmes like the College's National Leaders of Education would play an important part in delivering that system leadership.