We all know that Michael Gove’s preferred model of school improvement is the Academy School. If in doubt, academise. And now we know his Department’s spin machine will stop at nothing to demonstrate the supposed effectiveness of Academies, even when this tips into the realms of absurdity and deceit.
Take this press release from the Department for Education: ‘Academy goes from failing to outstanding in just 2 years’.
It falls just short of being a spoof. Here is an Academy that, wait for it, has transformed educational opportunities by shutting up shop at 2.30pm and playing Warhammer.
For the uninitiated (and I count myself among them), Warhammer is a fantasy game which apparently is set in a hybrid of early modern Germany and Tolkein’s Middle Earth, populated by lizards, orcs and ogres. Not at all like the Education Select Committee then.
The point being made is that extra curricular clubs have a part to play in school improvement. Who would disagree? But imagine for a second that a state school had chosen to do the same – to stop formal learning a good hour before most other schools in order to play games. The ridicule and the scorn would have been overwhelming. But this is different simply because the school is an Academy.
More pernicious though is the headline itself. It implies an extraordinarily rapid turnaround – two years from ‘among the worst in the country’ to outstanding. But look at the small print. The school went into special measures in March 2010 – that’s four years from special measures to outstanding, not two. Misleading, to say the least, if not deceitful.