SATS week

It’s SATS week for our eldest daughter. She’s been working hard, doing past papers, mock exams and revision. She’s 11. It’s put quite a bit of stress on her and on the rest of us. For what? So the school can maintain its position in the league tables. I can’t blame the school, especially now they’ve gone to academy status, and reputation is all important. And it does give her some experience of exam pressure and the skills needed to revise effectively.

As vice chair of governors at the first school where our youngest daughter attends, I was lucky enough to attend a small conference last week discussing federation. This is where a number of schools come together (in a federation) and while retaining individual school sites and character, everything else is shared. These federations inevitably become multi school academies. It will be interesting to see which way our first school will be going.

Apparently the Department for Education wants over half of all schools to be academies by the election. You can imagine what this will mean for the education role of Local Authorities, ie there won’t be much of one, apart from competing to provide services to schools. The clear intention is to introduce changes which are effectively irreversible.

I can’t help drawing a comparison with the future of Natural England, Environment Agency and the Forestry Commission – and of course Defra.

We are already seeing plans for even more radical reform of the civil service (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/radical-plans-to-make-top-mandarins-chief-executives-8612465.html) ; merging or closer working of NE and EA (from the triennial review), further deregulation via the Red Tape Challenge; and the little trumpeted  Queens Speech announcement to place a “growth duty” on NE, EA and others.

The Review of Competencies of European Legislation such as the Natura Directives, the EIA Directive and the Water Framework Directive, combined with further pressure to fundamentally renegotiate our relationship with the EU, could also see the emasculation of those European laws that underpin much of our most effective protection mechanisms for the environment.

As with education, it seems to me that changes are being put in place now in  environmental policy and legislation that will be as difficult or near to impossible to reverse as possible.

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About Miles King

UK conservation professional, writing about nature, politics, life. All views are my own and I don't write on behalf of anybody else.
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