Educational Excellence Everywhere!

Whilst David Cameron vows to ‘finish the job’ on academies  today’s guest blogger, author and academic Patrick Ainley, explains why academies aren’t the answer. Defining the failure of our young people as a much bigger problem that needs to be viewed within the wider context of politics and the economy he explains how on earth we got here and what must be done to get us out of this mess.

Author and academic Patrick Ainley’s book Betraying a generation: How education is failing young people publishes today. 

Patrick Ainley

Patrick Ainley, author and Professor of Education and Training at the University of Greenwich

“Educational Excellence Everywhere!”

What a bonkers title for a White Paper that imposes another great school reorganisation on all state schools in England turning them into independently competing academies run by charities and chains!

This is supposed to drive up ‘standards’ in tests and exams, though there is no generally accepted evidence that it does so in the half of secondary schools already ‘free’ from local council support.

In fact, overall the UK is falling down the international league tables of school achievement that government and Inspectors are so fond of.

Exasperated and disaffected

Meanwhile, pupils are studying more but often learning less, parents are exasperated by being unable to get the schools of their choice for their children and teachers are increasingly disaffected.

Certainly teachers’ unions are correct in supposing that academies as ‘independent state schools’ will undermine national wages and conditions, whilst new layers of regional bureaucracy are proposed to micro-manage them.

Institutional memory is short but of course this has all happened before when the Further Education Colleges were removed from Local Education Authorities in 1993. Since then the colleges have halved in number, adult and other provision has been run down, including so-called ‘apprenticeships’ now lasting a year or less.

“When this sub-prime student bubble bursts, it will not all be mopped up by the private universities government aims to encourage.”

Meanwhile, FE students have been decanted into the universities, turning higher into further education for loan-funded ‘degree’ courses that without maintenance grants can leave graduates £53,000 in debt and still unemployed. Universities compete to cram in all these fee-bearing students! When this sub-prime student bubble bursts, it will not all be mopped up by the private universities government aims to encourage.

But with the ‘participation age’ (in school, college or training) now up to 18, youngsters under this age cannot just be ‘warehoused’ as they can in tertiary education. They can be crammed into larger classes and force-fed on-line lessons supplied by Pearson or Murdoch though!


So competition between autonomous schools, colleges and universities produces similar dysfunctions throughout the system. Understanding why this is happening is examined and explained in my book Betraying a Generation: How education is failing young people.

It maps the changes in the way state institutions are now run as part of a new market state, in which power contracts to the centre whilst responsibility for delivery is contracted out to individual agents. All this in the name of ‘skills’ for a new economy.

But although education can make you as ‘employable’ as you like, it still cannot guarantee employment! And although government now promises ‘full employment’, this includes many people working intermittently at low-paid jobs.

“widening participation to higher education…actually disguises a proletarianisation of the professions”

As education has been substituted for employment, this leaves many young people running up a down-escalator of devaluing qualifications desperate to gain at least semi-professional careers.

So widening participation to higher education claims to professionalise the proletariat but actually disguises a proletarianisation of the professions. This is because the upward social mobility promised by education, can only be exceptional in current conditions of general downward social mobility.

It doesn’t have to be this way and there are some simple, and some seismic, policies that could create positive change, contributing to a sustainable and meaningful future in which young people can move forward with their lives. To start we need to ask what constitutes an appropriate general educational entitlement for a democratic and sustainable society, and then work towards building it. This is what my book tries to do.

(Overuse of exclamation marks is deliberate in this blog since the Education Secretary has recently tried to ban them!)

Useful links

Anti-Academies Alliance
Stand Up For Education
Post-16 Educator
In Defence of Youth Work
Tutor Voices, the national network for further, adult, community and skills educators
Campaign for the Public University 
Council for the Defence of British Universities
Society for research into Higher Education
FE Research Association
British Educational Research Association

Betraying a generation [FC]

Betraying a generation: How education is failing young people by Patrick Ainley can be purchased here from the Policy Press website for £9.99.

Remember that Policy Press newsletter subscribers receive a 35% discount – if you’re not a member of our community why not sign up here today?

Patrick Ainley is Professor of Education at the University of Greenwich and Visiting Fellow at New College, Oxford. He has taught in schools, colleges and universities, writing on youth and education including From School to YTS (1988) and Lost Generation? (2010).

The views and opinions expressed on this blog site are solely those of the original blogpost authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the Policy Press and/or any/all contributors to this site.

#PanamaPapers: Beyond Naming Names

Media coverage of the Panama Papers, the leaked set of 11.5 million confidential documents that provide detailed information about offshore companies listed by the Panamanian corporate service provider Mossack Fonseca, has been widespread this week.

But in today’s guest blog post, author and academic Andrew Sayer warns against seeing tax havens as anomalies and asks us to look beyond the current focus on naming and shaming the users of Mossack Foneseca’s services… 

Andrew Sayer

Andrew Sayer

‘We have done nothing illegal’. If you’ve been following the stories of tax dodging that have come out of the Panama Papers, you will have seen this feeble response many times.

To explain why the elaborate schemes for avoiding tax are not illegal, just remember the golden rule: those with the gold make the rules.

And they make them to suit themselves.
‘When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men living in society, they create for themselves, in the course of time, a legal system that authorizes it and a moral code that glorifies it.’ (Frédérik Bastiat, liberal economist, 1850)

Tax havens are not are not anomalous islands in an ocean of normality. Continue reading ‘#PanamaPapers: Beyond Naming Names’

First Catch Your Publisher

Writing team Caroline Lodge, Eileen Carnell and Marianne Coleman have been musing on what advice they’d give to other writers about the publishing process.

In today’s guest blog post Eileen and Marianne tell us in their experience why you must never give up in your hunt for the perfect publisher, you should get a contract in place BEFORE you start writing and how important it is to nail the proposal writing part of the process….

This  blog was first published on Thursday 7th April on the Book Word blog

DSC01279.JPGOne of the most stressful parts of writing for publication is finding a publisher.

We have had good experiences such as being invited to write a book on a particular topic; and stressful ones, like having a first draft but no publisher.

I’m delighted to say that Policy Press took on The New Age of Ageing: how society needs to change, early in the writing process.

Because of the tricky process we had been through -­ as Eileen explains ­- we were careful to target a publisher who would be interested in the book. They will be publishing it in September. We are very pleased that they have just been named the Independent Academic and Professional Publisher of the Year 2016.

I asked my two co­writers, Eileen Carnell and Marianne Coleman, to say something about the process of finding a publisher.

Eileen begins with a ballad called The long and winding road* Continue reading ‘First Catch Your Publisher’

New clauses in grant agreements set to muzzle the voluntary sector

Academic Debra Morris specialises in charity law. Debra’s research has focused on many different aspects of charity law and regulation, and today she shares her insights into the evolving, and eroding, rights of charities to campaign and lobby politically.

For a much more detailed look at Debra’s arguments why not check out her article in the Voluntary Sector Review which is free to access until the end of April: Legal limits on political campaigning by charities: drawing the line

Debra Morris, University of Liverpool

Debra Morris, University of Liverpool

Charities play a much needed role in policy development and regulatory reform.

Yet, the ability of charities in England and Wales to participate in the political process, particularly around election times, has been significantly restrained in recent times.

In my recent policy review in the Voluntary Sector Review, as well as examining established charity law principles which prevent charities from having political purposes, I focus on recent election law and political developments which have further limited charities’ ability to participate in the political process.

Effective regulation

There is a need for effective regulation of those campaigning during the run up to general elections. Transparency about who third party campaigners are and what they are spending is desirable. Continue reading ‘New clauses in grant agreements set to muzzle the voluntary sector’

Free extract: How austerity has been biting the UK since 2010

In light of the media surprise at George Osborne’s 2016 botched Budget and Ian Duncan Smith’s sudden bout of conscience we thought we’d treat you to some tasty extracts from Mary O’Hara’s book Austerity Bites.

 Chronicling the true impact of austerity as it has been felt in the UK since its inception in 2010 and calling the government to account for the pain inflicted on society’s most vulnerable, Austerity Bites reveals that the wounds of austerity have been visible for quite some time…

Mary O'Hara

Mary O’Hara

In February 2015 Tory Party grandees believed it was acceptable to hold a Black and White Ball fundraiser with tables going for £15,000 a time and to have among the items being auctioned bound copies of George Osborne’s Budgets, including the first ‘Emergency Budget’ that ushered in austerity.

While the average British citizen has been living in ever-more precarious circumstances and paying through the nose for bankers’ malfeasance the rich can rest assured that they won’t have to pay their fair share. This is the situation almost five years into Austerity UK.

This Tory and the previous coalition government have presided over manifold cases of people so crushed by the brutish, punitive changes to the welfare system, including the inexplicable ‘Bedroom Tax’, and sanctions that many have gone without food, resorted to begging or taken up ‘survival shoplifting’ after their meagre benefits support has been withdrawn. People are suicidal.


The government has driven innumerable disabled people to despair with its spectacularly inappropriate and mismanaged ‘back-to-work’ programmes that are still plagued by criticisms of callousness and ineptitude. Continue reading ‘Free extract: How austerity has been biting the UK since 2010’

The University Press Redux: Balancing traditional university values with a culture of digital innovation

This week the first UK conference on the state and future of university presses has taken place, hosted at Liverpool University. Anthony Cond, Director of Liverpool University Press , shares his thoughts on the revival of the university press. This post was first published on the LSE Impact blog and the original can be viewed here.

Anthony Cond Liverpool University Press

Anthony Cond Liverpool University Press

As all good literary and film scholars will tell you the term ‘redux’ has multiple and subtly different meanings.

For some it connotes a new interpretation of an existing work, more literally the word means ‘brought back, restored.’

Both are accurate descriptions of what is happening to the university press in the UK: it is no accident that this week will see a conference called The University Press Redux.

The university press enjoys a peculiar position: a publishing island atop a sea of academia, its insecurities are a mirror to the budgetary, utility and reputational concerns of the subjects and institution it serves.

Touch point

Presses report to senior university managers, librarians or university or quasi-university committees; their editorial boards are drawn from faculty, yet more faculty are engaged as series editors, authors and reviewers, and more still in the inevitable exchange of ideas that happens when an academic department and a scholarly publisher active in its discipline are in close proximity.

Book and libraryThe university press is a touch point — above and beyond the author/purchaser/reader relationship with commercial publishers — between the academy’s hopes and fears and the realities of the scholarly communication system. Continue reading ‘The University Press Redux: Balancing traditional university values with a culture of digital innovation’

Budget 2016: But could we run the economy differently..?

In today’s Budget announcement the Chancellor declared that his budget would see the Government “act now so we don’t pay later”, though many, including Jeremy Corbyn, are arguing that the chancellor is using some of the most vulnerable people in society to balance his budget.

Author Stewart Lansley, whose book A sharing economy – How social wealth funds can reduce inequality and help balance the books publishes today, believes however that there is another, fairer, way to run the economy…

Stewart LansleyThe thrust of state economic and social policy is increasingly pro-rich and anti-poor.

The printing of money and low interest rates have increased the (unearned and mostly untaxed) wealth holdings of the affluent; the housing dice is being loaded further against tenants and in favour of owners; the net effect of the post-2010 tax and benefit changes has been to transfer income from the poorest quarter to the top 40 per cent.

The role of government has moved from playing Robin Hood to Robin Hood in Reverse, taking us towards a society ever more divided between extreme affluence and poverty.

Ministers justify these policies as necessary to rebuild the economy.

Deficit of demand

Yet while the post-2009 monetary boost prevented further meltdown, it has failed to tackle the central weakness of the economy – a gaping deficit of demand – and is keeping the economy alive by unsustainable asset bubbles. Low interest rates have failed to boost investment, private and public. Continue reading ‘Budget 2016: But could we run the economy differently..?’

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Twitter Updates


Helen Kara

Writing and research

Peter Beresford's Blog

Musings on a Mad World

Paul Cairney: Politics & Public Policy

Professor of Politics and Public Policy, University of Stirling

Path to the Possible

Democracy toward the Horizon


Governance: An international journal of policy, administration and institutions

Shot by both sides

The blog of Kerry McCarthy, Labour MP

Paul Collins's Running Blog

Running and London Marathon 2013 Training

Bristol Civic Leadership Project

A collaborative project on change in local governance

Stuck on Social Work

And what a great place to be

Points: The Blog of the Alcohol & Drugs History Society

short and insightful writing about a long and complex history

Urban policy and practice

Publishing with a purpose


Policy & Politics blog with a focus on place


Publishing with a purpose

Public Administration Review

Public Administration Review is a professional journal dedicated to advancing theory and practice in public administration.


European Politics and Policy

Urban Studies Journal

Publishing with a purpose


Official Blog of the Institute of Local Government Studies, University of Birmingham


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 6,940 other followers

%d bloggers like this: