‘War on Mediocrity’ – Tories go to War With Under-Performing Schools – Again

David Jones/PA Wire URN:21969286/AP
File Photo: David Jones/PA Wire URN:21969286/AP

More schools are to be snatched out of the hands of neglectful local authorities and allowed to manage their own affairs, as the government declares “war on mediocrity”, and prepares to move on schools deemed to be “coasting”.

As promised before the election, ‘hit squads’ of ‘super heads’ will be deployed to schools, with existing management structures – including head teachers and boards of governors – sacked if they have failed to turn schools around. The offensive will not only target failing schools, but also thousands of schools considered ‘coasting’, not good or outstanding, merely adequate and showing no improvement, reports The Independent.

Many of the schools targeted will be taken completely out of the control of local authorities, who have managed, and often mismanaged schools since the early 20th centuries, and will allow them to become academies, with funding coming from central government. The move follows David Cameron’s election pledge to “wage all-out war on mediocrity”.

The education secretary Nicky Morgan, who replaced radical reformer Michael Gove in July, has said of these so called ‘coasting’ schools: “It is not OK to be just above the level of failing”. Morgan is expected to say in a speech on education:

“Our big priorities will be to speed up the process for tackling failing schools; extend our academies programme to tackle ‘coasting’ schools; and deliver on our commitment to open new free schools.

“First, we will take new powers to step in from the moment that a school is found to be failing. From day one, regional schools’ commissioners will be able to bring in new leadership and support from other excellent schools and heads, and we will speed up the process of turning schools into academies to make sure that new expert leadership is found for all schools that need it as quickly as possible.

“Second, we’ll introduce new powers to intervene not just in failing schools, but in coasting schools – with a clear message that it is not OK to be just above the level of failing. These schools must improve too, and will be put on immediate notice and required to work with our team of expert head teachers.

“Those that aren’t able to demonstrate a clear plan for improvement will be given new leadership – we know this works in turning schools around.”

Education was one of the greatest battlegrounds for the former coalition government, as the most significant reforms in a generation wee pushed through against the will of deeply conservative teaching unions. Although the government appears to be taking change more slowly, there remains a raft of controversial changes yet to be adopted, including extending the capability of pre-existing Grammar schools to set up exclaves, and expand into neighbouring towns.

The creation of new Grammar schools, traditional educational establishments based on centuries of academic practice, has been illegal since the 1970s. Before the election the Prime Minister said: “I strongly support the right of all good schools to expand. I think that’s very important and that should include grammar schools.

“Under this government grammar schools have been able to expand and that is all to the good.”