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."