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Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Academy conference in Bristol

--I spent this morning at an academy conference, organised by the Merchant Venturers ( who sponsor two very different academies- the Merchants Academy at the old, seriously challenged Withywood School, and Colstons Girls school, an independent becoming an academy.)

Bristol's education situation ( i.e. not good) has meant that it has been a focus for the academy programme, and the city now has 8 academies up and running. Huge amounts of energy, effort, innovation and talent have gone into determining that these academies are a success. I've so far visited the City Academy , Bristol, Merchants Academy, and new Colstons Girls academy and have already blogged about the opening of Brightstowe academy. The thing all these schools have in common is a determination from the sponsors and the heads to make things work, regardless of what has gone before.

Shadow Schools Minister, Nick Gibb (in the middle of me and Trevor Smallwood, the master of the Merchant Venturers) came down to talk about Conservative policy towards academies, to give the sponsors some idea of what they might expect under a Conservative Government. Nick described some of the ways a Conservative Government would halt the erosion of the academy concept by the Brownites ( who always hated Tony Blair's reforms) and return academies to the original model -(which was an idea based on Conservatives' City Technology Colleges) as well as allow primary schools to become academies. Sponsors gave feedback and, most valuably , their perspective on what makes a good school, and what politicians can do to support their efforts.

It was a fascinating day. I have often felt that one of the problems with politics is that policy makers often don't get enough input from the real world, people who live and work in eg. education; and that too much policy is made on bureaucratic theory. Today was a feast of information, experience and expertise for anyone thinking about the future of education - of the city and of the nation.

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