I had a conversation on Twitter yesterday with Fiona Millar, the partner of Alastair Campbell and a staunch opponent of Education Secretary Michael Gove's proposals new management at Downhills the failing primary school in Tottenham. Gove is encouraged that in the 166 sponsored Academies with results in both 2010 and 2011, the percentage point increase in pupils achieving 5+ A*-C including English and Maths was double that of maintained schools. Also that some chains are doing particularly well ARK, the Harris Federation and ULT.
But Millar thinks that making Downhills an academy is unfair. It was below the "floor" of 60% of its children achieving the required standard in English and maths for five years. Last year it was up to 61% but Ofsted have just confirmed they judge it to be a failing school. The head has resigned and it is blindingly obvious that the school needs a fresh start. If it has been making any progress at all it is too slow. Yet, asks Millar, in terms of consistency, should not other failing schools also be taken over? Why target Tottenham?
She asks: What about the schools in Surrey, for instance? (Where Gove is one of the MPs.) But while Downhills is proposed to be the first school to be required to become an academy Millar should be reassured that it will not be the only one. The Government have a hit list of 200 schools that have been below the floor for five years or more.
I see no reason while Surrey should be excluded from the process. Certainly many affluent residents can afford to pay fees for the children to attend independent schools. But most Surrey parents can not. Of the state schools many have already escaped the clutches of Surrey County Council to become academies. But often those still under the Council's control are doing a poor job.
What about Ash Grange Primary School in Aldershot where only 30% achieve the required standard in English and Maths? Or the Pilgrams Way School in Farnham where only 33% do?
What of the fate of the parents of Godalming where the choice is between a range of "failing" and "inadequate" schools?
Consistency should be achieved by the failing schools of Surrey also being taken over. The problem is that should this be done Fiona Millar would be quick to pitch up in Godalming at protest meetings alongside the union reps demanding: "Hands off our failing schools."