The proposals by the Chancellor to turn all schools in England into academies will result in the dismantling of state education and will end democratic accountability in our schools.
This is being done despite clear evidence that academies do not perform better than other schools and, in the case of many large chains, badly let down their most disadvantaged children. Nowhere else in the world has this been attempted apart from Chile, where the results have been disastrous.
It is clear that the ultimate goal is to privatise the English education system and parcel it off into the private sector where it can be run for profit. This should be of great concern to everyone. We need an education system in place that parents and communities can be confident in and have influence over, including proper local democratic accountability through appropriate oversight by local authorities. Clearly this will not be achieved if the Chancellor's proposals go ahead.
As for the longer school day George Osborne seems to be unaware that schools already open earlier and later for clubs and activities. Any expansion of the school day needs to be properly financed and resourced, including securing the improvements to teachers' pay and conditions which are needed to attract and retain teachers. The funding for this policy is divisive applying to only one quarter of secondary schools. It is also completely insufficient - only £1.5billion spread over four years, which then may disappear, is not new money and will be needed for the core business of running schools.
Schools and sixth form colleges are already struggling due to the Government's real terms cuts to education funding and the loading of major additional costs onto schools such as the increases in employer pension and national insurance costs. The measures announced today will not address these fundamental problems.
Subjects such as art, music and drama are being squeezed out of the curriculum as a result of the ever increasing pressures to meet targets in core subjects. This is resulting in many children and young people missing out on the well-rounded and balanced curriculum they need and deserve. The funding proposed for after-school enrichment activities will not alter this. This is very much a case of the Government being hoisted by its own petard.
The Chancellor's proposals will not address the many pressing problems in education such as the teacher shortage crisis, the lack of school places and the desperate lack of funding. Nor will they address teachers' concerns about a muddled and inappropriate curriculum. They are entirely the wrong priorities.