Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Hackney headteacher discusses academies on BBC

Richard Brown, headteacher at The Urswick School (formerly Hackney Parochial) told BBC Radio 4's Beyond Westminster - (still available on iPlayer) that academies have financial advantages and are free to act against the interests of other local schools.

But Brown said he didn't know if he would convert the school to an academy if it gets the required rating from Ofsted in its next inspection.

Brown implied that he would only convert if the school was disadvantaged by remaining in its current status.

He said: "It looks like there are financial advantages but how longterm those advantages are... lets face it, with the economic climate at the moment the cake isn't going to get any bigger, it's how the cake is going to get carved up."

On the ethical front he seemed to balk at the potential disruption that an academy could cause in a local area:

"If I want to expand the number that come to the school I have to go through a process that assesses the impact on other schools in the area. (But) Academies can decide on their own if they want to expand. There is a danger that some schools will suffer as a result of that sort of policy." (The story about Skinners Academy poaching Petchey Academy's maths department shows that academies don't look out for each other either... A third of teachers leave Hackney School)

Another issue he discussed was the "pupil premium" which (I think) is related to whether a child is eligible for free school meals which could add an extra 10% funding per pupil.

He said that this didn't sound as good as it should for Urswick (its got one of the highest rates in Hackney see chart) because cuts elsewhere would outweigh the gains.

Also, an issue that wasn't mentioned in the BBC piece was that Urswick has the highest pupil:teacher ratio - the fewest teachers per pupil as per the chart. This subject was discussed in the most recent edition of the Hackney Citizen.

The data in both charts is from 2010 and from the Department for Education site. Richard Brown's interview is about 14 minutes into the programme which was broadcast on Saturday 1 October 2011.

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