Are Profit-making Academies The Future For Education?

The recent government announcements about academies and free schools have highlighted the familiar themes of autonomy, liberation, and devolution of funds to the front line. The government has promised to abolish bureaucracy and allow schools to operate independently. Prior to this, Sir Bruce Liddington, schools commissioner in the last Labour government, who is now Director-General of the academy chain E-ACT, delivered a speech outlining his vision for a ‘world-class education system.’ However, this vision did not involve the words freedom and empowerment, but instead focused on charitable trusts running chains of schools with centralised back-office services and the possibility of generating a profit in the longer term.

Liddington unveiled his organization’s five-year business plan which highlighted the group’s ambitious goal to expand their 11 academies and get 40 academies, 21 free schools, and 65 "converter" academies by 2015. Furthermore, rumors have suggested that E-ACT is looking to run more than 250 schools someday. The vision of an education system where thousands of autonomous organizations bloom and nourish control over their budgets has been a long-term goal of politicians on the right for almost 20 years. However, upon closer inspection, an alternative vision of the future emerges.

It involves a patchwork of government-funded chains, each with a distinct brand running thousands of schools and top-slicing revenue the same way local authorities have been doing for years. The Ark chain is one of these chains with high expectations for the schools it has been acquiring since Labour’s academy program was unveiled over a decade ago. The chain’s six pillars include high expectations, good behavior, depth before breadth, small schools, excellent teaching, and longer school days and are rolled out meticulously from the heart of the Ark operation. The organization claws back 4.5% of the school’s budget for central services such as HR, procurement, finance, school improvement, and research pedagogy.

The Ark approach is one of "stewardship" rather than control, where each school has its own distinctive character, but all share an Ark vision and ethos. Although academy chains recognize their accountability for results, there needs to be something standing between schools and outright failure aside from Ofsted. This approach is similar to that followed by other large academy groups such as Oasis Community Learning, who retain 4.5% of their schools’ funding to provide central services.

Rev. Steve Chalke of Oasis Community Learning prefers to describe the group as a family of academies rather than a chain. Their aim is to provide opportunities to young people who do not have them. Building a cluster allows them to share expertise and costs, and procurement, which improves the quality of each school. The chain started with one school but realized they could add more value by adding schools.

The retention of funds for schools by local councils varies significantly, with some retaining only 3% while others retain up to 10%. However, some councils have found innovative ways to improve schools dramatically. The Learning Trust, a social enterprise that has managed education on behalf of Hackney Council for a decade, has boosted GCSE results in an authority previously criticised for its inadequate schools. Alan Wood, Director of Children’s Services in Hackney, believes that cooperation between local authorities, schools, and parents can lead to higher standards while allowing for diversity and autonomy, including academies.

The purpose of chains, such as Ark and Oasis, might be compromised if other, more financially-motivated groups enter the market. The accounts of larger chains show that enormous sums of money are at stake and that governing trusts retain a significant amount of the funds. Many of these funds are not publicly available, which highlights issues of transparency in the operations of chains. The director general of E-ACT now earns more than many council chief executives, even though he oversees only 11 schools. E-ACT is also establishing a for-profit operation to sell services back to schools, and the financial returns for those involved in school chains can be substantial, even without the opportunity to make a profit.

Some suspect that the Department for Education is seeking to allow for-profit schools, as it brokers deals between academies, chains, and free schools. There is no limit to the number of schools that a chain can take on if it is deemed competent by the Secretary of State. The long-term development of the policy is still uncertain, and it remains questionable whether the core need for schools is autonomy or better forms of local accountability. The accountability of these large chains concerning vast amounts of public money will also require closer scrutiny.

Stephen Jay Gould

Stephen Jay Gould, a renowned palaeontologist, passed away at the age of 60 due to cancer, leaving behind a rich legacy. He was an unlikely candidate for consideration as one of America’s "Living Legends," yet he was awarded the honour by the US Congress during his lifetime. The Alexander Agassiz Professor of Zoology at Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology (MCZ) since 1982, he was best known for his 300 monthly essays published in the Natural History magazine, starting from 1974 till last year. These essays were widely translated into multiple languages and published in various books.

Gould was a gifted writer who wrote essays about seemingly complex topics in natural history and palaeontology, often using references and examples from everyday life to help people understand them better. One of his articles explained the peculiar evolutionary phenomenon of species decreasing in size by comparing it to the manufacturers of Hershey bars who avoided price increase by reducing the size of the bars. Gould’s literary skills and connection with his readers were unparalleled, and his only peers in scientific essay writing were Darwin’s bulldog, Thomas Huxley and JBS Haldane in the early 20th century.

Beyond being an acclaimed writer, Gould was also a significant public figure who publicly engaged in demonstrations and picket lines, especially during the 1960s and 70s. He was a part of the Radical Science Movement (Science for the People) formed in response to the Vietnam War, which later became embroiled in the cultural battles surrounding the publication of EO Wilson’s book Sociobiology in 1975. Gould and his colleague Richard Lewontin, former MCZ professor, were on different floors of the same Harvard building, giving rise to conflicts with Wilson, who was sandwiched between them. Gould’s objections were not merely political but also revolved around an alternative viewpoint on the mechanisms of evolution.

Gould’s unique interpretation of Darwinian theory, known as Darwinian revisionism, was most famously articulated in his book, The Structure of Evolutionary Theory. In it, he questioned one of Darwin’s crucial theses, namely gradual evolutionary change. He believed that the fossil record showed long periods of stasis followed by shorter, rapid evolutionary changes, which culminated in punctuated equilibrium. However, Gould faced opposition from traditional evolutionists who opposed his views.

Despite the controversies, Gould’s remarkable intellect and writing skills will continue to inspire generations of students in the fields of science and literature for many years to come.

An organism’s phenotype, or various physical features, may be either structural spandrels or exaptations, according to Gould and Vrba’s definition. An example of exaptation is feathers, originally used as a heat-regulating device among reptilian ancestors to birds but later repurposed by birds for flight. Some evolutionists initially regarded this concept as sacrilegious, as they believed that all characteristics of an organism were shaped by natural selection. However, Gould argues that evolution is not a "menu" where organisms can freely pick what features they want, but rather constrained by structure. While not all phenotypic traits are advantageous, such as spandrels and exaptations, evolution is still crucially governed by chance, with no indication of inherent progress towards complexity, perfection, or intelligent life.

Gould therefore proposes a hierarchical view of evolution, which includes genes, genomes, cell lineages, and, significantly, species. In contrast, much of contemporary biology has prioritized genetics to the point of neglecting the organism as a whole, reducing it to merely a tool for serving the purposes of its genes. Gould insists that the study of speciation is essential to comprehending evolution, and that the concept is foundational to all the disputes that have garnered him polarizing attention regarding evolutionary theory, pitting him against scientists such as Richard Dawkins. Despite this, both he and Dawkins remain children of Darwin, and find far more commonalities than differences in their evolutionary beliefs.

Gould’s intellectual odyssey from a radical critic to a senior academic did not follow the conventional trajectory. He rigorously defended his ideas in The Structure of Evolutionary Theory, positing that even cutting-edge research is historically constrained by the twists and turns of theory and evidence that guide its development. His writing frequently returns to his palaeontological roots, and he sees the history of evolutionary biology as vital to understanding what we know about the field today.

Born and bred in Queens, New York, Gould pursued his academic training in geology and palaeontology in Antioch College, Ohio, and Columbian University. He was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 1982, a cancer associated with asbestos exposure, and committed the next twenty years of his life to pursue his research and become an inspirational figure to cancer patients. Gould married twice, and is survived by his former and second wife Deborah and Rhonda, and their respective children.

Finally, Steve Jones remembered Gould as a leading light in the study of snail genetics. While his research on live or fossilised snails in the Bahamas is noteworthy, Gould became most renowned for his interpretation of these facts. Similarly, Darwin became an eminent figure for evolutionary studies due to his insights gathered from his voyages, making both scientists clear examples of ones who revolutionized their fields through their unique perspectives on empirical evidence.

Although it faced criticism from some, Stephen Jay Gould’s influential theory of punctuated equilibrium – also known as "evolution by jerks" to its detractors – served as a much-needed wake-up call for the sluggish field of post-Darwinian biology. It forced scientists to remember neglected areas of evolutionary theory and ignited heated debates. While many believed that Gould’s theory posed no threat to Darwin’s conventional ideas, Gould staunchly disagreed.

In the eyes of some of his peers, Gould was ultimately a scientific failure for his controversial views, but they couldn’t deny the impact his work had on the public. Despite occasional verbosity, he was known for his brilliant science essays and humorously took on creationists while remaining relatable by sharing his love of baseball. He remained dedicated to his work until his death, discussing topics such as snails in his final conversations.

In his lifetime, Gould was recognized for his contributions as a punctuationist, popularizer, and polemicist. However, in the scientific community, he also earned the rare and esteemed title of naturalist, a position held by his predecessor Darwin. Stephen Jay Gould, palaeontologist, was born on September 10, 1941, and passed away on May 20, 2002.

A Complete Crisis’: 2,000 School Leaders Rally Against Cuts

Around 2,000 headteachers and senior school officials gathered outside Downing Street recently to stage a protest at the negative impact of shrinking budgets in their schools and colleges. The group organised themselves through the grassroots WorthLess? campaign, developed by Jules White, head of Tanbridge House School, based in West Sussex. Before delivering a letter to the UK’s chancellor, Phil Hammond, the group weaved its way from Parliament Square to Downing Street. The letter outlined the dangers faced by schools and colleges due to seven years of austerity, and was signed by heads from various parts of England, plus school officials from Northern Ireland and Wales.

The educational system in Hampshire is in a dire situation due to inadequate funding. As a school head since 2009, I had always had a deputy head until last year when we couldn’t afford the post anymore. The situation is compounded by the £65,000 reduction in our lump sum funding, which severely impacted the quality of education we offer. Although there’s an increase in our per-pupil funding, our budget still has a considerable £20,000 shortfall annually. This shortfall affects small schools like ours, with only 115 pupils, and other village schools even more severely. We are not asking for a lot of money, but just enough to enable us to offer broad and balanced curriculum and pay our staff.

“I am 57 years of age, and this is the first protest I have ever participated in. We have gradually run out of areas to reduce costs in our budget without severely impacting the education of our pupils. In the past, A-level classes had between ten to fifteen pupils, but now they have up to 25 students per class. Our school used to replace any teacher who left immediately, but since 2010, we ask ourselves if we can survive without replacing them.”

“It’s disheartening to hear that all schools receive increased funding because it’s not the case. If we continued in the current pace, my school could lose up to £500 per pupil in the next five years. That’s over £1 million in total for my school. It is critical to find a sustainable solution. We can no longer fund provisions like mental health support or some courses. Our expenditures are analyzed and scrutinized before we can make a decision. More often than not, I have to say no to requests. We are merely trying to provide an excellent education to our pupils."

Would You Microchip Your Child?

Introducing Danielle Duval, aged 11, from Reading, Berkshire, who is preparing to undergo the revolutionary procedure of being fitted with a microchip tracking device for safety purposes.

Danielle believes it is a great idea, especially since the recent events involving the abduction of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman have made her quite nervous. She is not alone in her thoughts, as most of her friends are also willing to undergo the procedure. Even her younger sister, Amy, agrees that it could aid in keeping children safe.

Wendy Duval, Danielle’s mother, is just one such parent who believes that the chip is a responsible choice. She admits it won’t prevent abductions from happening, but it does give her peace of mind, especially when Danielle is out and about. Wendy is not the only parent who sees the benefits, as she has had numerous people inquire about where to get the device.

Critics of the chip may claim that it won’t work, but Professor Kevin Warwick, from Reading University’s cybernetics department and the designer of the tracker microchip, is confident that it will be effective. Even if the chip only saves one life, it will be worth it. However, Mary MacLeod, the Chief Executive of the National Family and Parenting Institute, expressed concern that the procedure might be invasive and may not guarantee that children are safe.

All in all, while the chip may not be the solution to ensuring the complete safety of children, it is an option for parents who want peace of mind. The decision to utilize the device is up to every individual parent and child, and it must be taken after careful consideration of its associated ethical concerns and benefits.

Kate Figes, a mother of two and author of Terrible Teens: What Every Parent Needs to Know, disagrees strongly with the idea of implanting trackers in children. She believes that treating children like pets is wrong and that it is more important to prepare them for the real world. Fear is not a healthy motivating factor for parents to implant these devices in their children. Instead, she emphasizes the role of good parenting in building a child’s sense of safety, which enables them to develop their own internal warning system. She underlines that for children to become responsible individuals, they need the freedom to explore and develop on their own. Therefore, implanting trackers in children is not a substitute for good parenting.

On the other hand, for Pauline Nolan, who experienced the ordeal of losing her 15-year-old son Dan when he went missing while fishing with friends in Hamble, near Southampton, trackers are a means for peace of mind. She wishes Dan had a chip implanted in him as it would have made the search for him easier. She believes that trackers would be helpful for parents who want to keep their children safe and know their location. However, she acknowledges that this should be a mutual agreement between parents and children, and that a child’s privacy should be respected.

Pauline Nolan is also concerned about the alarming rate at which children are reported missing. She is frustrated with experts who underestimate the likelihood of abduction and the lack of media coverage on the issue. She highlights that as many as 220 under-18s go missing each day, and 60 children are unaccounted for each day, leaving them vulnerable and in need of finding. For that reason, she is supporting the National Missing Persons Helpline, which is launching a fresh appeal to find her son Dan. They are using lorries to display his picture, and a 24-hour helpline number is available for anyone who has information.

In conclusion, while Kate Figes and Pauline Nolan have their own different takes on the use of trackers for children, both are concerned about the safety of children and emphasize the importance of parental guidance and the need to find missing children quickly.

Poor Primary School Pupils Increasingly Left Behind By Peers

Official data reveals that bright primary school children who qualify for free school meals (FSM) are being left behind by their peers, with the attainment gap in literacy, writing and maths widening between the two groups. The key stage 2 national tests in England, commonly known as Sats, taken by 11-year-olds revealed that children not eligible for FSM were outpacing their disadvantaged peers, with more achieving better results than before. New data for the national phonics check conducted by five and six-year-olds in Year 1 also indicated that pupils on FSM were not keeping up, securing a lower pass percentage than in 2016. Figures from Ucas supported the findings, indicating that students receiving FSM were only 50% as likely to attend university as those from better-off backgrounds. Although this report is an embarrassment to the government, some primary schools achieved outstanding results despite the high proportions of their pupils receiving FSM. For example, the entire cohort at Evelyn Street Community primary school in Warrington, Cheshire, 45% of whom received FSM, met national standards whilst 55% of them were judged at a higher level in maths, writing and reading. Nevertheless, the national figures show that better-off pupils are outpacing disadvantaged pupils in achieving high standards. The proportion of pupils on FSM achieving the highest levels in maths grew from 9% last year to 13% this year, but the proportion of other pupils went up from 20% to 27%, thereby widening the gap between the two groups to 14 percentage points. The gap in high achievement in reading has similarly stretched to 15 percentage points between the two groups this year, compared with 13 last year.

Natasha Abrahart Inquest: ‘no Support’ For Vulnerable Student

During an inquest into the death of Bristol University physics student Natasha Abrahart, it was revealed that no adequate plans were put in place to help the chronically shy student overcome her anxiety during a presentation in front of over 40 colleagues. The presentation was scheduled to take place on the same day that Abrahart’s body was found, prompting police to be called to her flat close to the university campus. The inquest heard that staff were aware of Abrahart’s vulnerability and missed laboratory interviews as a result of her shyness, but no proper measures were taken to support her during the laboratory conference. She is one of 12 suspected student suicides at the university since September 2016.

Adrian Barnes, a senior tutor in the school of physics, revealed that Abrahart’s struggles with social anxiety were brought to his attention in 2017 after she began missing work. He met with her and referred her to the university’s disability services, but Abrahart did not engage with them. The court was told that there was no direct contact between Abrahart and the university’s student wellbeing service. Barnes denied that Abrahart was at risk of academic failure and asserted that the physics department had been seeking ways to help her overcome her social anxiety. The inquest is ongoing.

For confidential support on mental health call Samaritans on 116 123 or contact in the UK, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255 in the US. In Australia, the Lifeline crisis support service is 13 11 14 and international helplines can be found at

Vivian Gussin Paley Obituary

Vivian Gussin Paley was an inspirational figure for those engaged in early years education. With 13 publications on the subject, she was an American kindergarten teacher who became a patron of the British charity MakeBelieve Arts and my mentor. I first encountered Vivian in 1999, when I sought her advice regarding integrating some of her techniques into my work in London. As she was visiting the UK at the time, we decided to meet, and our friendship was forged, leading to her agreeing to become the patron of MakeBelieve Arts. She was particularly supportive of the charity’s Helicopter Stories programme, designed to enable children to dictate their stories to adults, who write them verbatim before the children act them out.

Born in Chicago to a family of professionals, Vivian earned her degree from the University of Chicago in 1947 and another in psychology from Tulane University in New Orleans in 1950. Her career in preschool and kindergarten education took her to New Orleans and New York state before she discovered her passion for the use of play as an aid to children’s learning in Great Neck.

Over time, she developed a simple approach to teaching, centered around children telling their stories and then enacting them. She relocated to Chicago in 1962, began writing books on early childhood education in the 1970s and, although initially overlooked, ultimately became a celebrated expert in her field. Vivian retired in 1995, but continued to present speeches and workshops globally until 2016.

She was predeceased by her husband of many years, Irving Paley, and her son Robert in 2017. She is survived by her son David, three grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.

All University Students In England Allowed To Return From 17 May

The Prime Minister has confirmed that all university students in England will be allowed to return to face-to-face teaching on campus next week, as part of step 3 of the government’s roadmap out of lockdown. Over 1 million students who have been studying online since Christmas can now go back to university for in-person learning from 17 May. However, many institutions will have already finished their teaching timetable. The returning students are being asked to take a Covid test at least one day before travelling back to term-time accommodation to limit the spread of any infections. Last week, the Office for National Statistics revealed that 82% of students in England were already back at university, though their studies remained online. However, students on practical courses including science and engineering were allowed back on campus from 8 March. The last to return will take three supervised lateral flow device tests three or four days apart on campus, then submit to tests twice a week for the rest of the summer term. This delayed return has caused frustration among both vice-chancellors and students, many of whom feel neglected by the government’s plans for lifting lockdown restrictions.

Meanwhile, the Universities Minister, Michelle Donelan, has launched a graduate employment and skills guide to support pandemic graduates in building skills and kickstarting their careers, at a time when there is much economic uncertainty. The guide is a five-step plan that includes a range of tools, advice and resources to help graduates make post-university choices, identify and develop critical skills, gain professional experience and maintain good mental wellbeing. The Department for Education has provided an additional £85m in hardship funding for students in greatest need, on top of the existing £256m that universities can draw on. Despite this, students have campaigned for tuition and accommodation fee rebates as the pandemic has impacted two academic years. There have been record numbers of complaints to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator.

Simon Norton Obituary

Simon Norton, a renowned mathematician, passed away at the age of 66 due to a heart attack. Despite his immense talent, Norton was sometimes mistaken for a homeless man. During the late 1960s, Norton represented Great Britain thrice at the International Mathematical Olympiads. Each time, he achieved the highest score, once even receiving a perfect score of 100%. Norton’s unique talent resided in his ability to explain complex theories in simplistic terms elegantly. His expertise lay in abstracts, imaginary numbers, infinity, and prime distribution.

Norton acquired his first degree in Mathematics at Imperial College, London, while he was still in school. However, upon joining Cambridge University, he wasn’t allowed to pursue a Ph.D. immediately. Instead, the mathematics department ordered Norton to repeat his final degree year, causing him to falter for the first time in his academic journey. Norton got only 13 out of 52 alphas in his finals, a far cry from his previous successes. Famous lore narrates that Norton, despite his struggles, was still nowhere near the top of his class. He almost failed his Part III Mathematics which was crucial for anyone interested in research.

Thankfully, Norton’s career trajectory changed positively when he began working with John Conway, a playful and brilliant mathematician, on the Atlas of Finite Groups. The Atlas aimed to catalogue all the fundamental symmetry types, each of which could have different ‘orders.’ Norton became particularly interested in a classification termed ‘the Monster’. He uncovered a uniquely unearthly aspect of group theory – Monstrous Moonshine. When asked to explain this concept, Norton famously quipped, "It is the voice of God."

Apart from his talents in mathematics, Norton was also fond of forming anagrams and playing backgammon. He generated many casual anagrams and solved a tricky one with almost no delay. Norton was remembered for his modesty, with a preference for solving puzzles over defeating people.

During the 15 years it took to write the Atlas, Simon gave an answer that was incorrect for the first time when working with Conway, which the latter noticed immediately. This was the beginning of the end of Simon’s success story. His slide was neither due to a loss of talent nor focus, but it was impossible to determine the cause. Norton’s appearance became increasingly dishevelled over time, with his love for public transport evident from the greasy holdall that he always carried.

Norton’s father ran a family jewellery business but was a distant figure. Norton’s mother, Elaine, identified his mathematical prowess when he was less than two years old. As opposed to throwing toys around, he would stack and organise them. He scored 178 on his IQ test, aged three.

In conclusion, Simon Norton was a rare mathematician who tackled his subject with playful exuberance. Norton’s unique abilities lay in elucidating complex mathematics concepts using simple language. Despite his unconventional appearance, Norton’s exceptional talent will be missed but not forgotten.

In his later years, he possessed a residence in the city of Cambridge and was renowned for his benevolence. He was the sole landlord to reduce his rental charges when the poll tax was introduced by Margaret Thatcher. There were occasions where prospective tenants were presented with a mathematical conundrum, such as deciphering the numerical values that correspond to each letter in the multiplication problem ‘SIMON x P = NORTON’ (there exist two potential solutions). Upon my tenancy in 1995, I encountered him for the first time, and I later documented his biography under the title ‘Simon, The Genius in My Basement’ in 2011.

Simon harboured a deep fondness for public transport, which began in his youth as he would frequently embark upon bus and train rides throughout the country. As he matured, he became an influential advocate against automobiles and authored a witty and regular newsletter for the Campaign for Better Transport. He also made an annual contribution of £10,000 to finance a reward for transport activism, in which he displayed immense satisfaction when one of his recipients glued himself to Gordon Brown. Despite his descent into mathematical inscrutability, Simon became a triumphant and inspiring figure, unfettered by resentment, envy or the sentiment of failure.

He is survived by his siblings, Michael and Francis.

How To Outline A College Admissions Essay

Students should know the basics of essay writing by the time their high school diploma arrives. Some students find writing their college application essay daunting because not all English departments in high schools are the same. We can help you to write a great admissions essay by reviewing the basic essay format and thinking about how to structure your essay.

Sample Basic Template Structure

Let's go over the basics before we get too deep into the process. The basic essay structure that you used in high-school and will use in college is five paragraphs. Standard essays consist of a paragraph that introduces the topic, three paragraphs describing your body and one paragraph summarizing your conclusion. You can add more body paragraphs if you want to, but this five-paragraph essay works best for our purpose. By using this essay structure, you can present your argument, defend it and then conclude it in an organized and coherent way.

Introduction to Ideas

The introduction to any essay should include a thesis statement that clearly defines the topic and goal of your paper. Simple thesis statements might include: “Changing to paperless office models will not just save money for the company, it will reduce wastage, and create a better workspace while helping to protect the environment.” Your introduction paragraph should begin with a general approach to your topic, and gradually bring it in focus. This will allow you to present your argument. The first paragraph should introduce the subject, provide supporting arguments and engage the reader.

The formal body paragraphs

As you continue writing your essay, it is important to give a paragraph each to the main points that you would like to present to support your statement. This is the same as before: The traditional model calls for three sentences to support your thesis statement. But this rule does not apply in all cases. You will need longer essays as you continue to write in college. Order your paragraphs to match your thesis statement. You should support each paragraph with original research and ideas to defend your initial assertion.

You will need to write down your supporting points and research points in the outline of your essay. This will help you to prove your thesis. You should be able to recognize your essay’s skeleton when you review your outline. It will help you identify and correct any flaws in your argument as well as any supporting points that lack or are overly dense with information.

In conclusion

In the final paragraph, you should summarize your argumentation and give your reader your final conclusion. The conclusion of an essay should be written in a standard format. This means that you will restate your thesis statement and then show concisely how the supporting points have supported your original assertion. Your essay’s conclusion must be definitive and strong. You want to end your essay with a concise and coherent piece that shows your understanding of the subject and your ability for argumentation and reasoning.

It may be difficult to begin preparing your college essay. You can impress the admissions board by presenting a coherent essay.