Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne announced in the budget that all schools in the UK will become academies, or will be in the process of becoming academies, by the end of this Parliament (2020). This will see the governance of schools move from local authorities to headteachers.
The budget also announced new funding that will enable a quarter of secondary schools to offer extra activities like sport and art in a pledge to finance longer school days. This raises a number of questions about how schools will run and where the government plans to find the teachers to fill the extra school hours.
Richard Grazier, Director of Growth and Strategy at Pamoja, says: “A devolved structure will require schools to organise themselves in a similar way to businesses. Headteachers will have the freedom to investigate and offer alternative curricula, opting for the one that is most suitable for children and most desirable to parents in their local catchment. The concern with this is that currently the UK is one of the only countries to offer an education system that is available for everyone, irrespective of academic ability or household income. Without regulation, schools could fall back into a tiered system.
The second concern is parental choice – what will happen to school registration numbers? With schools taking on academy status, parents will no longer have to send their children to a school based on the geographical location of their home. Schools could easily become over or undersubscribed and, if the UK is committed to fully supporting the choice and movement of students, parallel timetabling of curriculum content across academies will have to be considered.
Finally, if the government is looking to create schools that are completely independent – where are the economies of scale? These come in the formation of multi-academy trusts, where operations and resources are shared in a similar way to that of a business. Technology could thus be used to provide the scale of a local authority.
In the current education system employment is linear, with inherent teacher student ratios, growth and quality at odds with each other, further stretching the already limited teaching resources. If the country is to overcome the rising demand and low supply of teachers, while also accommodating the increasing numbers of students, schools will have to look outside of linear employment. Learning from businesses, schools can use technology to fill the gaps and streamline the education process. Through the use of cloud based subject matter experts, combined with on the ground staff to mentor, facilitate and support learning, teacher student ratios can be increased, and the school day lengthened without high teacher costs and deteriorating standards – leading to improvements in other areas such as sport and music, as suggested by the Chancellor.
Without technology, schools cannot possibly gain access to the number of teachers needed to offer the broadest and most inspiring curriculum, which, after all, is the purpose of education; creating the best future for us all through inspired, excited, reflective and internationally minded children.”
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