Sometimes academies work - but in a lot of cases they don't

You know, I don't mind a government U-turn.

Monday, 9th May 2016, 6:40 am
Education secretary Nicky Morgan

As long as they’re not happening all the time and totally undermining the ruling party’s credibility totally, the odd one or two can show the ministers are capable of getting things wrong, holding their hands up to it and then readjusting their policy.

So I applauded when, on Friday afternoon, the education secretary Nicky Morgan said schools across the land should not be forced to become academies.

Sometimes academies work. An executive head teacher, freed from the strictures of the local education authority, can be flexible to the changing demands of their pupils.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

This is especially useful in schools with historically-challenging pupils and poor attainment – the type of schools academies were originally set up for.

But in a lot of other cases the system just does not work.

After the chancellor announced the academy plan in his budget this year, teacher friends of mine were outraged.

They thought it was a terrible idea, especially in the cases where executive head teachers are asked to oversee ever-expanding groups of schools, meaning their expertise and flexibility to the unique demands of each establishment were stretched ever thinner.

And let’s not forget the parents who pulled their children out of school last Tuesday in protest at the Key Stage One and Two tests.

I’ve got an English degree and I write for a living. I’ve always been good at spelling and grammar rules have always made sense to me. That being said, I’m not above a typographical error or two and I’m grateful for the people at The News who spot the ones I miss when I file this column every week.

However, I was appalled at the level of detail young pupils are expected to learn when it comes to grammar. It’s not just the difference between a common noun (a thing) and a proper noun (a name or title), or how to use an adjective or a verb.

Now they’re talking about subordinate clauses and prepositions. All I can say is I know how to use an expletive and if I took that test, that’s what I’d be doing.


Oh, I do love an election.

It’s always exciting seeing how the country’s feeling when it’s time to go to the polls.

Of course the big discussion was over whether Jeremy Corbyn has become so unpopular that his reputation is affecting the local elections, or whether the Brexit debate, junior doctors and education issues are undermining the Tories.

In Portsmouth it seems we can’t make up our minds as we’ve got a hung council again. But elsewhere people seem more certain, and the only notes for comment seem to be the SNP’s not-unexpected gains in Scotland, and Labour doing better in southern England than commentators thought.

Roll on the EU referendum – now I just need to decide which way I’m going to vote.


The BBC ran a piece on a firefighter who has used the lessons he learned from going through the process of diagnosing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder to help others in Hampshire Fire & Rescue Service.

Mark Hair, from Southampton, was called to the Shirley Towers flats in 2010 – a fire in which two firefighters lost their lives. Diagnosed with PTSD in 2014, he now helps colleagues.

A recent study by mental health charity MIND found nine out of 10 people in the fire service have experienced stress and poor mental health at work and a quarter of emergency service workers had thought about ending their lives.

I think that’s a statistic that should be rolled out the next time anyone says firefighters shouldn’t get a pay rise.