The private takeover of schools like this is well under way: 7,000 have gone

This is a story about democracy in Britain, how badly it is broken and how it might be fixed. It is about people battling arrogant bureaucrats and highly paid company executives. Yet it is a world away from television debates, trade negotiations or legal small print. It concerns instead something far more fundamental: the schools our children attend. And it begins 30 miles from Westminster, in an Essex market town on Monday night this week.

While outside is drizzle and dark, inside Waltham Abbey town hall are almost 200 people worried about the future of a primary school. This meeting has been pulled together on a shoestring by parents living in a part of Essex where politics is usually about working out which candidate is wearing the blue rosette. Only tonight this hall looks like the setting for a suburban mutiny.

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