01 Sep 10

If you're offered 'A', just say 'no'

If you run a school, it might happen to you. A polite, friendly, smartly dressed man approaches you. He starts talking about "freedom", "ability", "freedom", "opting out", "setting your own", "no consultation", "no more approval", "freedom", "more power", "gives you freedoms", "improvement", "flexibility", "boost", "purchase from whichever provider you choose", "freedom", "independence", "first class", "opportunities", freedom".

He tells you you're "outstanding" so can have some "A". Everything will be better when you take "A". Why not give it a go? It's easy. You don't have to commit yourself yet. You'll feel good. It's the latest thing. Everyone who's outstanding's doing it. You don't want to get left out. You don't want to get left behind.

No commitment but you'd better hurry and find out before everyone gets it first. You don't have to ask anyone for advice. No time for that. It's easy. Just register for some info and see how you go. We'll do the rest.

You take a look at what he's showing you. You feel a warm glow. You start to think about lovely shiny new buildings, a gleaming atrium of glass that shimmers in the sunlight, neatly trimmed lawns, polite children in public school uniforms keeping off the grass and opening the door for you instead of pushing and shoving down the corridors and grunting when you shout at them, state of the art equipment in the science lab, computers on every desk, statues and architectural awards .

Next thing you remember, you're on 'A'.

You vaguely remember your name being in the papers because you'd "applied" even though you thought you were just trying out the idea.

Then it all starts to come back to you.

Perhaps you should have asked the teachers and the parents after all to see if you were doing the right thing but the nice man said that wasn't necessary.

Your performance hasn't improved. You were doing well before "outstanding" in fact but 'A' hasn't made your results better.

You look around.

The building's still the same still a bit shabby in places.

The faces in corridor are still the same.

The pile of papers on your desk's still there in fact it looks higher now and the computer's doing your aching head in with all that beeping as more emails flood into your inbox. Looks like some are from some of those angry parents again. Oh no, the unions again, too, about the teachers' pay! It's difficult to negotiate them now they're no longer on the national rates. Teaching assistants keep complaining that they're falling even further behind. Some giving up to work for more money in the local supermarket. Another secretary's resigned over the longer hours issue. That promising new teacher's finding the later finishing time and after-school meetings difficult to fit in with her childcare so she probably won't stay. She did get a bit upset when she found out the older, pre-A days staff were getting a better deal at least for a while than she was. Should the PC really be making that whirring noise? Don't say it's on the blink again!

The kids are still shouting and barging about. Shouldn't the bus have arrived by now?

The heating's making that funny noise again and the radiator still doesn't seem to get any warmer.

Still, you can get in touch with the folks at County Hall about it and also about the new pupils who have some learning and behaviour issues and provision for the pair that might need to be excluded.

Hold on, you remember you have to sort it out yourself now. No more help from them. They don't want to know you now. Most of the people you knew there are out of a job now anyway.

What's the number for that contractor? He was rather expensive, though not sure the budget will stretch that far.

An email from that poor school down the road you're supposed to be helping with your "freedoms". Got to fit that in somehow

Still, all your mates are on A now. How are they getting on? Actually, now you think about it, at the last count it was only 32.

Not seen that nice man again Mr G wasn't it? Keeps sending circulars saying how great "A" is but he hasn't got back you.

You're doing Academy now. You're on your own.


Find out why Voice's Council changed the union's policy to oppose the creation of any new academies. Voice continues to support its members wherever they work but has numerous concerns about academies.

Voice believes that families should have access to a good-quality local education system that guarantees a good school for all, and that all schools should receive the levels of investment they need to deliver that quality education.

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