Nick Seaton of the Campaign for Real Education warns that Building Schools for Future money could come at the price of good schools being closed or submerged.
Coherent policies on education are vital if the Conservatives are to be sure of winning the next general election. They need to sharpen up and stop acting like disinterested bystanders.
Labour’s ‘progressive’ activities have been disastrous both for individual young people and the nation as a whole. Whilst Labour has been removing content from the subjects, dumbing-down exams, denying parents choice of schools and forcing top universities to accept sub-standards entries, Conservative responses have often been confusing – a mixture of sensible and impractical proposals laced with a dose of socialism.
Despite attempts by central government to control schools, most of the power still resides with local councillors who have direct knowledge of their areas. So why, for example, do they allow schools to introduce a ‘progressive’, integrated curriculum, where the content and structure of the subjects is lost? When Religious Education does not appear on a pupil’s timetable, how can any parent exercise their statutory right to withdraw their child, if they wish? Doesn’t the law matter any more?
Labour’s Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme is another case in point.
Refurbishing dilapidated school buildings is a popular move. But that is not BSF’s only objective. Its less obvious intention is to weaken or close good schools and use controlled admissions to force children from aspirant families into under-performing schools. This, presumably, is intended to remove competition and blur the distinction between schools. And, of course, level down, not up.
It’s not just grammar schools that are threatened. It’s good comprehensives too.
Stoke-on-Trent has 17 secondary schools including 1 high-performing
grammar and 5 failing schools (according to last year’s results). In
pursuit of egalitarian principles, Serco, the private company managing
local schools, agreed to close all 17 schools and re-open those it
wanted to keep. But closing the grammar school was obviously illegal,
so that part of the plan was halted – thanks to an expensive legal
opinion. But the threat to Stoke’s good comprehensives remains. Why?
In a confidential letter to Stoke’s headteachers, Serco emphasises
that to get BSF funding: "We were told very clearly that…17, 16 or
even 15 schools would not be acceptable…It is very clear that
Ministers and the Office of the Schools Commission expect the proposal
to include a significant number of Academies…Whilst
Foundation/Foundation Trust arrangements are welcome in addition to
Academies, they would not be acceptable instead of Academies."
The result will be huge, impersonal schools, reduced choice and an
inability to distinguish between effective and ineffective schools. If
your child was involved in such a programme, would you be happy about
the disruption and destabalisation of teachers as well as pupils?
Stoke is not Conservative controlled. But authorities such as Kent and
Lincolnshire, which is run by another private-sector organisation,
CfBT, are. The strategy there is very similar. The result will be
fewer grammar school places and fewer grammar schools. Bewitched by the
lure of BSF funding, unthinking Conservative councillors have been
drawn into the Labour fold – they now promote socialist policies!
Bright children who should take A-levels in individual sciences or
foreign languages will be compelled to take psychology or media
studies. What remains of the league tables may look more respectable.
But only at huge cost to individual achievement. Employers and
university dons want properly qualified applicants, not the ‘contextual
value-added’ score of their schools.
Capten, art tha sleepin’ there below?