Michael Gove and David Laws prioritise more academies over child protection

Michael Gove is ignoring serious warnings about his flagship academies.

The Department for Education has become terribly leaky recently; and it isn’t difficult to see why.

The latest internal document, obtained by the Guardian, shows that Michael Gove and schools minister David Laws are pushing through aspects of the academy programme which are not value for money while downgrading oversight of boarding schools and home education – despite warnings that this will increase child protection risks.

In a document identifying ways in which the DfE could cut £290m from its administrative budget by 2015/2016, civil servants advised ministers that forcing underperforming schools to become sponsored academies in the face of local opposition was ‘very expensive’, and that success in securing academies in this way comes at a ‘disproportionate cost.’ 

But, as the Guardian reported, ministerial comments on the document show that this cut was opposed by Gove and Laws. One such comment says, ‘No – totally wrong. Really important area.’

Michael Gove repeatedly asserts that underperforming schools which become academies under the aegis of an approved academy sponsor improve more rapidly as a result. There is no evidence for this. Analysis by Henry Stewart of the Local Schools Network shows that underperforming schools which stay with local authorities have done as well as those which became academies.

Rather presciently, Stewart suggested earlier this year that instead of forcing schools to become academies, more attention should be paid to what successful maintained and academy schools actually do to improve standards, saving ‘the cost and time of academy conversion’.

But no, Michael Gove prefers to ignore the evidence (remember his call in 2010 for more evidence-based policy in education?) and force through structural changes to schools against the wishes of parents (apparently parental choice is only a good thing when Gove approves of that choice).

Worse, at a time of austerity, he ignores advice that these reforms are not value for money and prefers to cut elsewhere, even if that means putting children’s safety at risk.

And this from the man who accuses his opponents of putting ideology before the interests of children.

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