Wednesday, November 02, 2005

After the White Paper what education deluge? 

The Education White Paper debate meanders on … and the more I look at it the more I ask whether the Whitehall people actually know how Education works in England. More thoughts later but first some questions arising from a Local Uproar concerning a MK Independent School.

Basically Bury Lawn School in MK operated for years with a particular ethos – a non-selective independent with an emphasis on caring for pupils as individuals. If we are to have schools responding to parents specific desires, not necessarily to be Oxbridge Entry factories, this school was a Poster Child.

Then it got bought up by one of the big Education Combines and some uproar ensued. Just sticking to publicly known facts, many parents are upset by the imposition of a totally new ethos. As for the staff, getting through five head-teachers in a year is going it even by football club manager standards. Many teachers left and also many students left last year. It also appears that continuing parents got the impression (note my very careful wording) that if they publicly criticised the school they would have to withdraw their children.

The BBC and The Times had reports from the height of the crisis back in May 2005.

For the Parents Action viewpoint see their website. At the moment parents and concerned outsiders are all awaiting the special Independent Schools Inspectorate report which was due in September…no explenation for the delay as yet.

So how does this relate to the White Paper debate? Well, I am wondering what happens in post-white-paper the future when all schools bask in The Blair Elysian Fields of being ‘Independent Schools’. If this had been an ex-state school in this situation would the Local Authority have some regulatory rights to intervene? How about ‘The Ministry’ way down south in Whitehall? Would crucial information be covered by ‘commercial confidentiality’ considerations, preventing public debate of matters of key interest to the wider public? (as we all know can happen with PPP agreements)? What exactly would the planned ‘Parents Councils’ be able to do in such situations? How does it help local and parental control to have schools bought up by foreign-based companies (the one in question is based in Dubai) that can change the whole ethos and balance of a school following company policies?

A bottom-line point is that concerned parents over many years built up an educational community which contrasted to most Local Authority provision and also contrasted to most Private Sector provision and they feel they have been royally screwed up by private sector organisations. And of course find themselves beyond the protection of local and national public services.

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