Case study: Critical Commentary

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I have been asked to write a critical commentary on the documentary we have created. In my critical commentary I am going to write about; how my group arrived at the topic, how we identified the topic to be a political issue, the sources we used and the political relevance finally the ways in which we used political ideas to support our documentary.

How you arrived at your topic

The options we had chosen were tuition fees, prison education and academy schools. The topic we have chosen is academy schools. We chose this topic because we thought it will be different to study and very interesting to find out why academy schools were established and do academies raise standards for children also how this has an impact on the curriculum.

Our first aim was to search for information which sought out books on this issue, however our search was unsuccessful but we had journal articles. After that we decided to search for information on the internet I searched for websites and emailed academy schools which have changed from a state school into an academy school whom are head teachers of that school and we didn't receive any replies. A group member tried to approach a number of people in an attempt to get further information unfortunately was just passed from one person to another. Halfway through the project we were contacted from anti academy alliance we arranged our first video interview.

The way in which you identified it as a political issue

We identified this topic to be a political issue for the following reasons in the past; education was taught in state schools run by local education authority's it still is but now the Government have introduced academy schools to raise standards for failing schools and disadvantaged areas. Education Guardian (2007) states 'Former Prime Minister, Tony Blair, established academies in 2000 to drive up standards by replacing failing schools in struggling education authorities'. This is because the Government want children who live in disadvantaged areas to succeed in life. Dfes (Department for Education and skills) academies site state that 'We are committed to giving every young person the skills, knowledge and confidence to develop to their full potential and contribute fully to society'. Academies will help students to do well and have the same education chances as the other children whom are wealthier.

Training people for jobs after post 16 by taking diplomas is good because the students can learn about the world of work, but some pupils may prefer to take the traditional A-level route. Times online (2009) principle of Bulwell Academy states that 'Each pupil will have dedicated "business community" time, where they will spend time with representatives from different companies who can offer them genuine insight into the world of work and offer careers advice and guidance'. The BBC (2008) state that 'Diplomas, both vocational and academic, are a centrepiece of the government's plans, but they have been dogged by questions about their credibility with students and employers. This is good for the sponsors of the academy schools because the students can be future employers for the company and they can learn the traits of the company whom sponsor the school.

The Government set up Academy schools to raise standards for failing schools with the help of private companies for example BT, Microsoft, universities and EACT- Edutrust Academies Charitable Trust. Academies Evaluation Fifth Annual Report state that 'Academies are all-ability state schools, established where there is evidence of underperformance in existing education, or where there is a clear demand for new school places'. Schools no longer have to pay £2million sponsorship to run an academy school. Guardian 2009 state that 'Balls said the removal of the £2m entry fee for new sponsors to run academies would prompt further expansion of the scheme'. This is because they want more universities to be sponsors of academy schools instead of businesses. Nasuwt state that 'remove of the £2m sponsorship requirement and encouragement of links with HE rather than business'.

The sources you utilised and political relevance

We used numerous sources to get our information. The source in our video documentary was the opinions of the general public on academy schools. Overall we found out that many people did have a view on academy schools some positive and some negative views. We as a group took different tasks such as emailing people who have written articles on academy schools, online journals, and newspapers.

The first was an Anti Academy Alliance campaigner who was against academy schools. Then we got in touch with another expert on academy schools whom was head of an academy school which just opened. Further sources we used were pictures of children working in academy schools in the media. We used videos to demonstrate what the general public know about academies and student views on academies.

To cover the political aspect we have referenced a report commissioned by the House of Commons in 2007. This report outlined details for academy schools. The House of Commons Report (2007) states that 'An academy is a publicly funded school that is supported by one or more sponsors and operates independently of the local authority. The Department intends that academies should raise achievement in deprived areas by replacing poorly performing schools or by providing new school places where they are needed. The first three academies opened in 2002 and, by September 2007, 83 academies were open and providing secondary education'. But now they have achieved the 200 academy schools target the Government want to make extra 200 academies. Dfes state that ' The Government is committed to establishing 400 academies and regards the scaling up of the programme as a national imperative, supported by the growing body of evidence that Academies are working'.

There is not only building of new academy schools for the unprivileged children and raising standards that has to be considered when looking at academies but also all new academies need to follow the National Curriculum to study English, maths, science and ICT also academies have a area of expertise in one or more subjects. Dfes state that 'Since the summer of 2007, all newly signed Academy funding agreements require Academies to follow the National Curriculum programmes of study in the core subjects of English, maths, science and ICT. They will retain flexibility beyond this, for example, to address the needs of particularly low achieving pupils'. This will be good because the children will build their confidence for those children whom not achieving well to help them to fulfil their full potential at school and to do well in later life and get the best of all opportunities they get to succeed.

One of the points House common report (2007) says that 'Literacy and numeracy of academy pupils has been rising but are still low, at less than half the level of attainment in all secondary schools. In 2006, 22% of pupils in academies achieved five or more A*-C grades including English and maths compared with 45% in all schools. The Department should ask those academies that have made the most progress in English and maths to help identify and disseminate good practices such as building literacy and numeracy into other subjects in the curriculum, and demonstrating the importance of literacy and numeracy for future employment prospects'. Using these statistics it can be seen that attainment in academy schools are raising very quickly and that academy are working and raising standards.

Funding of academy schools is paid by the companies who take over the school and they no longer need to pay a fee of £2 million to become academy due to the government wanting more higher education intuitions to sponsor schools. The government pays some of the fees of building the school. The guardian (2007) state that 'the government contributes typically about £25m. The private organisation runs the school outside of the local education authority's (LEA) funding control, but still operates it within all the national requirements for curriculum and standards'. The only question is would academies work to raise standards because some academies haven't been open for that long to investigate whether they do or not. House common (2007) state that 'It is too early to be certain whether the Academies programme will achieve its long term aims. There are signs of progress; for example, the GCSE performance of academies has increased faster than that of other schools, and there have been improvements at Key Stage 3 (age 14)'.

The way in which you used political ideas to support your documentary

I used political ideas to support my documentary by using newspaper articles, statistics and government reports. I conveyed in some of the political ideas I have talked about in the vox pop, with members of the public regarding academy schools and what they think of academy schools and if they raise standards. I also discussed this with my experts in the field to gain their viewpoint on these matters.


In conclusion this documentary has been a test, drawing together the group dynamics in addition to getting information and resources, lastly getting it all together. The most complicated area was putting together the political aspect. On the other hand I established a keen interest in the idea of academy schools helping disadvantaged children and optimistically helping those children to get better grades and raise standards. Further more in the future a lot more academy schools will be introduced because the failing schools will be changed into academies. Education, Fewer inspections, more academies October 2009 state 'schools that have been in special measures for over a year would have their leadership replaced and reopened as academies by September 2011, if the Conservatives came to power.