Every child should, by right, have access to a good primary and secondary school, and these schools should be managed and funded locally.

Eric Leach's picture
In any society it's not asking too much that people can access, ideally within walking distance, a good school, good medical facilities and effective law and order services. In a country which is allegedly one of the top 10 richest countries in the world one should be able to expect consistently good infrastructure facilities everywhere.

As well as this, the provision and maintenance of these vital services must be within local democratic control.

Free Schools and Academies remove schools from the local community and from local democratic control. This is inappropriate. My local State Secondary school has been supported by the local community in so many ways for 81 years. It now wants to turn its back on this community investment and get its funding from central government and make up its own rules on admissions, teachers terms and conditions and goodness knows what else. When I was a Governor at this school it had an autocratic Head who ran the 'opting out' campaign in the 1980s against the wishes of the staff and the Governing Body. I worked with others to force him into leaving. An hey presto here is his successor 20 years later trying to 'opt out' yet again.

So what is needed is eternal vigilance on this issue.
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Melissa Benn's picture
Wed, 22/06/2011 - 20:29

I like that - eternal vigilance. Quite right. And protest, when appropriate.

Ben Taylor's picture
Wed, 22/06/2011 - 22:09

What about Mr Young's protest? Still no answer to that one as far as I can see. Don't forget he is a parent first before anything else. Please start to answer that before anything else.

Allan Beavis's picture
Wed, 22/06/2011 - 22:18


Ben Taylor's picture
Wed, 22/06/2011 - 22:29

Quote: "And protest, when appropriate." = WLFS and all applicants, that by applying to go there, also protest against their existing schools. By extension applies to all other free school applicants.

Sarah's picture
Wed, 22/06/2011 - 22:47

Did any of these applicants actually visit any of the other schools in their area, did they talk to the Heads and teachers, did they enquire about the school's ethos, approach to bullying, support for children with special needs - or did they look up its rating on a league table and listen to the local gossip about the sort of kids that go to those schools and then decide it couldn't possibly be appropriate for their children. Did they attempt to get involved in other local schools to drive up standards, did they raise any issues with the local authority, the school governors or the Secretary of State. Or did they simply sharpen their elbows and jump on a band-wagon? I don't call that a protest against existing schools at all.

Ben Taylor's picture
Wed, 22/06/2011 - 23:24

It's their right to choose. Your arguments are good challenges but it is the parents who choose, all else is secondary. They are private citizens they operate to a different set of rules to the state. It is their right.

Janet Downs's picture
Thu, 23/06/2011 - 09:00

So, Ben, "private citizens operate to a different set of rules to the state". As I've said before, there needs to be a balance between individuals, society (that's all of us) and the state. If the balance becomes skewed heavily towards one of these groups then problems can result. Too much emphasis on the individual leads to a "stuff you - I'm OK" attitude. Too much emphasis on society can lead to the greatest happiness for the greatest number but risks marginalising and discriminating against minorities. Too much emphasis on the state leads to dictatorship and a loss of civil liberties.

If parents have the ultimate say, then what would you do about the following:

1 A mother who wants her daughters to be taught only those skills which will be useful as their future role as wives and mothers.

2 Parents who want their children taught that they are superior to others because of their religion/ethnicity/class and that others, being inferior, can be discriminated against (even abused).

3 A father who denies the holocaust and want his children to be taught with other holocaust deniers.

4 A parent who wants his child denied access to a particular subject, or subjects, which the child wants to study.

Would the wishes of the parents trump all other considerations, including what is in the best interests of the child?

Sarah Dobbs's picture
Thu, 23/06/2011 - 05:15

Ben, do all parents have the same right to choose? If so, if the choice of one group inhibits and restricts the choices of another, who takes priority?

Ben Taylor's picture
Thu, 23/06/2011 - 15:39

Well if you want local schooling to predominate I think it is up to you to create a consensual model for doing that, rather than insisting on a coercive strategy.

All Janet's points are good, but our English law to some extent allows these things to happen now and has some means to limit then. I suggest that limiting school choice is ineffective and has no legal or ethical basis as I have posted before.

I still don't know what those of you at LSN propose to do about letting the poor have the same options as the rich when it comes to schools - unconsciously you are limiting and restricting the poor but not the better off and rich.

Allan Beavis's picture
Thu, 23/06/2011 - 17:02


You are so right Ben! Limiting school choice IS ineffective (as is narrowing the curriculum and focusing on hitting targets rather than teaching) but that is what the government is doing by enforcing Academization up and down the country and allowing them to teach a restricted curriculum. There may well be no legal right to do this, but there are some cases lodged against the government, so let's see what the courts decide.

Janet Downs's picture
Thu, 23/06/2011 - 15:58

I hope that English law does not allow the rights of the parents in my list to be paramount.

And as I've said before, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has said the jury's out on whether user choice has any effect on standards. In some countries it does, and in some (like Finland and New Zealand, both high-scoring in PISA tables) it doesn't.

I am committed to all children of all ability getting the best quality education they can. However, as we've seen from the examples of free schools already opening, the admissions criteria, or comments by the head, act as a barrier to low-ability and/or disadvantaged ones. I've posted these in full on another thread.

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