Sunday, 10 October 2010

Whose Schools Are They Anyway?

I think that, when the idea of school governing bodies was born, for them to be "critical friends", the idea was that the school management couldn't just do what it wanted, go off on one [as they say], without a wise, but partial body of people keeping them in check. Very noble.

Well, this is an idea that seems to have had its time. Governing bodies have become the weak links; they hold so much power; they know so little; they are so little accountable; they don't get to carry out any of the ideas that they discuss; and so many of them, necessarily, are local politicians.

In Leeds, when you look at the Intake School into Leeds West Academy, the school and its community: parents and teachers were vociferous in their opposition to its becoming an academy, but the chair of governors was a local Labour councillor. Say no more.

When Ofsted told South Leeds the last thing they needed now was to become an academy, the wise words of the educational establishment fell on deaf ears, and the governing body didn't see past the pound signs that said, "We will wipe the debt". Two hundred parents and and members of the community implored the men in suits not to go there at the "consultation" meeting, but this set of big brothers and sisters apparently knew better.

To their credit the governors at both Parklands and Primrose publicly opposed their schools becoming academies. It was private company Education Leeds that put the knife in on these two occasions.

Then the Labour government falls; academy, the punishment for failure, now becomes academy the reward for success. Can't see what the educational philosophy behind all this is. And now here we have the governors of Garforth Senior and Garforth Junior deciding to opt out. The teachers don't want it and whatever else they might be, they are experts in education who spent 4 years of their lives, racking up debts while studying how to become teachers; the parents don't know if they want it - no-one's debated the issues with them.

So a small group of not very democratically-elected people get to make a massive decision about their school's position and role within the local community. And when their little ones have all grown up and left . . .

What if the local community later decides that selfishness maybe wasn't the best route for a better society for their families. for all families. Should fifteen people have this power to make these changes, and whose schools are they anyway?

Come to the Metrople in Leeds this Friday evening for a proper debate.

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