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Conservative ‘free schools’ policy comes under attack

funding between different types of schools is fair and equitable, and I’m totally confident that this would be the case with a Conservative government.” However, senior members of the

by Chris Parr

The Conservative Party’s “free schools” policy, that would allow groups of parents and teachers to set up their own schools, came under fire this week after a Tory council leader allegedly criticised the plan. Paul Carter, leader of Kent

County Council, is reported to have said that funding parents to start their own schools would threaten the budgets of other local schools. In an article on the BBC web-

site, it is claimed Mr Carter said the Conservative policy could mean local authority schools getting less money and education services suf- fering. Mr Carter later issued a state-

ment, saying: “I am 100 per cent behind (Tory education spokesman) Michael Gove’s education plans, which will introduce more com- petition, give parents more choice and help drive up standards across the country. The BBC is trying to create a division between us that doesn’t exist. “An issue I have been discuss- ing with Michael is ensuring that

Labour Party seized on the original report, claiming Mr Carter had con- firmed that the Tory plans would lead to “deep and immediate cuts to schools that children are already attending”. Ed Balls, Labour education

spokesman, said: “Not only do parents face the threat of school buildings being cancelled and teachers being cut, now the Tory leader of Kent has confirmed that their school policy would mean even further cuts to existing schools.” Christine Blower, general sec-

retary of the National Union of Teachers, said the introduction of free schools investment would “cre- ate chaos at local level”. She added: “It will privilege the

few at the expense of the many. Waste will be created by the unnec- essary and expensive addition of unwanted school places, just to suit the Conservative Party’s ideologi- cal commitment to the introduction of a chaotic marketplace.” The free schools row deepened

further as SecEd went to press on Tuesday (April 27) after a group of 31 state school headteachers and governors published a letter in the

Free for all? The Tory’s plans to give parents the power to set up their own state schools have proved controversial

Daily Telegraph supporting the Tories’ policy. It read: “The Conservative Party

tells us that it believes that to ensure a high quality education for all pupils, headteachers need to have control over how they run their

school. As headteachers and gov- ernors with years of experience, we know that real freedom combined with rigorous accountability is vital to raise standards.” The letter said that all 31 schools would “be likely to apply” for the

Green Party and UKIP outline plans for future of education

The United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) and the Green Party have unveiled their 2010 General Election manifestos. UKIP, which has two MEPs,

more than 100 local councillors and two members of the House of Lords, is calling for the creation of more grammar schools, the intro- duction of a more vocational 11- plus test, and vouchers for parents to allow them to choose between state or private schools. The party also wants to fran-

chise schools to private organisa- tions, and would re-examine the inclusion policy, as it supports spe- cial schools for children with learn- ing disabilities.

The manifesto says: “We

believe that state education simply isn’t working, with falling standards, watered-down exams, undermining of merit, shortages of skills, and devaluation of graduate qualifications.” Chris Keates, general secretary

of the NASUWT, said the party’s claims were completely at odds with all the evidence. She added: “The manifesto is an

affront to the hard work and dedica- tion of teachers and pupils in Britain’s state school system, which is one of the highest performing education systems in the developed world.” Meanwhile, the Green Party has also launched its manifesto.

On education, the party wants

to see less paperwork and fewer layers of bureaucracy for teachers, and an end to all SATs. It also wants businesses to play a smaller role in education, and is critical of the academies programme. Elsewhere, the party pledges to

invest £500 million in 15,000 new teachers, in a bid to reduce class sizes, and advocates the creation of smaller schools, saying larger ones can be “alienating”. The manifesto states: “Education

should be at the heart of com- munities, and should promote social and emotional wellbeing, equality, inclusion and responsibil- ity. Schools need more freedom to

frame the curriculum around the needs and interests of the young people in the school.” Ms Keates said: “The commit-

ment to preventing businesses and other bodies running state-funded schools will strike a chord with the general public. A recent Ipsos MORI public opinion survey found that 96 per cent of the electorate were opposed to organisations other than national and local government running schools.” However, she added: “The Green

Party’s proposal to open more small schools would starve many pupils of an enhanced curriculum offer that is often possible only where there are greater economies of scale.”

Students share views on election

Students at an Essex school were visited by a local journalist, who was keen to hear what they had to say about the hot topics of the General Election. The nine youngsters, from

Ormiston Park Academy in Aveley, spoke to local newspaper reporter Michael Casey, tackling a range of topics – including how they planned to make their parents vote for their own preferred political party. All three of the major play-

ers were mentioned by the pupils, although they were split on whether the party leader or the party’s poli- cies were the most important factor when deciding how to vote. Issues debated included the gap between rich and poor, the environment, trust in politicians, and elderly care.


Meanwhile, a series of films

offering a potted history of the UK’s political processes, designed to inspire youngsters to take an interest in the general election, has been made available free online. The Right to Vote series, pro-

duced by History – formerly known as The History Channel – takes viewers through a number of gen- eral elections, showing how the process worked in the 19th century, and how it work today. The series is aimed at 11 to 14-

year-olds, and also covers issues including the fight for women to vote, and the role of charters, debates and manifestos in general elections. For more information, visit

“academy-style freedoms” prom- ised by the Conservatives. However, Chris Keates, general

secretary of the NASUWT, dis- missed the claims. She told SecEd: “There are approximately 23,000 schools. Thirty hardly represents a

ground swell of opinion. What hap- pened to the other 22,970? Most of the handful of schools on the list belong to a small, unrepresentative lobby group of grammar and vol- untary aided schools which already have significant autonomy.”

Union leader brands BNP manifesto ‘a charter for extremism’

Teaching unions have hit out at the British National Party (BNP) after leader Nick Griffin unveiled its 2010 election manifesto last week. Chris Keates, general secre-

tary of the NASUWT, said the party’s policies – which include preventing the promotion of racial integration, equality and diversity – would leave any right-minded person feeling “disturbed, reviled and horrified”. Under the heading “Education

for a British Future”, the party’s school policies include: • Bringing back “traditional syllabi and teaching methods to replace the current and obviously failed systems currently being used”.

• Bringing back streaming and grammar schools.

• Offering free university education to “deserving students who have completed their period of community service”. Ms Keates said: “The BNP’s

manifesto is a charter for extrem- ism and should be rejected. Its commitment to racial apartheid knows no bounds. The BNP’s objective to prevent the promotion of racial integration, equality and diversity in schools and the wider society, together with their policy for forced repatriation, would be a recipe for discrimination, exclu- sion, bigotry and injustice. “At this General Election, the

country should vote for hope, not hate, and take a stand against BNP racism.” Meanwhile, a poll of members

of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) in Barking and Dagenham, where Mr Griffin is standing for election, found that more than 90 per cent would not want to work for a BNP-led council, with three quarters saying they would consider leaving the borough and finding work elsewhere if he was elected. Christine Blower, general sec-

Horrified: Chris Keates, NASUWT general secretary

retary, said: “The growth of far- right organisations in recent years is of grave concern to the NUT, particularly when this means they could have influence on schools, and the lives of our members and the pupils they teach. That is why we are using our political fund to campaign vigorously against the BNP during the election period.”

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