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Correspondence:  New Labours answer to “failing” schools is policy making as insult

3 April 2007

Dear SD,

Schools described as “cruising” by the government will face a crackdown. New powers granted to councils are detailed in a letter sent to every town hall in England by the schools minister Jim Knight. 

A junior minister Andrew Adonis said, “It is no good waiting for the patient to end up on the critical list when you can prescribe preventative medicine early on…local authorities have a responsibility to act quickly.” 

In an article in the Independent newspaper last Tuesday education correspondent Richard Garner quotes a supposedly miraculous example of his own. “The schools could take a leaf out of the book of Highview School in Derby which had the third worst exam results in the country with only 7% of pupils achieving five A to C grade passes at GCSE. It linked up with the high performing Lees Brook school and reopened as Da Vinci College. Now the GCSE pass rate has tripled with 22% of pupils getting five A to C grade passes at GCSE”.

Injecting a little sense into this hysterical debate union leaders have criticised Ofsted for saying that schools described as “satisfactory” are not performing well enough. 

In response New Labour ministers argue that by leaning on schools before a crisis emerges many schools will be prevented from failing.

This new spin underlines some stupidities about today’s current low level of debate about such subjects. The government knows that looking as if they are acting tough is likely to impress voters. They are really only concerned with statistics and not the distant pupils in actual classrooms. The government, as usual in these matters, spouts the techniques of middle management training courses. They treat schools as production lines and we should expect the figures eventually to come out showing improvement. Where is any real concern for the quality of children’s education in all this? The government does not care. 

The Independent correspondent goes along with the government’s line that merely treating education in a business conscious super efficient way will obtain results and here we see the way in which the media is drawn into a government advert for what appears to be a shinily efficient solution. How insulting that they speak as if it has never been tried before. That putting pressure our necks is a great new idea. 

The socialist view, that education is a tool for the development and emancipation of the working class, is totally absent from New Labours thoughts. That view will be even more absent in our local talking shop, overseeing a system based on full-blooded selection and sectarian division.

Graham Stock



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