Boris got into the education game early on, directing the now-dead London Development Authority to set up an arm dealing with Academy schools, with the aim of setting up ten. This arm, London Academies Enterprise Trust, worked in association with an organisation called, er, Academies Enterprise Trust to set up and run two Academies, both in Enfield, Aylward and Nightingale Academies. There’s a page here on the old LDA website helpfully pointing out that this is now a core GLA function. Chiming neatly with recent comments about lack of skills in school leavers this states:
In 2008, he announced his aspiration to establish up to 10 academies across London in response to the concerns of London’s business sector that young people are leaving school without the necessary skills to full participate in and benefit from opportunities within London’s economy.
All very laudable, so how have they done? Well, since 2008 a new regime has emerged at the Department for Education focused on old-school academic disciplines rather than vocational qualifications and so-called ‘soft’ courses that schools were allegedly using to boost exam scores unfairly. Michael Gove, who is of course a Policy Exchange man and right wing journalist and thus one might think was close to Boris politically has made no secret of a desire for a more elitist, more academic education system, measured by new politically skewed measures such as the so-called ‘English Baccalaureate‘. So, how are Boris’s business friendly Academies doing under this new broom, stern, rigorous measure of progress? For fun I’ve included both my old rural comp in Thurston, Suffolk and our local secondary, Chiswick Community School, about to become an Academy for the cash and with an (out of date) reputation as being a dumping ground for West London’s poorer kids (a 28.7% free school meals rate suggesting it’s not entirely shaken this off. Thurston’s FSM rate is 5.6%):
5+ A*-C grades at GCSE including maths and English, UK average is 58%:
- Aylward: 48%
- Nightingale: 42%
- Chiswick Community: 60%
- Thurston Community: 63%
% reaching expected level in English:
- Aylward: 81%
- Nightingale: 66%
- Chiswick Community: 78%
- Thurston Community: 71%
% reaching expected level in Maths:
- Aylward: 61%
- Nightingale: 69%
- Chiswick Community: 64%
- Thurston Community: 80%
- Aylward: 4%
- Nightingale: 3%
- Chiswick Community: 25%
- Thurston Community: 21%
A-levels – % reaching 3 A*-E grades, UK average is 80.9%:
- Aylward: 100%
- Nightingale: 25%
- Chiswick Community: 84%
- Thurston Community: 93%
From which it’s obvious these aren’t yet great schools, or at best are doing an average job in a poorish area – there are no FSM stats to confirm this, but Enfield suffered disproportionately from the riots and is also a bit of a murder hotspot, which are both probably significant. Aylward is the better of the two, Nightingale is actually quite poor overall. However, it’s the E.Bacc rates that look way out of line there – since both schools are OK on English and Maths they must not be entering many pupils in the other subjects (history or geography, the sciences and a language). In fact Aylward enters 10% of its pupils for all subjects while Nightingale seemingly only entered the 3% who achieved it. The question is, therefore, are the schools entering kids for the kind of vocational non-academic courses now out of favour at the DfE?
Now, I’m being disingenuous here – I think the E.Bacc is daft, personally, and the blind rush for supposedly ‘academic’ subjects risks alienating pupils whose talents like elsewhere and exacerbating the skills shortage Boris purports to be concerned with. However, Boris hasn’t let this put him off Michael Gove – at the opening of the West London Free School he reportedly asked the children to give the Education Secretary a round of applause for giving the school the money. I can only imagine the howls of outrage if Ken Livingstone had ordered a room full of kids to applaud Ed Balls. Very Pyong-Yang, Boris.
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