The Guardian: Concerned About Teachers’ Employment, Not About Children’s Education…

Francis Gilbert on the Free Schools policy:

The free schools policy is the most ideological of all the coalition’s policies. Trumpeted in the Conservative manifesto, it was one of Michael Gove’s first projects as education secretary. His vision was that thousands of schools set up by parents, private companies and faith groups would spring up in direct opposition to their state-run counterparts – as they did when a similar policy was pursued in Sweden in the 1990s. Free schools, Gove believed, would turn the state sector into a free market with schools competing for pupils in the way shops compete for customers.

Well, it’s only been two years since then. Surely there can’t be a verdict so soon?

Oh, wait. This is the ‘Guardian’:

Over two years later, the reality is very different from Gove’s vision. His aim was that free schools would educate 200,000 pupils but my estimate indicates they will educate no more than 20,000 pupils by 2015 – and this is a generous estimate because most free schools are very small. Clearly, the policy can never hope to meet the demand for hundreds of thousands of new places created by the recent baby boom.

So, no threat to the state sector after all. Nothing to worry about then, surely?

Oh, wait. This is the ‘Guardian’:

The policy is not only unworkable but also very wasteful – and in these times of austerity, too.

Well, given the enormous amount we see going on Indian aid, I think we can justify it. So if that is the only issue, then…

Oh, wait. This is the ‘Guardian’:

But it’s not just the huge waste of resources that should concern us.

No, of course not. You’re very keen on huge waste when it comes to other things, after all.

So…what’s the real gripe?

Worse, perhaps, is the fact that free schools will not raise standards overall – indeed, they are likely to damage the prospects of the country’s poorest pupils.

Oh, really? How so?

Ahhhh, of course! It’s the ‘inequality’ argument:

… existing free schools admit fewer poor children than the national average, with figures showing that only 9.4% of their pupils are on free school meals – a key indicator of poverty – compared with a national average of 16.7%. In my borough, Tower Hamlets, the free school – Canary Wharf College – has only 2% of pupils on free school meals when the borough average is 48%.

Perhaps that’s the real attraction for the parents? Not having to mix with the underclass?

While the efforts of those individuals who set up free schools may be commendable, the overall effect on society is to deepen social segregation. Research shows that long-running free school policies in the US and Sweden have fuelled social segregation in both countries.

Oh, dear! Does that mean we will shortly see social-left Sweden denigrated in CiF along with the US?

The policy is fostering religious segregation as well. The British Humanist Association has identified 39 proposals for faith or pseudoscientific schools, out of a total of 102 hoping to open in 2013 – including three schools supported by creationists. There are fears that some of these schools will not give children a broad and balanced curriculum. The creationist schools are the most obvious example, but other schools, such as the Steiner Academy in Frome, are also likely to pursue their own agendas such as discouraging parents from getting their children routinely vaccinated.

Since OFSTED will evaluate these schools along with the state ones, and to the same standard, why the concern?

And why should vaccination be a worry? I thought, a moment ago, it was the poor dear kiddiewinks’ education that was the prime driver?

The free schools policy is a wasteful, ill-conceived and ideologically driven disaster. The taxpayer and, more importantly, our children deserve better.

‘Our children’? But a minute ago you were scoffing at the tiny numbers of children this would affect?

Which is it – a terrible blot on our social landscape or a tiny, unrepresentative minority?

Or is it the terrible fear that the ‘prizes for all’ sausage-machine might be shown up for what it really is? Unpopular with parents who’d opt out given half the chance? And the teaching unions don’t like it.

And that’s the real problem for you.

2 comments for “The Guardian: Concerned About Teachers’ Employment, Not About Children’s Education…

  1. SteveW
    September 15, 2012 at 12:38 pm

    Odd how Labour didn’t make so much fuss when the Emmanuel Schools Foundation were setting up the Kings Academy in Middlesbrough (2003, Trinity Academy nr Doncaster (2005)or the Bede Academy in Blyth (2009). All funded by evangelical creationist Peter Vardy (who is, unfortunately nothing to do with On The Buses, despite the customary Wearside quips about his father, Reg).

    I imagine, however, the Guardian probably did have a moan about it, as it seems to be what the do best (or most?).

  2. September 16, 2012 at 5:32 am

    Well of course The Guardian will come up with this – teachers must be one of the few groups of people left who read the rag

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