Academies delusion

Education Secretary Gove

Teacher’s union, National Union of Teachers (NUT) leader Christine Blower has hit the nail on the head with her charge that the Tories and Liberal Democrats are hell-bent on privatising our education system.

There is no educational justification for heavy-handed government insistence on forcing schools out of local authority democratic accountability.

Problems certainly exist in our schools. How could it be otherwise when the coalition is squeezing the cash available to improve matters and has already axed Labour’s school rebuilding plans?

PM David Cameron has clearly given the green light to free-market ideologue Education Secretary Michael Gove to exploit the conservative parties’ parliamentary majority to carry through a massive transfer of schools from the public to the private sector.

This is a government-driven policy since there is no demand for it from local authorities, teachers and parents.

Cameron and his cronies are set on using the unique circumstance of having the collaboration of pliable Liberal Democrat partners to do a demolition job on the post-war improvements introduced by Labour governments.

As well as state education, the NHS and the welfare benefits system are both within their sights.

The Education Secretary Gove says consistently that there are no funds for schooling or for teachers’ salaries and pensions, but he has no trouble finding £10 million to invest in the cause of finding sponsors for his pet primary school academies.

The Prime Minister claims that “driving up standards” by transforming local authority schools into academies is part of his pledge to “spread privilege.”

No credence should be given to such garbage. The privilege enjoyed by pupils such as him and most of his Cabinet will not be extended.

The massive fees charged by the public schools and other private institutions will still keep most pupils out of these temples of privilege.

Academies, which receive higher funding than local authority schools, are intended to create a two-tier education system similar to what existed before the widespread introduction of comprehensive schools.

Right-wing politicians often invoke the great god of “choice” as justification for academies or the equally noxious free schools, as they previously did for grammar schools.

The vast majority of parents had no choice about their children’s secondary education.

If they failed the 11-plus exam and were therefore not selected for grammar schools, they were condemned to secondary modern education, which was of a much lower standard.

That is the divided educational system that public schoolboys Cameron and Gove wish to reintroduce.

At the top will be the educational elite of public schools, protected in their exclusivity by high fees, and below them will be academies, sustained by government finance but controlled by private businesses and answerable, apart from the Education Secretary, only to their private owners.

At the base will be cash-starved local authority schools facing a challenging future and able to offer little more than the most basic education.

Labour could stop this madcap dash to mass academification if it gave notice now that it would return all academies and free schools to local authority control once it regains office.

But that would mean clearing out the anti-comprehensive fanatics in its own nest, who still swear by the academies gimmick introduced by Tony Blair.

Labour would have to reaffirm its previous policy of commitment to the principle of coeducational comprehensive education, for which the party was a campaigning advocate.

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