Academies leader at EC Harris makes a case for city academies

Speaking to the Financial Times ahead of the Headmasters and Headmistresses’ conference, Tony Evans, head of King’s College School in Wimbledon criticised city academies, the new publicly-funded schools independent from local education authorities.

The crux of his allegations seems to be that the sole point of academies is the creation of new buildings, and that these are of no use to children. I would take issue with both parts of that statement.

First is the argument that academies are all about new buildings. They are not. Academies are about creating transformational change in areas of real need.

The majority of the schools are in the 10% most deprived areas in the UK, home to 53% of the country’s crime, and 60% of children living on means tested benefits.

However, when they go to school pupils will find an oasis of calm, a purposeful learning environment, a school that is a tangible symbol of hope in the future and a source of great pride to pupils, parents and the local community.

Secondly, despite what Evans says, state-of-the-art buildings help students. I despair when people say good teachers can do a good job in a shed. That may be true, but what it implies – that buildings make no difference at all – is not.

Give good teachers the resources they need and a building that is designed to support behaviour management, engage the community and inspire learning and those same teachers can do an amazing job. We have seen it.

There is no escaping the fact that good buildings make a difference.

The original article Published: October 1 2007 in the FT

Preaching academies to unconverted
By David Turner
In the private assessment of a leading figure in the independent schools movement, Andrew Adonis, the schools minister, has "hijacked" the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference (HMC) tomorrow "to bang the drum" for the government's deeply controversial academies scheme.
Lord Adonis will announce "a few" new instances of independent schools sponsoring academies or turning themselves into one, says a spokesman. Wellington College in Berkshire has done the former, while Belvedere School in Liverpool has done the latter.
But these modest successes cannot hide the fact that most HMC school headteachers remain either non-committal or hostile towards clambering on to the academy bus.
Tony Evans, head of King's College School, Wimbledon, says: "Academies mean, in the main, new buildings and I don't want to get involved with what is superficial."
He adds: "Academies have been great for architects, but they are as yet not proven for pupils."
Academies are new schools usually set up to replace schools that the government says are failing.
Originally, sponsors were supposed to contribute £2m towards the cost of building the often lavishly constructed institution, in return for the right to appoint a majority of the governors.
A recent rule change means the £2m will be put into an endowment fund, used for annual running costs.
Lord Adonis has been keen to involve independent schools. This reflects both admiration for their expertise and ministers' conviction they increase social divisions by primarily educating the children of wealthy parents.
Mr Evans' hostility is all the more galling to the government because KCS has a strong community record. It has contributed money and time to two local schools, whose pupils are taught by KCS teachers in evenings and on Saturdays.
Clarissa Farr, head of St Paul's Girls, in London, describes academies as "a very imaginative idea" but is no keener to see her own school become an active proponent. Most independent schools, she says, "are not in any position to provide any kind of academy funding".
Regulation rage
The head of the body for top independent schools has launched a blistering attack on "creeping" government regulation, writes David Turner .
Bernard Trafford, who chairs the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference, singles out in particular Whitehall's July proposal to allow Ofsted, which he brands a "Rottweiler", to regulate private schools.
Mr Trafford's attack, in today's opening speech to the HMC's annual meeting in Bournemouth, is likely to embarrass and infuriate Andrew Adonis, the schools minister, who addresses HMC the following day on behalf of what Mr Trafford mockingly refers to as "the department of whatever it's called today".
The Department for Education and Skills, which has undergone more than the usual number of departmental name changes, was this summer split into two.
Mr Trafford is head of Wolverhampton Grammar.