Academies race’ comes under fire

PUBLISHED: 11:01 09 October 2008 | UPDATED: 15:28 25 August 2010

CRITIC: Sam Price.

CRITIC: Sam Price.

The government has been accused of allowing its academy programme to lose its way .

The government has been accused of allowing its academy programme to "lose its way".

Sam Price, chief executive of The Business Academy Bexley (BAB), in Thamesmead, said schools were being unnecessarily persuaded to become academies to meet building targets.

The government has vowed to deliver 400 academies by 2012, by which time Bexley, Greenwich and Bromley could have five academies. The criticism came days before the Harris Academy Falconwood (HAF), in Welling - the fourth academy in the area - held its official opening on Monday.

Miss Price said: "Ministers see it as necessary to transgress from the original purpose of the programme, which was to 'break the cycle of failing schools in inner cities'.

"It is now a race against time, and with a lack of millionaire sponsors wanting to 'give something back' to the community, converting schools is an easy win for the government for very little effort or financial investment."

Bexley and Greenwich are due be home to three academies by 2010 - BAB, in Thamesmead, St Paul's Academy, in Abbey Wood, and HAF in Welling.

Haberdashers' Aske's Federation opened Knight's Academy in Bromley in easter 2007, and a consultation is underway over plans to open one in Crayford.

The rapid academy expansion has been defended by Dr Dan Moynihan, chief executive of the Harris Federation, a chain of eight academies, including HAF.

The former vice-principal of Dartford's Lee Technology College, now an academy, said academies can be an answer when there is a need for rapid improvement.

Dr Moynihan said: "I don't agree that academies are meant to be for inner-city areas. When they started out that was the nature of the policy, but there are schools in other areas where performance and school buildings need to be improved."

Westwood College, which was replaced by HAF, attained a "satisfactory" grade three Ofsted report in 2007, in which some parents were concerned about disruptive behaviour. The Harris Federation has spent £400,000 repairing the aged building and agreed to spend £2million on the school over time.

Dr Moynihan added: "It seems to me that just because you happen to live in outer London you are less deserving of an academy.

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