This article in the Guardian about the secondary school at Easingwold makes for difficult reading. It underlines the fact that there is an increasingly hostile culture among some academy chains and smaller MATs in England where the moral purpose of supporting schools in difficult circumstances is being eroded where it threatens the overall standing of an executive principal or the financial status of an academy chain. It is not as though we could not see this happening from afar. As soon as we get away from the organisation charged with a “whole-community” responsibility, namely, local authorities, it stands to reason that those with money as a key focus (either implicitly or explicitly) will make decisions where the weakest are sidelined and abandoned, rather than helped.
As schools get “better” (judged by OFSTED’s ratings, anyway), we will get to a position where there are fewer and fewer weaker schools to support or take into MATs. Eventually the culture will emerge that MATs are just an organisational structure, with no overarching moral purpose. Already questions are being asked in MAT formation about taking on schools in tough circumstances: will this school be a drain on us, on our capacity, on our expertise? The RSCs should have the power to attach schools to MATs, surely?
I am at the Capita Schools Funding Conference today – these issues are at the forefront. How do we make savings in our budgets and wisdom in future investments in the current climate? Nearly all voices here acknowledge that the purpose of schooling is not to save money, and that we are simply called upon to be sensible, wise and imaginative spenders of the same.
The “orphan” schools like Easingwold desperately need parents. We need to stand next to each other and remember that we are called to provide the best education we can for all children. And that to give one another to grace to lean on us, and receive from us, is part of the same moral purpose.