There are many similarities between the changes that are taking place within the UK’s education and housing sectors right now. We explain all in our latest joint blog.
Joint Blog by David Guy and Stephen Breakwell
While the Government may have dropped its plans to force all state schools in England to become academies last year, it’s still determined to see academies being rolled out across the UK.
In the meantime, on-going budget pressures and subsequent widespread cuts, have seen the funding and support that enables schools to provide special needs and supportive learning, being totally slashed across the country.
This lack of funding is a major blow in itself, but even more so given the fact that Ofsted are currently focusing on schools’ provision of special needs and supportive learning.
And it’s having major repercussions.
Large numbers of schools that were previously rated ‘excellent’ or ‘good’ are now suddenly finding themselves being placed in special measures by Ofsted. And one of the main reasons is because their special needs and supportive learning measures are no longer deemed as being of the right standard.
As unfortunate as this situation might be, it hardly comes as a surprise, given the fact the valuable funding that enabled schools to deliver the right level of special needs and supportive learning is no longer available.
Call us cynical, but it’s a vicious circle, made even more vicious by the fact that special measure schools are being left with little choice, but to go down the academy path – the Government’s preferred future route for schools in England.
The same can be said for housing too.
The Government is keen to increase council housing at a time when local authority funding continues to be cut year-on-year, leaving many councils already struggling to make their rapidly-depleting budgets work.
In the same vein, social housing providers are continuing to receive smaller social housing grants, as a result of there being tougher rules and more of a push towards focusing on councils and contractors.
And this all comes at a time when the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) is cracking down on governance, as well as the viability of housing associations, particularly in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire. It’s a challenging time for housing associations right now, more than ever before, with many, just like schools, seeing their ratings being significantly downgraded. Ineffective risk management and complex board and committee structures are just some of the areas housing associations are being marked down on by the HCA.
A wolf in sheep’s clothing
We can’t help but think that this HCA ‘downgrading’ is the Government’s way of trying to put a stop to housing associations diversifying and going down the commercial route in order to reinvest in social housing provision. And it’s effectively hiding behind the HCA’s actions in order to make it happen.
Rather than being able to focus on becoming more commercial and safeguarding their futures by experimenting with different routes, many housing associations are engaged in length regulatory inspections in which they constantly have to explain themselves.
They’re also being forced to change their structures and how they work as part of these inspections. And at the same time, more-and-more risk adverse board members and ‘preferred’ advisers are entering the sector at a time when radical change is needed more than ever before.
Something drastically needs to change in both sectors. Not, the Government’s vision for change, which will see more schools being gradually turned into academies and housing associations being forced to continue to depend on and be dictated to by the Government, the question is, how and when is it going to happen?
Image credit: The Telegraph and Disney