Friday, 9 July 2010

Gallumping Gove

Guest blog by Jim Parrish who is a Kent Labour Party activist in the west of the county:

"The arrogant but accident-prone education secretary, Michael Gove, has had to own up to 25 errors on his documentation spelling out the details of how he would axe Labour’s Building Schools for the Future programme, which he announced just four days ago. Several schools have found to their horror that schemes they had been assured were safe are now for the chop. Tonbridge and Malling is largely untouched by the plans, although residents in Sevenoaks are concerned about the planned new Knole Academy. Paul Carter, KCC leader, says he is: “Surprised and disappointed”.

In addition, Gove’s mad-cap Free Schools scheme, which – if it ever sees the light of day – threatens to deprive local authorities of funds in order to appease middle-class zealots who the state system is not good enough for their offspring and want taxpayers’ cash for their often harebrained or sinister plans.

Now, Gove is moving with indecent haste to whip schools in Kent into opting for academy status this September. In barely eight weeks’ time – while schools are closed for the summer and without consultation, least of all asking parents what they think – some schools will be able to leave local authority control, choose their own curriculum and set their own entrance rules. What’s more, they will be beyond the reach of Freedom of Information requests and so able to disregard local opinion altogether.

This is by any standard government by diktat and Kent County Council should resist Gove’s proposals. If implemented, grammar schools designated as outstanding by Ofsted will drift further from the community they were set up to serve. Already grammars in West Kent are skewing the system against East Kent children by selecting pupils from outside the County, depriving our children of places they deserve.

Labour believes in a root and branch overhaul of secondary education in Kent to provide a fairer system for all. The Conservatives who run Kent County Council are gazing in horror at the prospect of losing control of a substantial number of schools they now control. “It’s too fast”, cries Cllr Sarah Hohler, cabinet member for education. Perhaps the Tories loyal supporters who go through fire to get their children into the existing grammar will take against it all anyway. After all, weren’t those academies designed for the oiks?

Secondary schools designated “outstanding” by OFSTED in West Kent who have made preliminary enquiries about becoming an academy include: Tonbridge Grammar School; Hayesbrook School and The Judd School. Others considering applying are: Bennett Memorial; Hillview School; Mascalls School; Tunbridge Wells Girls’ Grammar and Wrotham School. If they all leave local control, education in Kent will become a free-for-all where only the well-off take the best at public expense."


  1. With Kent BFS program decimated how many construction jobs will this affect? How will KCC fund the urgent repairs needed to some of the schools now not being replaced? Many of which have been left to decay with KCC knowing they would be replaced.
    If 60 of the 157 secondary schools in Kent and Medway beome academies then KCC will be very short of education funds and many jobs at KCC will need to go and dare I say it - pay of the KCC senior schools mangers left will need to be cut.
    KCC leader Paul Carter said he would be pushing the government to compensate the KCC and contractors who now risked significant losses. I can understand why he want KCC to be compensated but cant contractors look after their own affairs? I trust this is nothing to do with the fact that in his declared interest he is a director of various building companies.

  2. The BFS scheme did appear to waste vast sums of money and I'd like to think that there is more to education than some new buildings.

    The construction jobs will be missed, however that really has not been a concern for Labour as it has done its best replace British workers with easily exploited foreign workers.

    Labour did nothing to alter the core problem in Kent education namely the grammar system which leads to segregation of rich and poor.

  3. After only 2 months the Con - LibDems dept of Ed has already made a hash of it by trying to run before it can walk. You make think that Kent's systems favours the rich but the systems being pushed through by the Cons with the support of the LibDems will favour the rich in the whole country.
    The Centre for Economic Performance (CEP) has publish a report likely to trigger concerns about the government's intentions. The CEP looked at the 1,560 schools that have voiced interest in academy status and found less than 10% of their intake was drawn from the poorest pupils, compared with almost 30% in schools that became academies under Labour.

    Thats only one part of it. The establishment of "Free" schools for which funds are being made available is nothing more than setting up private schools by the back door. Its true that parents/teachers can apply to set up a free school but most of them will require the services of an admin outsourcing company.
    All of these new breed of school will be able to pay what they like and attract the best teachers.

    I cant imagine that Free schools will become the norm in the poorest parts of Thanet but the children will become second class pupils with the most affluent operating outside of KCC.

  4. Mark, I am proud to say that I am a product of the selective school system, my daughters lived through it, my parents were blessed with the system, and I hope the system continues for my grandchildren. The Grammer School system works, more attention needs to be paid to making the secondary schools,better, but, do not condem the grammer school system, it works, as all children are not blessed with the same abilities... therefore nurture those abilities in targeted scools. We are not all the same

  5. Ken
    The difference between us is that I am for the many, and you are for the few. Don't forgot to pull up the drawbridge on "Big Society!"

  6. The problem with selection has been the political spin placed upon it by somehow turning it into an extension of the class war. As a council estate kid I was delighted to have the opportunity to go to a grammar school as were many of my friends from similar non-wealthy backgrounds.

    What we really need is more selection into more specialised schools catering for a range of talents rather than just the academically gifted. Arts, sports, vocational academies to supplement the grammars would be the right way forward rather than some of the monstrous, uncontrollable, one-size-fits-all comprehensives that exist today.

    All the time it is a political football to be kicked back and forth with each change of government, children will be failed by the system.

  7. Pity the benefits of a selective system that Ken Gregory supports didn't extend to his spelling of 'grammar'.