CASE in the media

The Guardian, 19th May 2022

Nadhim Zahawi is the latest in a long line of hypocritical Tory education secretaries who urge state schools to "do better" while denying them the necessary resources (Ministers should back state-educated pupils, not knock them back - May 17th).  To add insult to injury, he implies, in spite of all the evidence to the contrary, that state-educated students who overcome difficult personal circumstances in gaining admission to prestigious universities are examples of "tilting the system" and have not been selected on "merit".  

In fact, admitting students on merit is one of the areas in which Oxford and Cambridge universities have shown marked improvement in recent years, which explains why the proportion of students admitted from state schools is so much greater than it used to be.

Of course, some parents who have shelled out a fortune on school fees may feel upset if their children are only able to go punting on the Backs as tourists and attend May Balls as guests but they should not worry.  In their landmark study of 2017, carried out at the LSE, Aaron Reeves and Sam Friedman showed that, if you go to the "right" school, you don't have to worry about A-levels, university or any of that stuff - you'll still end up in a top job!

Michael Pyke, Campaign for State Education

The Guardian April 4th 2022

To describe the record of the academy schools programme as “patchy”  is a gross understatement (Editorial, 29 March). The rapid expansion of academies since 2010, on the whim of an ignorant education secretary, has led to vast sums of public money being thrown at a system that has failed to raise standards while being repeatedly mired in scandals.

The most recent report of the cross-party Public Accounts Committee (PAC) complains of “tens of millions of public money used to ‘prop up’ poorly managed academy schools” in a system that lacks financial transparency and is unaccountable to parents and the local community. Similar complaints have been repeatedly made by the PAC since 2010, and investigative journalists have repeatedly exposed the murky governance and dubious financial behaviour of academy trusts. An outstanding example of the latter from 2018 is on the Guardian’s own website.

Schools and councils may indeed be worn out by repeatedly fighting the government’s agenda, but their resistance might have been strengthened had there been any worthwhile political opposition.

Michael Pyke, Campaign for State Education

The Tablet, March 19th, 2022

Eileen Fitzpatrick (letters, March 12th) complains that “the debate around the academisation of Catholic schools is in danger of “getting out of hand” but makes no attempt to counter the argument put forward by Carl Parsons and Margaret Smart (letters, March 5th) that this model of schooling is not conducive to the common good and is therefore in conflict with Catholic Social Teaching.

Ms Fitzpatrick seems to think that bad behaviour by academy trusts is the work of “a few rogues” and is quickly dealt with by the Department for Education, but not a month goes by without evidence of dubious behaviour.

For instance, it has emerged that fewer than half of academy trusts are compliant with government policy that at least two parents should be on the governing bodies of either the trust itself or of individual schools.

Having a morally dubious structure might conceivably be regarded by some as a price worth paying for raising educational standards, but there is no evidence whatsoever that academy schools outperform local authority maintained schools with comparable intakes.

Michael Pyke, Campaign for State Education

The Tablet, March 5th 2022

I am dismayed to learn of the Catholic bishops in England calling for all Catholic schools within their dioceses to convert to academies and locate themselves in Catholic academy trusts.

There is a sad nonchalance about the adoption of this policy.  No amount of uninformed “consultation” can cover up the fact that academisation is a pernicious, ideological, political project with which church leaders are colluding.  It will take schools from local authority and any local democratic influence into a corporatised environment, each a registered company,.

This moves away from notions of the common good that the Church sands for, where education is viewed as a social good, not a commercial undertaking.

The Catholic Church community will surely be tarnished by involvement with a flawed entrepreneurial model of educational management and control, when its schools' voluntary-aided status provides all the freedoms it could possibly need.

Carl Parsons, Emeritus Professor of Education, Canterbury Christ Church University, London

(although writing here in an academic capacity, Professor Parsons is also a member of the CASE National Executive Committee)

The Guardian, February 22nd, 2022

The government’s notion of elite sixth forms is indeed a gimmick, but your editorial is mistaken in suggesting that in England there is a straightforward division between a hierarchical system of higher education and an egalitarian system of schooling.

Leaving aside that most children of the rich and powerful do not attend state schools, the truth is that the state education system is nowhere near egalitarian. Not only does it continue to maintain a formal system of selective secondary schooling whose malign effects reach further than the number of such schools might suggest, but the doctrine of “parental choice” ensures that all schools exist in a market-driven hierarchy in which the least “desirable” children are concentrated in the least “desirable” schools and vice versa.

The Augar review does not address the deeper need for all forms of post-16 education to have equal status. Our inability to shake off our obsession with hierarchy means we are stuck with an educational model designed for the 1930s, which does not augur well for our future.

Michael Pyke, Campaign for State Education

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