Sunday 8 March 2015

Free Schools – Show us the evidence!

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David Cameron’s announcement of yet more free schools is an illustration of the complete bankruptcy of neo-liberal austerity politics – or what, in education, we call the ‘GERM’ – the Global Education Reform Movement.
The central belief of GERM is that choice and competition will drive up standards. The trouble is that there is no evidence it has done so or will do so. Indeed the experience of Sweden suggests the market has the opposite effect of that intended. Results, except for a minority of children, seem to get worse.
Not surprisingly the free schools policy has already failed to deliver school improvements. Some free schools have done well. But others have failed spectacularly. But the crucial question is how – in a time of cuts and austerity – can government justify spending money so randomly?
Free schools may or may not work. Some free schools may or may not open in areas of need. The allocation of resources is entirely random as it is based on the wishes of a small number of parents or businesses.  If education was awash with money and there was not a serious school places crisis (https://www.teachers.org.uk/node/19734)  then perhaps this could be justified.
But Cameron’s policy privileges ideology over children’s need. Most parents want a good local school. They are not interested in markets, choice, corporate branding and phoney neo-liberal ideology. They want a good local school.
Commenting on David Cameron’s announcement Alasdair Smith, National Secretary of the Anti Academies Alliance said:
“David Cameron should remember why he sacked Michael Gove. His policies were deeply unpopular even in Tory heartlands.  Those who continue to bang the drum for the profit motive in education, for privatisation and deregulation are letting down our children. Families deserve better. In a world of great insecurity, ensuring good schools would provide some comfort to hard pressed families. David Cameron says he cares, but his free school policy shows he doesn’t”.
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