I get the sense we are in a state of quite radical change, especially in the world of education. I started teaching in 1985, just as the then new national curriculum was working its way into secondary schools. So my entire 25 years in teaching has been underpinned by the certainties of national curriculum, SATs, Ofsted (which started a bit later – in about 1990) and GCSE (again a bit later – about 1987). The vision for reform of the new government, in particular Michael Gove, is very radical indeed, and will totally transform the way the system looks in England over the next 4 years.
There has been much made of the list of schools which ‘registered interest’ in academy status over recent weeks, which was published on Friday last week. Like many schools locally, Bennett ‘registered interest’. At the time there was no implication that the list would be made public, but early last week all those who had registered interest were told that the list would be made public on Friday, and if we didn’t want our name on the public list, we could ‘de-register’ interest. I know a good number of schools did precisely that. However, it seemed an unnecessary step to me. ‘Registering interest’ in academy status means what it says – it is certainly not the same as ‘deciding in favour’ or ‘expressing intent’.
At Bennett we are completely clear, and I speak for the governing body as well, that there are currently too many unanswered questions and lack of clarity about details to make any kind of hasty decision about academy status. This is first and foremost a Church of England school, and we would, if (and it’s a big ‘if’) the governors decided to apply for a change of status, need the approval of the Diocesan Board of Education. The Diocese at the moment is not minded to support changes of status for its schools, for similar reasons to our own caution: it is not yet clear what all the implications of a change of status would be. The law making it possible has not even been passed by Parliament yet. All of us are clear that we want to continue our historic mission: to provide a high quality Church-based education in a caring school for children whose parents want that in the area. Neither the school nor the Diocese is going to do anything to compromise or risk that fundamental purpose.
On a slightly lighter note, I have to share one of my guilty and rather esoteric passions: Wallander – not the Kenneth Branagh version, but the subtitled Swedish series which has been running on BBC4. Last night I watched the (recorded) final episode, and I now feel completely bereft! The laconic opera-loving Swedish detective, with his intertwined personal angst and professional challenges, has become part of my life over the last 13 weeks! I am now working my way through the nine original detective novels. Let’s hope Swedish television gets going soon on another series!