What goes round comes round

Those of us who are of a similar age as I will recall the Educational Priority Areas (EPA) – and are probably asking themselves, as do I, what happened to that.

An excellent article about EPAs can be found here; the author of this article having been a member of the West Riding Educational Priority Area project and a contributor to the HMSO Educational Priority series. The Plowden Report referred to in the linked article interestingly also called for more experienced and successful teachers, with salary incentives to attract them to work in EPAs.

In the late 1960s, the Labour government (Anthony Crossland: Sec of State for Education and Science) designated schools in deprived areas as “Educational Priority Areas” and promised to give them extra money for school-building projects as had been proposed by the Plowden Committee (1966), whose idea it also was that teachers should receive a special allowance for working in difficult schools. The education priority areas were gradually absorbed into more general aid programmes for deprived areas. They failed to make radical changes to the nature of schooling. Hence the introduction of EAZ’s (In May 1998, the Labour government planned to set up 25 Education Action Zones within 5 years. The zones would cover on average 20 schools, only 2-3 being secondary schools and the rest being primary schools and nurseries. They would be run by a combination of the school leaders, governors and parents, including the local education authority and also local and national businesses) which was all part of Tony Blair’s promise to concentrate government policy on “education, education, education”.

If one is looking for a history of how education has been pulled from pillar to post then one can do no better than Derek Gillard (2007) Axes to Grind: the first five years of Blair’s academies

City technology colleges (CTCs) were established by the 1988 Education ‘Reform’ Act. They were the invention of secretary of state Kenneth Baker, who presented them as a ‘half-way house’ between the state and independent sectors. A hundred of the colleges were to be set up across the country, each one funded – ‘sponsored’ – by a business, with spending per pupil far higher than in the schools of the local education authorities (LEAs), from whom they would be entirely independent. In the event, only a handful were ever established because few businesses were prepared to take part and, as usual, the taxpayer was left to pick up the bill.

Next we had Blair and ‘academies’; the brain child of Andrew Adonis, Blair’s principal education adviser during his ten years in office. They were therefore remarkably like the CTCs, as Francis Beckett pointed out in The Guardian (2004): the government’s big idea for education turns out to be the one the Conservatives invented 19 years ago, and abandoned as a failure shortly afterwards. It is even run by the same man: Cyril Taylor, the businessman appointed by the Conservatives in 1986 to create 30 city technology colleges.

The first three academies opened in September 2002. Nine followed a year later, and five more opened in September 2004, making a total of 17 during Blair’s second term in office. The DfES’s Five year strategy for children and learners, published in July 2004, indicated that the government intended to have 200 academies open by 2010, despite the fact that no evaluation had been made of their cost-effectiveness. Sponsors were required to contribute £2m to start-up costs, with the taxpayer finding the rest. It was originally estimated that this would amount to about £8m per academy (making a total start-up cost of £10m). In fact, they proved far more expensive than that. The City of London Academy in Southwark cost £33.7m and the average capital budget for the first 17 academies was £25m.

Two days ago we learn that NIcky Morgan is to create a National Teaching Service which will involve recruting a pool of 1,500 high-achieving teachers over five years who would be deployed to schools in areas with weak results; and which will include financial incentives for teachers to join this project, with staff expected to stay for up to three years.

So, we have a Tory education minister bringing back an idea 50 years old, the original idea subsiding into oblivion; the appointment of a man who thought of a new type of school, but which cost the country – and presumaby taxpayers – millions, being appointed as head of a ‘national infrastructure commission’.

What goes round sure does come round – in spades – and to the detriment of the poor saps who have allowed themselves to be ‘taken to the cleaners’ through their indifference to that which is happening around them.

No doubt those of indifference will be avidly glued to their television screens in a few days time watching events at the Cenotaph; and in the months/years ahead will troop to the ballot box and decide whether this country remains a member of the European Union.

To parahrase: as we sow, so shall we reap……………..


2 thoughts on “What goes round comes round

  1. CTCs.
    I was a school governor at the time when a City Technology College was proposed for Derby. The Labour Education Authority opposed it tooth and nail. I went to a meeting of three hundred or so governors and teachers, convened by the Sean Stafford, the Chairman of the Education Committee and was the only voice in favour of the CTC – on the basis that a little competition never did anybody any harm. That was a horrid heresy in that company!
    I later helped to organise a bus trip to the Nottingham CTC . The local people seemed more concerned about the planning issues of the new site than what the Nottingham
    CTC was actually doing. I was most impressed by a welding class of very burly lads who were completely under the thumb of their teacher – a slip of a girl. “Where did you find here?” I asked the Head. “Vickers” he said.

    The new head of the Derby CTC had brought up a “bog standard comp” in another area from being under-subscribed to a being highly sought-after school. He said that initially the LEA (Local Education Authority) was helpful but, as he overtook the performance of other schools, they put pressure on him to “slow down and let the others catch up”. He invited teachers from surrounding schools to visit and observe his methods – but most were not interested. This was before the days of published results and league tables. So he jumped at the chance of being able to work outside LEA control.

  2. I recall EPA’s all too well. There was a basic problem, notably in the West Riding and successor 1974 LEA’s, that there was no real difference at the margins between those defined and not defined. Add changes arising from housing and ordinary demographics a school maybe EPA one year might not be not long after and vice versa. It also had to be seen in relation to the overall building and major maintenance programmes of LEA’s. A lot of thinking about which to designate was determined by the building needs. Given the rate of population movement at the time and the varying levels of intakes it was never as simple as people thought. But the main job, getting the right teachers in, was too often lost in the fog.

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