Guest blog: Katie, Steering Group Member and Young Adviser (currently in the office on Work Experience!)
Many of you will have already heard about schools turning into academies. This has been taking place over the last few years very rapidly and is taking place through a governmental scheme that offers large incentives to schools if they make the change into an academy. However, there is a lot of controversy surrounding this topic as some people argue that academies offer more personal learning whilst some remain against the idea. They now make up as many as 45% of all maintained schools, which are either open or in the pipeline to convert into an academy. This means over one million pupils now, or will soon, attend academies. Exam results have shown that schools that have became academies have seen a large improvement in their exam results.
Any primary or secondary school that is doing well can apply to become an academy and then they can form groups of schools, which then help each other to improve through sharing services and resources. On the other hand, there are large concerns surrounding the privatisation of education as local towns lose democratic control over their schools. It also means that the privately owned state schools become independently run through income generated by sponsors who have control over how the school is run and means that teaching staff worry about job uncertainty.
Da Vinci Community school became the first school in the East Midlands to become a co-operative school in January. This is a form of an academy where pupils, teachers and the wider community will together ‘own’ the school. These groups will sit together on the board of the school, which makes a large number of decisions about the school and how it’s run. Through becoming ‘co-op’ the school will be run partly as a democracy.
Back in December I joined an interview filmed as part of the BBC Politics show with the head master of the school. We discussed his views on the change and I acted as the voice for the student’s concerns. A teaching union had said that it was worried the change would give children too big a say in how the school is run. Student Voice has a big problem with this though - how could it be possible for students to have ‘too big a say’? Surely the aim of schools is to educate us, the young people, which would mean we know best how we learn. For example, if a clothes shop wants to improve and get more customers they would look at their clients and see what they are wearing and what they want. Why should this be any difference for education? Teachers need our opinion in every situation at every level and should therefore do nothing about us without us.
A further point is that Dave Wilkinson, a local representative of the teaching union, said the involvement of children and a private company, Serco, was against the interests of teachers and he also said that ‘when children get involved in the management of the school, it inevitably involves the teachers’. But what is this supposed to mean - can they not trust us to make valid points? His view that the involvement of teachers being inevitable generally sums up the lack of trust and respect for student councils that there currently are; student councils are way more than just a vent for the students hate of the colour scheme in the toilets and we need to prove this.
In addition, even if for legal reasons a presence of a teacher was necessary surely that time is golden time being incredibly well spent as it well result in a valuable learning curve for teachers to use. It is their interest to teach us, the students, so they need to know how we learn, from us. If they don’t take our opinion seriously how could they possibly even begin to take us seriously?