Michael Gove needs to spend less time attacking teachers and more time getting on with what he's supposed to be doing as Education Secretary - like providing enough school places for our children!
The 'London Working Group', bringing together the six NUT National Executive members for the capital, met this lunchtime to discuss the scale of the pupil places crisis across London.
As the campaign website, http://www.theschoolplacescrisis.com/ makes clear, London is heading for a full scale crisis in education provision unless urgent action is taken. The campaign warns that by 2016 some London boroughs could see a shortfall in places of up to 40%.
Gove is pretending that this shortfall can be somehow met by the 'market' - through the setting-up of privatised Free Schools. He hopes that Free Schools can provide education 'on the cheap' as they will be allowed to open in empty offices and other inappropriate provision.
Putting aside the real objections that many Londoners would rightly have at relying on private providers to provide inappropriately-housed school places, 'Free Schools' simply aren't a viable solution given the scale of the crisis in London.
London Councils estimate that they require an additional £1.04 billion if they are to provide the places needed by 2015/6. However, even if they had the money, Government legislation means that Local Authorities aren't even allowed to open new community schools to meet their local needs. Instead of looking to a chaotic and inefficient free-for-all of private providers, the Government has to restore the right of Local Authorities to plan and provide new schools - and provide the investment needed so that they can do so.
Many councils have, for good reasons, so far avoided going down the 'academy' and 'free school' route by expanding existing community schools. However, many boroughs are reaching the limits of what is possible with play space being taken up with temporary classrooms and mega-primary schools of six or seven forms of entry becoming so 'impersonal' that education starts to suffer.
There is a danger that, rather than struggling to win the battle over the right to build their own community schools, Councils will accept the 'Free School' model or try to find other unacceptable alternatives - such as increasing class sizes so as to cram more children into overcrowded classrooms or 'split-shifts' of different cohorts using the same building.
We can't let Gove and the Coalition - or local councillors - fail children and education in this way. The London Working Group discussed ways in which we can build the campaign, including local public meetings and lobbies.
Leaflets explaining our strike action in London on October 17 will also make sure that parents get the message that Gove isn't just failing teachers, he's failing children and parents too.
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