Monday, 31 May 2010

The Wishes of the parents, One Law for the Rich, and the False Economy

This Saturday, I emailed Any Answers, offering them the benefit of my wisdom and experience. Fortunately they chose an eloquent phoner-inner. The caller was one Raymond Douglas from Northampton. He could have been describing South Leeds, Intake, or City of Leeds, or Primrose, or Parklands [add High Schhool to them all].

His story was sickening familiar. His school was threatened with closure/becoming an academy not for the first time. Overwhelmingly, parents voted against academisation; new headteacher doing well [does this sound famililar?]. These parents had no illusions about the local authority but like being part of what it had to offer.

And here one might observe the concept of one law for the rich, one law for the poor. These parents' wishes were ignored. Central governent was half-bribing/half-threatening the local education authority. "if you don't go for the academy, we won't give the money for the new building." And indeed, who could argue with that? Well, someone or some council with principles, integrity; somebody brave, or somebody now who has seen the future - the Better Schools for the Future [BSF], and found it wanting. Or as the Institute of Architects called it last year, "an opportunity missed".

By contrast, a few rich, powerful, "pushy" parents can set up their own school. And what have they got that the average parent doesn't have? Money, which seems to translate into power, and enough time on their hands to set up a school.

The academy movement was led by three men [Anthony Adonis, Tony Blair, Ed Balls], one of whom wasn't even elected, and none of whom have any background in education. But these three people were in a third-term government world. I think that they believed that whatever they thought was how it should be. Anything they thought up. Anything they wrote on the back of an envelope. [Tony Blair has no so few ideas about education that he just said the word three times]. It was absolutely power, and it was absolutely corrupting. You can imagine them saying, "These parents don't know what's good for them".

Let's consider the idea the parents' schools will have more money at their disposal. The money goes straight to the school, by-passes the local auhtority; by-passing the music service, the educational psychology service; the travellers' service; Gypsy-Roma service; translation services; equal opportunties; health and safety; mental health; there's less access to national iniatives, eg CPD [Continuing Professional Development], theatre in education. . .

When you want to buy them in, as one new local academy recently discovered, they now cost more. So this particular educational establishment is now contemplating which five of its eight peripatetic music teachers' hours of teaching it would be best to drop. Or, pay the new full price. After all, the academy receives more money. Ladies and Gentlemen, we have arrived at the false economy. Not only does the new establishment miss out on vital local council services; these services, with all their wealth of talent and experience are themselves put at risk

All over this country, it would appear, we have schools which aren't broken, and succession of politicians determined to mend them.

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