About Us

About the people who founded this site, and their reasons for doing so

Fiona Millar, Francis Gilbert, Melissa Benn and Henry Stewart are the founders of Local Schools Network. We believe that:

  1. Every child has a right to go to an excellent local state school, enabling every child to achieve their full potential.
  2. Every state school should have a fair admissions procedure.
  3. Every local school should be responsive to their parents and pupils’ needs and wishes and be accountable to the local community.
  4. That local schools in difficulties should be supported to improve, not attacked and  demoralised.

We know that like us, millions of other parents, pupils, staff and members of the general public support their local school. They know it is a vehicle for high achievement and a force for collective good, often drawing disparate communities together through the common goal of educating their children. Yet too often local state schools get a bad press for no other reason than people are ignorant of their achievements and potential.

That is why we have decided to set up the Local Schools Network in order to promote local state schools in the UK. This website aims to correct the myths and lies that are spread about local state schools.

We aim to promote the cause of local state schools by celebrating their achievements, informing the public about key issues surrounding them, campaigning for further improvements and answering questions that people may have about them. This website is also a good way for groups, families and individuals around the country to keep in touch.

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Comments, replies and queries

  1. Interesting site you have, and a vital issue.

    In my view one of the problems currently is that the government has used the Swedish model to guide its free school policy, rather than the Danish one which does not allow for the state funding of new free schools by private, profit-making companies. Follow the money!

    Please add me to your e-mailing list. I have done a little writing and campaigning myself.

    Regards,

    Robert Powell

  2. Hi Robert

    you are wrong. 100%, black vs white, left vs right, north vs south, wrong.

    The Government has NOT allowed for the state funding of free schools by profit-making companies. I think they should have done so (we get profit-making companies to build infrastructure and provide IT services, why not schools); however, I recognise that they must move within the constraints of politics.

    Here is the Conservative policy on schools. You will note that profit doesn’t get a mention.

    http://www.conservatives.com/Policy/Where_we_stand/Schools.aspx

    Here is an article in Tribune, which actually speaks in favour of profit while noting that it’s not part of Government policy

    http://www.tribunemagazine.co.uk/2010/06/gove%e2%80%99s-free-schools-add-up-to-no-profit-for-education/

    • A conservative initiative that does not mention profit is like a catholic not mentioning the Pope. An update on the original post is that Gove has now said that Free Schools can be profit making. Schools primary objective should be enabling success for all students rather than profit for a few. It will be the students and the teachers who will deliver the results and the successes but it will be the shareholders and the directors who will reap the benefits- this sounds like hard core capitalism at work except that we now have schools instead of factories.

      • Callum says:

        Typically ideologically blind – would you take the same view if you were shown that profit-making schools could delivery a better education for their students, with better results and better-funded, better motivated and better paid teachers? Or would you still take issue? What about the profit motive in the provision of school buildings, teaching materials, IT, sports equipment – or is there some huge public body providing these?

        • Fortunately there is quite a bit of evidence to suggest that profit -making schools don’t do all these things routinely. Many fail in the countries where this experiment has been tried. Profit making schools are an ideologically driven experiment which pose huge risks to pupils. My post here goes into more detail about why that is.

          • The evidence which links market forces with educational outcomes is inconclusive. See “Do market forces in education increase achievement and efficiency?” in faqs above.

            In Chile, students are protesting against profit-making schools and demanding high quality, publicly funded education.

            http://latino.foxnews.com/latino/news/2012/06/28/chileans-students-protest-for-profit-schools/

            In this country, Cognita, the profit-making education provider set up by ex-Chief Inspector, Chris Woodhead, was accused of “milking” a school for profit at the expense of the education of its pupils.

            http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2011/apr/10/private-firm-profits-free-schools

            And in Upper Pradesh, India, a village-level survey reported by Oxfam found that “low-fee schools are unaffordable to the poorest …and that the growth of private provision has reinforced education inequalities linked to wealth, caste and gender. When asked, many of the parents paying for low-fee private school say that they would prefer the option of sending their children to a public school that offered decent education –“

            http://www.create-rpc.org/pdf_documents/PTA23.pdf

            And Kevin Watkins, senior visiting research fellow at the Brookings Institution, argues here that “when public education systems are broken [which it isn't in the UK] they need fixing, not bypassing or franchising out to the private sector. And if we care about equity, there is no credible alternative to a public system that offers opportunity for all rather than choice for some.”

            http://www.oxfamblogs.org/fp2p/?p=11064

        • David says:

          Building companies, publishers, computer companies etc have all been guilty of ripping off schools in the name of the profit motive. They are all primarily answerable to their shareholders not the children/students. If a school delivers a huge profit in a given year but the educational attainment of the students has declined is that success? For a profit making school it would. Why do we not extend this profit motive to the police force.
          What always interests me is the individuals who are involved in these enterprises – they always have a connection to the government personnel. Altruism is a swear word these days, its all profit, profit, profit and fattening my own wallet. My ideology may differ from yours but I stand by it and it is certainly not a myopic or blind.

      • that’s bad

    • Geoff Allibone says:

      Dear R,
      Why should every act in life have a monetary value, or be required to generate a profit. A lot of society’s institutions can not be given a financial definition. In fact it is a very superficial way of evaluating complex organisations and to try and apply it to all circumstances show a very poor understanding of reality.

  3. Dear Sir/Madam
    I am a concerned individual who is against both Free Schools and Steiner Schools. Please help me by circulating this very real e-mail below to people who will enter negative response. Tax payers money cannot be allowed to prop up this type of education. So, please, please, please help me.
    Regards
    hip2dagame

    Hi all,

    I would be very grateful if you could have a look at the free school section of our news letter and offer us your honest support.
    We have shown an impression of interest to the department of education to become a free school. With this in mind we have place a survey online which: http://waldorf-swlondon.us2.list-manage1.com/track/click?u=e29113dca9b29b58daa41f02b&id=6dafa66d00&e=2aefb2d090. We would be very grateful if you could complete this survey.

    Wishing you all well

    • David says:

      Its funny how these private companies do not invest their own money into these enterprises but rather they depend on public funds for their sustenance and profit which are gratefully received by shareholders. This brings a new meaning to state capitalism; taxes being used to subsidise and grow ‘public companies’. There is also a lack of transparency in how these companies are awarded these contracts.

  4. Rhys says:

    Only one part-time teacher amongst the lot of you? Very representative. And one of you makes money by training people – I assume he is also opposed to companies making money from teaching? I am intrigued though. What policies do you want to see other than more of the same. Please keep going. I love this website.

    • Graham Taylor says:

      What? Because only teachers have the answers about how schools should be run?

  5. Marianne Harman says:

    Great site but the issue isn’t just urban. We are in a school with a year group of eight which feeds our local school and yet my daughter will be the only child going there despite it achieving 71% a-c’s in 2010. Here in rural Devon it is seen as a badge of good parenting to ferry your child ridiculous distances. If you are a good, and of course affluent, parent who doesn’t have the worry of getting themselves to work you will spend up to two hours a day in the car even though there is a good and rapidly improving school on the doorstep. It is absolutely elitism and I constantly hear, “I don’t want x assocaiting with those children,” or ” I just wouldn’t have x go to the local school.” Those parents who have no choice for financial or plain practical reasons are very much seen as bad and uncaring parents and “not the right sort of people.” It is perceived as borderline neglect.My son can walk to school but this is seen as a negative as he will fall in with “the wrong sort of people.” Local schooling isn’t just about academia, it’s also about building a local community and trusting our teenagers to make sensible choices about friendships and become independent people. No chance of that if they’re ,never allowed out of the Chelsea tractor. While I vehemently champion going to your local school and making it the best it can be for everyone it is very difficult to stand your ground against this sort of peer pressure. I agree that people need to be informed of the great work going on locally (I would say that, I’m an ex MFL teacher) but a significant minority are not interested in evidence for good local schooling but in being seen to do “the right thing,” regardless of whether this is borne out in fact.

  6. bennett says:

    One of the issues thrown up by present education policies is the fact that they will fragment our education services – just as the health policies will fragment the NHS. The result of this fragmentation will be a situation in which we will be unable to keep track of exactly what is happening. There will be an anarchic market place in education and real comparisons and real information will become very difficult to obtain. How will we compare a ” free school” which does not have to follow the national curriculum with a state school which does. Why should there be a curriculum straitjacket on state schools when private and free schools and acadamies are free to do their own thing?

  7. Hello

    I am a student in the Netherlands (but originally from the UK) researching the free schools policy for my master thesis. I would be very interested in interviewing some of the commenters or founders of Local Schools Network and hearing your opinions on this issue. If you have a few minutes for me to call or Skype you, please send me an email at willstudy@outlook.com . If you could spare a few minutes to help me, I would be very grateful for your time.

  8. Alfred Michael Walsh says:

    Profit-making companies have always tried to make money out of any public provision, be it school buildings, school meals, hospitals or prisons. Essentially the problem is that they view everything as a commodity or a business tool. My main objection to profit-making companies in children’s education is that if things go pear shaped it will be the state sector that has to pick up the pieces. “Limited liability” means exactly what it says on the packet. Free schools, academies, grant-maintained schools and city technology colleges are all politically motivated experiments similar to the “trendy teaching” of the seventies. They are all aimed at providing good education for some rather than all children. There is no quick and easy solution but piecemeal efforts will only make it worse. Michael Gove needs to start with a genuinely altruistic education philosophy; I would recommend something along the lines of:
    “Education should prepare children for life after school, rather than just processing them through a bureaucracy”.

  9. The all round education offered by good private schools is the minimum quality of education humans should be provided with. I can’t see how the state can do this spending roughly a third of the money per pupil that private schools spend.

    It used to be thought the existence of private schools caused social divisions. It is now clear middle class supremacists will move heaven and earth to segregate themselves under any conditions.

    The lower someone’s aptitude, the more it costs to get them high exam results. Twyford CofE School is a massive school with one and a half thousand students that is state funded and gets high results. I am worried these results are being achieved by parents’ use of unethical motivational practises.

    People who fake religious fidelity to win at all costs probably have no qualms about forcing their children to work harder and longer than they should. Middle class fundamentalists encourage their children to regard people without degrees as worthless “chavs” and make it clear their children will be rejected and have parental love withdrawn if they do not get the grades the parents want.

    Good private schools charge the price they do because it costs that much to fully educate a child using ethical techniques. Children who would benefit most from a private education are being denied it because parents who can afford it are convincing themselves state education is as good as private education. The more money you think you are saving, the more ready you are to believe things that seem too good to be true. This insight has made Michael O’Leary one of the richest men in Ireland.

  10. SHOUVIK DATTA (MR) says:

    I think that for a school to be effective, it needs to have a good relationship with its whole local community. I taught English at a local state school in Incheon, South Korea. All the teachers there lived locally. So they shopped, went out, and socialized locally as well. Sometimes teachers would run into parents and children in the neighbourhood. This created a sense of being part of a larger society, and not just a teacher doing their job and separating themselves from their school lives afterwards.

  11. Arun says:

    A society where everyone had a degree would be great if the state funded everyone to take as long as they needed to pass and the ones who did it quicker did not think they were more important than everyone else.

    Qualifications are fetishised in South Korea. A lot of children do double shifts of schooling and South Korea has some of the highest child suicide rates in the world. Increasing competition for exam results encourages parents to work their children too hard for too long.

    In the UK, parents who believe people without degrees are worthless find two types of state schools attractive, the academically selective and the socially selective.

    The Grammar schools are fighting for survival in the war being waged against them by supporters of the alternative middle-class supremacist option, the socially selective Anglican Faith school, and research by supporters of Grammar schools has exposed the extent of social selection in Anglican Faith schools with the highest results.

    Rich and powerful people who could easily afford to pay school fees misuse Paul Mcartney’s argument for going state when they send their children to socially selective state schools. It is absurd to claim these are ‘ordinary’ schools. Greediness, blocking competition for Russell Group university places and the desire to protect their children from the sort of bullying the parents dish out to independently educated people are the more likely reasons.

    With almost half of our graduates not finding graduate jobs, even a degree from a Russell Group university is not enough to get you ‘in’. Oxbridge-educated meritocracy pushers need to realise that everyone else knows you have to have connections to get a good job nowadays. We need free training for non-graduate jobs as an alternative to university and we need well paid jobs for non-graduates.

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