NUT RESPONSE TO THE PROPOSED PHOENIX FREE SCHOOL, OLDHAM
There is a proposal to open a free school based at the soon to be vacated Breeze Hill School in Oldham. The school would be run by ex military personnel and teaching staff would be ex troops.
Oldham National Union of Teachers has expressed opposition to the proposal claiming that it would make guinea pigs out of Oldham children for the sake of an ideological experiment.
Tony Harrison, secretary of Oldham National Union of Teachers said
“The sponsors of the proposed free school claim that most of our current schools are failing pupils. This is nonsense. The reality is that 70% of our schools are rated by OFSTED as good or outstanding. Most of the rest are satisfactory. Therefore, where is the discipline crisis? There has to be a balanced approach to discipline and trained teachers are best placed to deliver this. We do not want to turn our schools into youth detention centres.
Phoenix claims that it has based its proposals on strong research evidence from the Troops to Teachers schemes in the United States. However, the research that they quote relies on the perceptions of certain individuals. More reliable research shows that students of traditionally trained teachers outperform students of teachers without teacher training qualifications. The American scheme is different to the one proposed in Oldham. At least in the USA the ex troops take classes alongside qualified and trained teachers. As far as we are aware there is no other school internationally where all full time staff will be ex service personnel. Why should the children of Oldham to be the first worldwide to be subject to an experiment which has no educationally proven track record? We would urge the citizens of Oldham to consider whether they really want their children to be guinea pigs. Children only get one shot at education. It would be a risky gamble on the part of parents to send their kids to this school.
The curriculum which the school intends to use is much narrower than that on offer in state schools. They claim that they will educate to grammar school standards but in reality they will offer more limited subjects than comprehensive schools. They say that they will refuse to teach geography as a distinct subject because they consider this to be environmental propaganda. This perhaps goes some way to explaining their political motive for opening the school.
If the school ever opens there will be no requirement for teaching staff to have any teaching qualifications. It is intended to begin with three “teachers” who will have a degree and three “instructors” who will have neither a degree nor a teaching qualification. They reluctantly accept that legally there has to be one qualified teacher because by law the SENCO must be qualified. As for the rest of the teachers they seem to be proud of the fact that they will not will not be teacher trained because they dimiss teacher training as liberal nonsense. They reject all of the wealth of knowledge and skills developed in teacher training colleges over decades. They reduce teaching to using “common sense”. I do not believe that the parents of Oldham’s children will want their child to be taught by an untrained person with untested skills in the classroom.
The plan is to open the school on the site previously used by Breeze Hill School. This rubs salt into the wound because the new school will be privately run but will not have to pay for the building. The people who will pick up the bill are the taxpayers who are already hit hard by the recession.”