Saturday, 30 July 2011

Coldharbour Councillor Matt Parr spoke at Wednesday's Council Meeting on the Government's Education Bill:

"There are a couple of bills going through Parliament at the moment.
There is the Localism Bill which seeks to “stop and reverse the long established trend towards ever greater central control of the public sphere.”
And then there is the Education Bill. It seeks to give the Education Secretary (Michael Gove) around 50 new powers. For example he can:
seize land to set up new schools
revise local authority budgets
close schools on a whim
make up his own definition of what early education means
he can tell teachers how they should teach
he can tell local communities what kind of schools they must have
and he can tell children what subjects they should study (personally I rather enjoyed learning Latin but that was in the 1960s (very late) and time may just have moved on.)

So it seems that THIS is the CENTRALISM bill!

It's Local Authorities that are democratically accountable to their communities. Schools aren't, and single issue or special interest groups certainly aren't.

It's Local Government that can balance between competing needs, not simply listen to the loudest.

If the bill is passed, Free Schools can be approved with no requirement for groups setting them up to consult widely with the local population.
And of course there will be lots more Academies.
I didn't support all aspects of the Labour Government's Academies policy, but Labour's academies were focused on truly challenging inner-city areas where they would make the most difference to standards.
80% of our academies were in the most deprived half of the country, just 40% of Gove's are.

But a key risk of Gove's policy is admissions anarchy.

Local admissions forums will be abolished.
There will be no statutory requirement for academies to comply with the Admissions Code.
And the Code itself is being watered down.
It's good that academies' admissions policies are being brought under the Chief Schools' Adjudicator.
But the Adjudicator's powers are sadly being weakened anyway. Which is probably why he has resigned.

All this will increase selection and will be socially divisive.

Cllr Pete Robbins, Cabinet Member for Children and Young People, has said that we will work within the new system and that is clearly right.

But we should look at proposals for academies or free schools and judge whether each school plans to operate in the wider interests of all children in the area, not just those that attend the school."

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