Saturday 10 November 2012

London Councils must oppose Mayor's Free School plans!


London NUT Executive members met last week to discuss the dangers facing education in the capital from the Mayor’s “Going for Gold” recommendations into the future of London schools. They would mark another move towards the break- up of Local Authorities and the expansion of privately-run ‘free schools’.

It’s certainly clear that London desperately needs more school places. It's estimated that over 90,000 new places are needed by 2015/16. But what we need are properly funded and staffed schools, accountable to elected local authorities, not ‘free schools’ crammed into any available space and building.

Johnson wants to lead on setting up “a new generation of free schools” through a “New Schools for London” agency. His support for free schools isn’t restricted to meeting the demand for more pupil places. He also trots out the Tory mantra that “free schools can help drive up standards and stimulate new thinking”. How does that drive for ‘standards’ sit with Gove’s decision to remove the requirement for free schools and Academies to employ qualified teachers ?!

Regrettably, instead of clearly rejecting the Mayor’s plans and campaigning for properly-funded democratically accountable schooling, the ‘London Councils’ body has responded that it will help in “identifying and promoting innovative practice in using space for learning” and will help by "offering advice and support to broker relationships with new Academies and Free School applicants” and by “mapping empty buildings that have the potential to be transformed into schools”.

In short, it seems Council leaders just want to share in the work of overseeing the privatisation of London’s education and the cramming of our youngsters into unsuitable accommodation - instead of demanding the resources needed to build and open the quality schools that London’s children need and deserve.

If the main political parties lack the political will to fight these plans, than a huge responsibility falls on the NUT, as by far the biggest teaching Union in the capital, to campaign against them.

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