Sunday, 12 July 2009

Trusts won't help working-class communities

Denis Mongon, a consultant who, in his words, I have already 'locked horns with' in the debates over Trust schools in Lewisham, proved a controversial speaker at the second day of the NUT's National Education Conference.

Billed as a discussion on working-class underachievement, Denis failed to provide the analysis that could have got to the heart of the issue by looking at the many factors that impact on working-class children such as poor housing, lack of access to books/internet at home, lack of job prospects etc. Instead, he semmed to focus solely on the need for strong 'school leadership'. While being one factor, the top-down leadership model presented can prove extremely divisive to staff and students alike.

However, it was when Denis was asked to explain his support for Trusts that delegates most strongly objected to his responses. He made clear that he believed that Local Authorities should have a 'commissioning' role - i.e the Blairite model of services being put out to other providers to run - including schools. He questioned whether the state school system had worked after schools were 'nationalised' (an interesting term to choose!) and thought that the NUT should support Trusts on a case-by-case basis - such as the Goldsmiths Trust he was supporting in Lewisham.

Denis can be a persuasive speaker but his arguments angered teachers at the Conference. Breaking-up Local Authorities with Trusts and Academies won't help working-class communities. Rather, in a polarised system, it will be those that are most at the margins - by class and ethnicity, who will lose out the most.


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