It’s four days in to National Apprenticeship Week 2016, and what a storm of a week it has been. National Apprenticeship Week kicked off with a launch event at the Shard, and a number of big companies announcing their support for apprenticeships - you can read more about that here. As though #NAW2016 didn’t bring enough news at the beginning of the week, George Osborne has delivered his eighth budget as chancellor, and with that brings some major changes to education in England. Let’s see what’s been said:
All schools to become academies by 2022
Wow. This is a striking move. In draft legislation expected to be published as early as today, the DfE has announced plans for all schools to be academies within the next six years. In doing so, it would completely remove the local authority from the equation.
The ‘mass-convert’ proposal is currently under consideration by Education Secretary Nicky Morgan, and is concerned only with mainstream schools, not special schools. The current school funding system will be replaced by a ‘fairer’ system by April 2017. There will also be an extra £20m of funding per year for schools in the north of England.
1902: Arthur Balfour’s conservative government created the local authority system and these plans are set to undo that.
Early-1990s: Local authorities stepped away from ‘running’ schools within their area jurisdiction. Instead, they have offered support and services to schools.
Pre-2010: Around 200 schools were opened as academies or converted into them. Traditionally, these were schools who were struggling and required a fast turnaround - or were opening in an area of educational weakness.
2010 to date: There are currently 3,381 secondary state schools, of which 2,075 are academies. Over 1300 schools seems like a large jump before 2022, but that’s nothing when you look at the current amount of primary schools who are not yet academies. At last count, there are a total of 16,766 primaries, of which 2,440 are academies. Now, that’s a task. The financial incentives - which are much less for primary schools - has clearly had an impact on the converted numbers.
What does it mean to be an academy?
Academies are independent, state-funded schools that receive their funding directly from central government rather than from the local authority. Day to day running is almost like a business, and done so by the Headteacher or Principal - however, the governing body is a charitable trust or chain, who provide advice and support.
An academy allows the school the freedom to run the school how they see fit - and this includes the curriculum, pay and length of the school day…
… Essentially, the proposal means an end to the national curriculum and the national pay scales.
Fizzy drinks tax
Alongside the new proposals outlined for academies, Osborne also announced a tax on the sugar content of soft drinks. The tax will fall into two bands: 5g per 100ml or a higher band of 8g per 100ml and will affect Coca Cola, Irn Bru, Pepsi and Lucozade.
Set to raise around £530m (which works out at around 18-24p per litre), in England, the tax will be spent on primary school sports - whilst administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland making their own decisions on how to spend their share.
In England, that means around £320m to double the PE and Sport Premium.
Longer school days
£285m per year has been allocated so that 25% of secondary schools will be able to opt in for a longer school day from September 2017.
Bring it all together
When I wrote this article, I wanted to create something factual and leave as much opinion out of it, but it's clear to see that the new budget announcements will inevitably have an affect on the education system as we know it. If I'm honest, I'm not sure of my thoughts on any of this right now - I think there's a lot of implications brought by these announcements, and I don't know what the practicalities will be - I guess, it's a case of 'wait and see.'
Whilst I sit on the fence about this, and compile my own thoughts, I'd love to hear your thoughts on this matter. Please use the comment box below.
You can read the full list of budget announcements can be found here.