Education, Education, Ed... errr...

Labour do appear to have forgotten that slogan.

I have to admit, I really like the new Education policy that the Lib Dem education people announced yesterday. For the uninitiated, in essence it promises to cut KS1 class sizes to 15ish, pump a vast amount of money into the school system, the creation of an independent standards authority, cutting the National Curriculum from 600 pages to 20 (hooray!) and give more powers to academies...

Oh bugger. It was going so well too. Let me discuss the major problem with the Academy system in this country. It doesn't work - in fact, it doesn't work at all. Academies are not something that spring up and make a failing school better - academies are there for the exploitation of by clever schools to secure more freedom and funding. They do not promote local business or specialist training, or all those other lovely things that we've heard they'll do over the course of the next few years. It takes a few months to sort out a school transferring from normal to Academy status - precious little of that is spent on the stuff academies are supposed to promote. In short, they're fake schools.

The Academy scheme ultimately ends up as the following. The school children have to buy a new uniform due to the school's name change. The headmaster and the teachers will get a slight pay rise, and precisely nothing will change in the school. In fact, I would go so far as for things to get worse at the school. The teachers rarely want the school to change for the fourth time in ten years. The pupils know that this is just a cheap attempt to get more funding. The parents are frustrated at having to get used to the new name and all the other hassles that are associated with Academy status, and still, despite all these problems, the school will decide to lower their science GCSE down to Single Award to try and save lesson time for useless Vocational Courses and Critical Thinking/General Studies; this will get them more GCSEs to put on the league tables (entirely true story, nearly happened to me).

The thing I really like about these proposals is the pledge to crank the funding of those children on Free School Meals (like I was) up to the same funding that the average private school attendant (like Clegg was) gets. In fact, out of all the areas of the country, including quagmires like Manchester and Liverpool, Lancashire would get the third highest payout (£53m), which itself is beaten by Kent (£55m) and utterly dwarfed by Birmingham (£112m). These are the sort of schemes that I like - a cold, hard cash injection to really hammer regeneration into a local area. I can see clouds, though. How will the money get through to the school as opposed to the council/LEA? How will it not be wasted by a school, or properly allocated to the schools that actually need it?

I like Cold Hard Cash policy. I like the fact that it is solely us, the Lib Dems, who are concentrating on Education even in a recession. One just hopes that the policy is not squandered, is paid attention to, and is rewarded by the public.

2 comments:

Liberal Neil said...

Huw,

You are right about the good stuff but you have misinterpreted the stuff about Acadamies.

We would scrap Acadamies as they currently exist, return strategic control of local schools to local authorities and give all schools many of the freedoms that Acadamies currently enjoy.

There is the proposal for Sponsor Managed Schools but there would be the key difference that these would be within the remit of local authorities, not outside it.

ayld said...

Same with faith schools, really. It's a way for the government to promote hypocrisy, selection, an immobile "school class" system, and the continued social stratification of society, all in a hands-off way, and best of all get someone else to pay for it. I spoke to some (old) Labour and Lib Dem councillors in Coventry about a month ago about academies - united in the way as you pointed out that standards will not rise - and the benefit they see is a long-term one, that after the sponsor and the babble of nonsense and the political hype have disappeared, the school will still have gotten investment and infrastructure that the government would simply not have given them otherwise.
I still feel nervous about having "Sponsor Managed Schools" on our education paper - the public will see through it as continuing to support academies. Why should we permit the notion that a sponsor with a large amount of cash can influence the running of a public body?