When Your School Becomes an Academy

Academisation

Shouldn't we produce individuals, not clones?

Secondary school in the UK or high school in the USA is generally recognised as a key part of every child's development into an adult. Throughout your teenage years, whether you love it or loathe it, you experience the journey of adolescence. I like to call this the "three P's": puberty, peers, and pressure. Cheesy, right? Anyway, when you mix this concoction with secondary/high school and wow, you've definitely got yourself an experience. Eventually, this monumental time spent in the formal education system does come to an end. But how do you react when the school you've spent six years of your life at suddenly changes in your final year? 

In the UK, Academisation takes many forms. However, the Academisation that my school experienced was not out of choice. Due to an OFSTED investigation that deemed our school as "inadequate," we were therefore placed into "special measures." Now, you may be thinking—fair enough; clearly, the school is failing and needs taking over? But from someone who has exceeded personal expectations at my school (which I will not name for respect), I can tell you now — my school should not have been labelled as failing.

Now you've had some of the back story, let's get onto the academy takeover. This is my experience:

The day the takeover was confirmed. I was currently in Y12 (16-17), sitting in class G3 with some friends, working in a study period. When we heard the news, I cried. Some of the people who I had known since I was a little 11-year-old girl did the same, some were angry, others stormed out, and some reached for their phones to rage online. As far as we were concerned, they were taking our school. We rushed to find a senior teacher, anyone to confirm the news, and found lovely Mrs. V in her office. A huddle of us gathered around her desk, she nodded slowly and joined us in tears. This was a senior member of staff, very professional and well-respected who was honest and truthful to several Y12's. That's when I knew this wasn't good.

Some of you readers may think this is a dramatic reaction to the academy taking over our "failing school." I agree. At the time, this was dramatic, simply because we didn't even realise the true extent of what will happen.

Then it started. The people strutted to the front of our assembly hall as parents filled the chairs, every single one in a business suit with a stern look on their face. The woman who led the assembly reminded me of Delores Umbridge from Harry Potter. Isn't it odd to instinctively hate someone from a first impression? Straight-faced, she laid down the rules. What was going to happen and what was going to change — which was basically everything. Uniform, school colours, structure of the day, subjects and even which side of the corridor we walk down. (I MEAN C'MON!) Due to her way of addressing the school (dominate, stern, and dehumanising), you can imagine that some parents started to kick off.

As the weeks followed the news and introduction assembly, the most significant part of the take over happened. Teachers literally started dropping like flies. NO JOKE. Within several weeks, we lost around 30 teachers, including the whole of the English department (which is fab when you take Literature and Language at A Level, hahah...). Teachers had taught me for four years straight, teachers who built up my confidence, saw me through my GCSE'S, who I'd cried to on bad days and even my form tutor who had seen me through from my first day as a Y7 to a Y12. 

Academisation for my school changed everything. I think the most significant thing was our school identity: the name, the colour, and the students. The academy we have now is only focused on statistics. Academic grades in English, Maths and Science. League tables. Discipline. Structure. There is no focus on the individual and their needs. More creative subjects such as art, design, physical education, social sciences, and drama are completely disregarded. It's hard for someone who has been at the school for six, almost seven years. Do you blame me for complaining?

I apologise if this is seen as a rant. To be honest, maybe it is. The impact that this has had on numerous young people at my school needs more consideration. Young people stood in the corridors sobbing because they're terrified of the leadership or they looked out the window and received a sanction.

Don't run schools as businesses. At the end of the day, schools should produce well-rounded, individual young people with passion and enthusiasm for their future — not statistics. 

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When Your School Becomes an Academy