Or is it?
I am increasingly finding myself less and less enthralled by the deconstruction of the state education system that is Academies. In fact I wonder what on earth it's all about for it appears to be a system which, in the main, benefits those who provide the things rather than those who attend them!
When we started off with Lord Adonis and the snake oil product that is the Academy I was ambivalent for it merely represented yet another meddle with the education system. As things progressed I found that where at first those who were seeking to run such things were expected to bring money, expertise and the like, it soon descended into a situation whereby companies (sorry trusts) were given land, property and more besides with nothing more than notional commitments. This has to be questionable at so many levels.
Then we had a marvellous happening whereby at a meeting about our new Academy a senior member of the County education structure informed us that an Academy was a good move for a failing school. 'But we're not a failing school,' we cried. 'But you've failed your OFSTED,' came the response (which pantomime like was met by a, 'Oh no we haven't!'). A few weeks later OFSTED arrived and it became a failing school (hmmm!).
It then transpired that, becoming an Academy, removed from the school any need to have 'qualified teachers' (and this has shown in the case of some I've met!) and standardised pay scales, freedom of information requirements and so much more. The schools have been removed from the state system and the main beneficiaries are, it would seem to me, be those who run them (did I mention that one high ranking education official left to join the board of one of these trusts?) not the pupils.
Now as much as I like conspiracy theories, and I can see that this is a great way of funding the Croney culture of the previous Labour government (as continued by the current bunch) and feathering nests of supporters and perhaps even engaging with some form of social engineering in that the proletariat and resettled back into their proper place. After all we need people to make stuff, load the vans and deliver it now don't we?
I read recently that the 7% of school population who go to fee-paying schools make up some 25% of the university population (and I mean Russell group, not some of the newly mown entities that are appearing).
One of the pupils I have heard of recently (living on the Autistic Scale) came out with a crop of E grades - and yet that's not what their potential suggests. I'd say 'that's life' but then another I've come across has equally poor grades, and another, and another and ... One of the parents on Twitter wrote that their child had collected grades a few weeks back and been told that they shouldn't bother to come back!
I'm confused as to what I'm looking at and at a loss what to do about it.
Ask questions and you're fobbed off, or ignored, such that the result is even deeper concern.
Ask for statistics, statements and the like and you're told that what you are seeking is 'proprietary information' and not available in the public domain - for this is market forces and education is now an industry which is competitive - each provider in competition with the other and seeking to harness the market forces to their own benefit.
I hear of 'hostile takeovers' of schools and see Gove and his ilk fiddling whilst our children's futures burn before them on a pyre dedicated to political dogma and social-engineering.
Education is not, as so many seem to think, about 'maximising potential income' but about maximising and realising the potential within each and every child to be the best they can in the areas in which they are gifted and have a desire to be engaged in. It is about finding out how to motivate and educate our children to be the best people they can be at every level (and I don't see how calling teachers by their first names and having them discuss their love life, woes and whatever aids this in any way either).
My role as a minister in the place where I am is to stand up for the weak, oppressed, marginalised and under-resourced and to be honest, one of the biggest groups I am find that fits this bill is our children. So I hear the stories and offer sympathy to parents and children who are not apparently being well-served by the system - but I know I need to do more than pay the lip service that this all too often represents.
So here I am, concerned and confused, but not going away.
The children in my patch deserve more than that - Jesus demands more than that!
Watch this space
And whilst you do - please pray for:
The teachers who are increasingly under pressure
Our children and their families as they seek to develop and grow, that their aspirations a might be met and those who are weaker find them themselves supported by the system
The education system in this land of ours that it would work with open-handed equity and benefit pupils and not those who operate the schools.