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Markwallace Mark Wallace, Senior Account Manager at Portland Communications and author of the Crash Bang Wallace blog, says the Diocese of Southwark should give way to parents

A localist Britain must be one where the maximum range of public sector activities are controlled by voters through direct election – or referendum if possible.

It's absolutely right that the coalition are driving forward direct election of police authorities and looking to increase the number of elected mayors.

But why stop there?

Surely if it is right to elect the people overseeing the police, then the same should go for those overseeing education and health?

Academies and free schools are a welcome step in the demolition of the centralised state. Never again should a distant official in Whitehall have more control over a child's learning tan his or her own parents.


But the removal of central control should be matched by a move towards local democratic (as well as market) power.

By giving freedom to academy heads, they have been freed from central diktat, but they have all too often turned into miniature versions of Whitehall apparatchiks themselves.

Take, for example, the case of teacher Katharine Birbalsingh. She was brave and principled enough to speak about the grim realities of failure in the education system. Her reward was to be sacked by her New Labour headmistress.

If the parents at her school were in charge through a representative board of governors – rather than the craven Diocese of Southwark – things would have been very different.

A teacher who speaks out when she sees children being let down is a villain in the eyes of the turgid educational establishment, but a hero to parents (and anyone with an ounce of common sense).

The same goes for NHS Trusts – they shouldn't have to bow and scrape to te Department of Health, but the alternative should be local democracy, nor unaccountable autonomy.

Freeing local services from centralisation is a great and worthy act, but the other half of the bargain is submitting to the will of the people.

27 comments for: Birbalsingh case shows more parent power in academies needed

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