Consortia not Free Schools or Academies


Bringing Schools Together Again

by Pam

Education systems cease to become comprehensive in their nature when they 
become obsessed with attainment of a few, and become very narrow minded
 when they measure academic achievements only.

A teacher’s job used to be to educate a child. A skilled teacher would assess a 
child’s ability, and design activities which were inspirational and enjoyable, and 
tailored to the child.

Such is the route to life long learning. Somehow, somewhere that has all changed.

New Labour had the best intentions in wanting to improve life prospects for working class children; I can see that. But taking the initiative away from skilled 
teachers, and measuring those skills by their pupils’ performance in league tables, resulted in schools failing children and demoralised teachers.

The mass exodus of LEA secondary schools to become Academies and Free
 Schools will increase competition such that the schools will be forced
 to “cherry pick” their intake. More and more schools are being lured to take this option by promises of salary hikes for the top managers, while the majority of teachers oppose it. Signs are already that next year primary schools will be making the same move towards Academy status. Academy schools are independent. Their priority is to themselves, not to the community they serve, or to the population as a whole. They exist in competition with their neighbourhood schools and so co-operation between schools, which is already poor in many cases, will not be in the interests in schools unless they are forced to work together. So why separate them?

It is about privatisation of education, and about providing opportunities for private companies to make profits. Free schools are not free at all; this is the biggest con and misnomer I ever heard. The freedom refers to individual companies to be free to profit from children’s education behind even what was happening under New Labour. The coalition have used their research into some Scandinavian education systems as referred to in their white paper. But they have failed to mention the pitfalls.

If League Tables are a measure of of success of schools, then this evidence as reported in in the Guardian “Cribsheet” would seem to indicate that the Coalition are misguided.

Recently the Spectator made the case for schools being able to make a profit, and referred to Sweden as a shining example. When the magazine held a readers’ poll on the subject, 71 per cent favoured the idea of schools being run by profit-seeking companies. If you polled Swedish parents and education experts, however, you’d get a more mixed result. As a matter of fact, a recent poll carried out by Synovate found that over 50 per cent of Swedes want to ban companies from operating schools for profit.

As Friday’s Cribsheet pointed out, Sweden has seen a massive drop in international league tables on student results, including literacy. Read more about the findings of a recent report on Swedish free schools by business-funded thinktank SNS, that has caused a heated debate in Swedish media, in this Observer dispatch article.

What of the children who are turned away? What of the children nobody wants?
 As ever under the Tories, vulnerable children will suffer. It becomes a case of
 moulding the children to fit the school rather than tailoring the curriculum
to suit the child. It’s topsy-turvy. It’s not about teaching any more. It’s about 
production of statistics, which keep the Daily Mail happy. It’s just plain wrong.

Labour’s education policy needs to ensure schools work together in consortia, 
schools co-operating so that skills and expertise are shared rather than schools 
becoming insular and competitive.

Children’s needs are the focus – not the schools’.

  • Labour should reverse the policy of separation of schools, of segregation
 of children and restructure education consortia based on geographical 
  •  Labour must not allow schools and children to be a source of profit for companies: – this, together within profiteering in the NHS  leaves a nasty smell which people find unacceptable. It is immoral. 
  • Within the consortia, there should be some schools which are smaller,
 nurturing schools to assist reinclusion for those with EBSR *
  •   There will be support systems in place for ME/CFS** sufferers and their families with input from health service specialists.
  • Young mothers will be offered crèche facilities or child care vouchers,
 while continuing with their studies in mainstream schools and colleges wherever possible. Support will be put in place for them to continue in
 their schools wherever possible, while pregnant. 
  •   Vocational links with local colleges will continue, as it allows diversification of the curriculum.
  •   Links with local employers will be maintained, and an expansion of work experience and training from 15 or 16 with view to guaranteed employment at the completion of the work-based training, so motivating learning as it is closely and clearly linked to future life chances. 
  •  Primary schools should continue to focus on the basic skills, and on the process and experience of learning and play. Positive early experiences lead to confident individuals who want to continue learning rather than disillusioned young people with no hope, and little prospects.
  •  More specialist subjects may be better left for the secondary schools, ensuring children have the basic skills and are enjoying learning.
  • Clearly there are skills which all children should be learning, but there should be flexibility allowing professional teachers to apply their expertise which should be directed at the children’s needs and learning styles. 
  •   Gifted and talented children also have special individual needs, and there should be an enrichment of the curriculum to maintain their interest in learning, and a thirst for knowledge. It should not be a euphemism for pushing children to achieve a string of GCSEs just to satisfy league tables. There should also be caution that over emphasis on achieving strings
 GCSEs or A Levels beyond what is usual may have a detrimental effect on mental health.

 Education in schools should be all about the child. Our topsy-turvy education 
systems try to mould children to fit into a system whether or not it is suitable. 
It should be the school’s system which needs to be adaptable, flexible, diverse
 and original. What is needed is a variety of educational provision, but all working together for the good of children and communities.

Our children are not commodities being churned out of our conveyor belt
 schools. They’re our future with lots to give to the world. Let’s help them do that.

Every one of them matters.

Please refer to:

* Emotionally Based School Refusal

**   Myalgic encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Somebody Help ME

Special Needs Education

What Price Failure

Free Schools?

Academies – A teacher’s view

What’s wrong with Academies

Academies – a student’s view

Guardian “Cribsheet”  on Free Schools

How the Tories intend to regain support from women voters.


The previous post indicated that the support of women voters is shifting away from the Conservatives and the Lib Dems  It, therefore, seems appropriate to present a copy of a leaked document from Number 10 assessing this ‘problem’.

The document itself reveals their problems which are thoroughly analysed by Tanya Gold in the Guardian  But frankly, the document speaks for itself in demonstrating the misogyny of this government.  My favourite amongst many is ‘Make far more effort to recognise and celebrate women in business ‘ … that’s sure to be a poll changer in the midst of the economic meltdown.  And what do they mean when they say “…there are a range of policies we have pursued as a Government which are seen as having hit women, or their interests, disproportionately…”  The majority of their list of policies cannot be described as ‘seen as‘ because they do in fact hit women disproportionately.


The problem





We know from a range of polls that women are significantly more negative

about the Government than men. We don’t at present have a finer-grained

analysis than this, though there is some suggestion that fear for the next

generation is a major factor for many women. In addition, the group of

Cabinet Office and No 10 women we assembled felt strongly that the

general tone and messages of government communications, particularly

around deficit reduction were an issue – with women, especially in the

public sector feeling targeted; a general sense that families who had been

struggling to get by even in the ‘good times’ resented being told to tighten

their belts; and even a view that the Governmer1t’s choice of leaders on the

economy gave the implication was that ‘now there’s a realjob to be done

sorting out the mess, it can only be done by men.” (Clearly all of these needs

a heavy caveat that it is anecdotal; and that of course Women’s views differ

as much as men’s, so generalisation can be unhelpful – but nevertheless, we

found the insights useful.)

In addition, we are clear that there are a range of policies we have pursued

as a Government which are seen as having hit women, or their interests,

disproportionately, including:

1 Public sector pay and pensions (particularly as contrasted with –

mostly male – bankers, in the popular narrative)

0 Tuition fees

Abolition of Child Trust Funds

Changes to child tax credit and the childcare element

0 Changes to child benefit

0 Rising cost of living

0 Lone patent obligations

Income support

Several of these potentially play into fears for the next generation; and it is

also worth noting that many of these issues have been visible and prominent.

By contrast, we were able to list many areas where what we have done has

been very positive – but many of these had received far less profile and

attention. These include:

0 Extension of flexible working

Parental leave




0 2-year old nursery places

0 Health visitors

A wide range of impressive international activity – where international

partners often praise the UK’s record – but which we do not discuss

domestically very much (and even intemationally, we do not always

leverage it as we could)

0 Free schools and academies (and the notion of choice in education seen

as positive by many even if not all)

5. There are also areas where we have made bold statements or promises but

haven’t delivered enough including, for example, our overarching claim

that we would be ‘the most family friendly Government ever’; specific

undertakings to increase the representation of women on Boards; and areas

like Green Deal (which links to concern about the future).


6. We generated a long list of ideas, including:

7. Give Universal Credit to women as the default – this is probably largely

symbolic, as the current plans assmne households would decide who applies

– but sends a good signal.

8. Front-load child benefit to better reflect the profile of costs (although

teenagers are expensive, the average family spends far more on young

children, because of childcare and lost earnings in the early years)

9. Work towards a proper ban on advertising to children – using examples

from other countries who have done this effectively

10. Force the pace on choice in maternity with personal budgets for maternity

services; possibly linked to parenting education vouchers, of which we

should make much

ll. Develop a strategy – including possibly cross-party work – to ensure we

have women candidates for mayoral posts, PCCs, and LEPs. Consider

going further and setting up a review on barriers to women entering political

life – looking not just as culture, but at structural barriers like uncertainty

and lack of maternity provision.

12. Consider radically different options on equal pay – for instance,

encouraging a third party to set up a pay-sharing website (you enter some







details and your own pay, and in return can see information about others’)

which gets around industry concerns about the costs of reporting on pay, but

still gives good, transparent information

Make far more effort to recognise and celebrate women in business and

-industry. As a starting point- hold a No 10 summit for Women

entrepreneurs/women in business (we haven’t had one yet); revisit Tech

City and Engineering Prize plans and ensure good female representation;

develop a wider Women and the Olympics plan, including a strand of the

‘Great Britain’ work. We should also challenge hard on what the actual

proposals are to increase the representation of women on Boards; and in the

longer-term should ask BIS to work with the CBI and others to look at

cultural barriers to women’s success in blue-chip firms. We should also

challenge Cabinet Office colleagues to be more aggressive in tackling

women’s underrepresentation in the SCS, and in particular in areas like our

overseas posts – where change could help improve policy and visibility as

well as send a signal.

Look at where transparency and better information can help for

instance, giving as big a profile as possible to our transparency work around

pupils’ (and teachers’) performance in schools; but also being clearer about

the returns from different qualifications (including where qualifications hav

negative returns); and reviewing our policy and communications around

Famiiy Information Services (every council has one – they started as

information-providers about childcare, but now stretch wider. The good

ones are excellent but the quality is very patchy and more fundamentally,

most people don’t know they exist.)


If we are feeling brave open the debate about the school year, and in

particular a move away from the long summer holiday, which is very

difficult for working families (and evidence suggests is bad for pupil

progress too). This is tricky in the context of more school autonomy – but

we could try some exhortation.

Focus on delivering a good package on carers and long-term care and

identify this as, to a great extent, a vvomen’s issue. Women are

disproportionately likely both to be carers in general, and to be part of the

‘sandwich generationi

l7.Reconsider our decision not to criminalise forced marriage. This is tricky

territory and there would be issues about reporting if we went for





criminalisation – but we should review this because the signal sent by opting

not to criminalise is a bad one.

Ask for targeted Home Office work on women, crime and conlidence –

and consider focusing some of our anti-social behaviour work and

messaging more effectively on women’s concerns (and on helping women

take action in communities).

Communications and messaging


This links to the urgent need to up our game on communications about what

we are doing. We propose that (possibly informed by more detailed polling)

we assemble a first-rate team from across Government press offices and

cornmunications teams, and ask them to develop as radical and effective a

communications strategy as possible, working quickly and intensively (say,

over a ten-day period). The strategy should use the new policies above as a

‘hook’, but also do much more to get credit for the good things we have

done already. We don’t want to pre-judge this process – but as a starting-

point, we think We could seek to build our work around a small number of

key themes – for example:

We have good news for the next generation – we need to change our

messaging about deficit reduction, for example, and talk less about sorting

out a mess, and more about building a better economy for the future. Our

proposals on education, parenting, parental leave, and carers should be set in

this context.

We recognise what women do already – particularly those who are

struggling to make ends meet. We should look critically at our

communications plans around public sector workers with this in mind; and

should fit proposals on front-loaded child benefit, universal credit, and

advertising aimed at children into this narrative.

Women are key to British growth and success – we will break down

barriers that stop women _realising their potential, and ours as a nation.

Parental leave, flexible working, a big push on women in business, and a

focus on more visible women leaders all fit here.