We don’t just need local schools that are supported by their commumity, we also need these to be managed by local authorities who can provide that vital wider vision which ensures that education is there for the benefit of the whole community.

Alison Smith's picture
My children are now aged 19, 16 & 13 and over the years we have worked hard to stick to our commitment to them attending local schools and to offering those schools our support through good times as well as through the less good.

It hasn't always been easy and sometimes compromises have been necessary, but our eldest son - about to start his second year at Oxford, achieved his 8 A* GCSE's at a pretty tough inner city comprehensive in Bradford, around the corner from where we lived. A majority of fellow parents were amazed that we even looked at the school, never mind considered sending our son there and the school was in special measures during his first year.

But in fact the school did both him and themselves proud and he has expressed to us subsequently how pleased him is that he attended that particular school and how appreciative he is of the breath of experience he gained there.

We now live in the neighbouring authority of Kirklees in West Yorkshire where parents are fighting for the right to set up their own free school in Birkenshaw.

This, though, does not seem to link to a belief that education should be run for the benefit of all children in an area.

The motivation to open the school sprang from parental anger when "their" school site was not chosen by the local authority as the site for a new secondary school in the area. Instead, after local consultation and a careful review, the local authority decided to choose an alternative site, which was rightly deemed to be a more appropriate site for the building and which would, even though it was a mere two miles away, create a school that was more racially, culturally and socially mixed and be less likely to detrimentally affect the catchment area of neighbouring schools.

The Birkenshaw parents group, though, rejected the plan outright. They wanted "their school" for "their children", they had links to the Conservative party and months before the election seemed to have firm promises made to them. David Cameron pledged his personal support.

The school will wreck our local authority's vision for secondary education in the area and will mean there is less money available for the development of our other schools. A neighbouring secondary school has recently learnt that it's desperately needed building programme is to be scrapped and if the free school in Birkenshaw goes ahead then it's catchment area is likely to change along with the demography of its intake.

Our schools need the wider vision that our local education authority can provide and all our children need fair and equal access to a good local school.
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