Four points about Michael Gove's interview today

Fiona Millar's picture
Four immediate observations about Michael Gove's comments about school admissions today:

1. Why doesn't he actually publish the draft admissions Code, rather than talking about it all the time. It is now months overdue and should be accompanying the Education Bill through the Commons and Lords so that MPs and Peers know what they are voting for when the agree to a massive expansion of 'own admissions schools'.

2. The decision to expand a school rests with the governing body and I predict that the majority of popular schools will opt NOT to expand dramatically, mainly because they are usually popular partly due to their size. Moreover if they are in urban areas they probably won't have room, there won't be adequate capital funds available and current parents will almost certainly object. In my local area the local authority has been actively seeking primary schools that are prepared to expand to meet the need for new places. None have wanted to and in once case a forceful parental campaign was waged against it.

3. What happens to the pupils in the schools 'left behind' to contract and then close? It won't be a very pleasant experience for them to be in an institution which will almost certainly have a high turnover of staff and pupils, falling morale and be demonised in its local community. I suspect those children will also be the least well off. Their plight is unlikely to help raise standards overall.

4. If Mr Gove bothered to look at why those schools were unpopular, he would almost certainly find that the admissions criteria of other local schools were partly to blame. Either there will be covert or overt selection taking place , leaving the remaining schools with unbalanced intakes which are off putting to a lot of parents, or a preponderance of girls schools, leaving the supposed co-ed schools with too many boys.

All of which brings me back to point 1. We should be looking at admissions and how they affect the chances of both schools and pupils. But we can't do that until the new Code is published. Why won't the government let us see the detail?

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Loic Menzies's picture
Mon, 23/05/2011 - 08:20

The other problem is that if growing is attractive because attracting more pupils is financially lucrative, then surely there will be less incentive to collaborate so the Outstanding schools lifting underperforming schools/Teaching School style collaboration model will be weakened just when it seemed to be lifting off. Why improve another school if doing so will make pupils less likely to leave the other school and bring their cash value to you?

Fiona Millar's picture
Mon, 23/05/2011 - 08:27

Good point. A better approach would be to build in more incentives to collaborative working and to look at why existing schools are either underperforming or unpopular. Leadership is obviously crucial but school intake is a powerful force in parents decision making.

And where would you stop? If a secondary school has two or three first choice applicants for every place, in order to satisfy all parents, they may have to develop year groups of 300-400 pupils. I don't think that is what parents really want. Moreover the government is simultaneously promoting small schools as a successful model!

Allan Beavis's picture
Tue, 24/05/2011 - 08:40

Gove’s proposal focuses attention on popular, successful schools but poorly performing schools aren’t just going to shrivel up and disappear and neither will the children who have been abandoned in them. There is only so much space and resources for schools to expand. Schools fail for complex reasons and not just because of bad teaching or governance.

Before Gove got the job, a number of failing schools managed to turn themselves around, thanks to government incentives like BSF, support of the local community and change of governance and senior management. The previous government’s policies were not perfect, but at least they recognised the need to take care of children from disadvantaged backgrounds and help provide the basis for better life chances. What Gove's proposal seems to overlook is the number of young people remaining in the schools that are left to shrink or fail. What of their educational experiences and life chances? Most people in the country are confused by what his boss means when he speaks of “social mobility” and his schools policy don’t illuminate. Perhaps they don’t illuminate because it’s best left in the dark – these challenged schools are disproportionately teaching kids from low or no income families, black and other ethnic minority kids and his policies will once more be revealed to foster social inequality and the exact opposite of social mobility.

None of this increases choice. Well, parental choice for the elbowing, self-serving section of the middle class perhaps but certainly not for those now facing segregation and abandonment in their schools years. What is needed and we have always needed, under any government, is a strategy of school improvement all round. High quality education for all is the key to real choice.

Helen Flynn's picture
Tue, 24/05/2011 - 09:15

When is someone in Government going to grasp the basic facts when it comes to "competition" and parental choice in state schools? Very sadly, some schools did and do fail under local authority control, which is terrible and something has to be done about it. But at least the system does not start from a premise that some schools will fail, and build that in to the way it works.
A system like Gove's, on the other hand, assumes failure on a country-wide scale--in fact it is used as a driver. Incorporating competition as a central tenet as a way of driving up standards, is guaranteed to create failure, and will undoubtedly create a sink school in each area, particularly when the system overall is governed by a lenient admissions code, and, indeed, own admission authorities where schools pick children. That is not acceptable in a state funded system, and shows a very narrow, voter-led ambition on behalf of Government.
There has to be some way that Gove can be held to account for his irresponsibility, unfairness and lack of duty of care to children. (I know it's not customary to actually mention 'children'--usually it's 'parents', ie voters--but I am going to risk it.) I would say he should be held to account for his rank stupidity, but it is from that, I fear.

Ben Taylor's picture
Tue, 24/05/2011 - 16:25

You stick with your lack of choice (how liberal is that?) I want my freedom to choose (your freedom too) and I want the professionals serving me to be accountable.

W Smith's picture
Tue, 24/05/2011 - 18:25

Ben could it be that the " I want....I want..." sod the rest of 'em philosophy on life is the least liberal of them all???

Ben Taylor's picture
Tue, 24/05/2011 - 19:51

Wendy, who wants to sod the rest? Not me. You have an idea so please tell me.

W Smith's picture
Tue, 24/05/2011 - 21:34

I would love you to explain how every parent can have their "choice". Giving all parents the freedom to choose is very different to all parents getting their choice. Therefore for all those who get what they want there will be a lot of others who don't. If you are one of the parents who are lucky enough to afford, lobby, live in the right catchment area etc and get your place, will you really care about the rest? Do you really think that accountability = equality and shopping for schools in a market place creates the best education? This is a very naive and short sighted view of educating future generations. Creating an education system and society worthy of all of our children would take long term effort and fair funding from politicians and all parents working together and that is something we are not being encouraged to do. The message from above is more like divide and rule with the illusion of choice and a big society to disguise the reality for a lot of children.

Ben Taylor's picture
Tue, 24/05/2011 - 21:53

Wendy shopping for education happens NOW today via private schooling and the proxy of private housing in proximity to good state schools.

Yes accountability means someone can say no to you. Who are the people resisting this? They seem to include many politicians and people from unions. What is their primary purpose? Self benefit through election to power or to protect their members. These things are fair enough let us not be 'naive' enough to equate them automatically with the interests of parents and their children.

Who is naive? Does this aide the discussion?

We cannot make choice universally deliverable but we can try to maximise it. There is a role for competition and collaboration. The structures need to use dynamic equilibium not static. How do you answer the unhappy parent? You say talk to a brick wall when people want to push on different doors.

An effective system is constantly changing in a progressive manner - I am not talking about Fabianist progression but moving the average always upwards. There will always be a tail unfortunately but that is the nature of distribution. We must make sure that the tail gets a chance to change, rather than squeezing everyone towards the tail.

I think if you offer choice you will find that the top people are more likely to assist since they see a way forward and interests align. At the moment they flee because they can - and they will continue to until they are offered choice.

Janet Downs's picture
Wed, 25/05/2011 - 07:47

The Sutton Trust suggests choice can be maximised by using ballots - this would undermine the advantage of better-off parents being able to buy houses in the catchment area of popular schools.

Changing a system does not necessarily move the average upwards. The league table system, for example, has led to an excessive reliance on GCSE results. This has led to grade inflation, "teaching to the test" to the possible exclusion of non-cognitive skills, and "cream skimming"*.

The Times Education Supplement (20 May 2011) carried an editorial in entitled "Magastore approach could sacrifice choice". It quoted an article in The Wall Street Journal proposing a free-market approach in US education: "Groceries and many other staples of daily life are distributed with extraordinary effectiveness by competitive markets responding to consumer choice. The same could be true of education."

However, this argument was refuted: "temples of organic freshness such as Whole Foods Market show a marked tendency to steer clear of poor, black neighbourhoods" and "school companies would redline the ghetto and refuse to open stores there." This could lead to "education deserts".

*OECD Reforming education in England. OECD Economic Surveys: UK 2011 pp100/102)

Allan Beavis's picture
Wed, 25/05/2011 - 07:56


Your utopia of maximising choice is hardly going to come about via an implementation of prescription from above. Forcing schools (either through financial incentives or at the diktat of Michael Gove) to become Academies, Grammars, the promotion of free schools (numbers too miniscule to register on the Richter scale of grand change) disproportionate to what they can realistically achieve and currently positioned not as a choice but as direct competition (expressed virulently in the media and elsewhere by the likes of Young and Birbalsingh) to LA maintained schools. This is not choice Ben. If there is any choice being maximized here it will largely go to the already disadvantaged.

REAL choice come through the expansion of local maintained schools - by improving services, improving buildings, improving resources developing these right across the country. Only a fool would claim that each and every single comprehensive or primary is good or outstanding but there is a solid structure there for nurture, development and real growth towards better success for each school. Similarly only a fool would claim that all Academies and free schools (and even grammars) are outstanding. The jury is out on Academies (some have failed spectacularly already) and there is every likelihood that free schools will fail as much as succeed.

You are right about progression moving the average upwards but these school reforms create division between schools, their emphasis on data and results are not just being used to chart students development but to judge or even punish schools and they are not applied across the board to all schools but to a select number deemed worthy of change by the government. Such enforced prescription does not create choice. It creates confusion and straitjackets and worse, it encourages the more articulate and system savvy like yourself to gain an advantage over those without your privilege.

Allan Beavis's picture
Wed, 25/05/2011 - 07:58

Mistake at end of my first paragraph, which should read "This is not choice Ben. If there is any choice being maximized here it will largely go to the already ADVANTAGED"

Ben Taylor's picture
Wed, 25/05/2011 - 14:05


It is not the job of teachers to attempt to control the whole teaching establishment. They can improve their own school, maybe assist others, perhaps work on some specialisms.

If there are problems in reporting on schools let's address them as another issue.

If there is a problem in using choice let's address that by helping those who may not be making the best of their chance to choose. But we live in a democracy not a totalitarian state, so we also have to allow choices we don't like which may even seem unfair.

Without doubt Allan there will be some aspect of your life where you are not performing to some ideal standard and others where you are above the ideal. What control do you suppose should be exerted on you to remove your choice, in order that your below average performance is raised and your above average reduced? Otherwise it's unfair right?

Allan Beavis's picture
Wed, 25/05/2011 - 14:48

Ben -

Your reply is bizarre and confused and, in any case, does not make any attempt to dispute my point as to what constitutes real choice, as opposed to veiled exclusion, which is what you support, consciously or unconsciously.

I did not say that is was the job of teachers to control the whole teaching establishment, although I will say that it is always useful for governments to listen to and seek advice from the teaching profession who, after all, know a great deal more about what is involved than an inexperienced Minister only one year into the job. This is something that this present government have failed to do.

I think you will find that many teachers want to improve their schools but it is extremely difficult if you are in a maintained school and you see that the Minister for Education is diverting the tiny funds available for schools away from your own school and into setting up Academies and Free Schools. Worse, that Gove and people like Birbalsingh and Young go out of their way to denigrate comprehensive schools in order to make rash promises about the excellence their not-quite-or-never-will-be-opening schools in order to beef up their enterprises. What does that say about inclusion, supporting the teachers?

What I am questioning is why you seek to bring up the question of teachers when they had nothing to do with my comment. But I know the answer - you are unable, when challenged, to show that the schools you favour are NOT selective and DON'T increase choice, so you take the route of insinuating that teachers are somehow the problem, not the solution.

I don't want to repeat myself but - enforcing risky free schools and academies at the expense and destruction of Local Education maintained schools does not increase choice for the majority and not for those who are most disadvantaged. That would be the most democratic decision, Ben, because it favours and increases chances for everybody. What is totalitarian is prescription straight from the top of an ideology favouring the pre-selected. I think that's something the fascists liked to do. I don't understand your last paragraph and don't really need it explaining as I suspect it might be irrelevant and just another smokescreen to detract from the real issue

W Smith's picture
Wed, 25/05/2011 - 18:52

Ben - I am really disappointed in your argument ( not in you - I think your argument is naive, nothing personal!). I was hoping that your passion for choice as the way forward would be backed up by a strategy that aspires to raise the average across the board. But it appears that you accept that there have to be losers. Of course people are shopping for education now, is it working? Only for those that can shop. What is wrong with having a universal education system funded for all?? The majority of children are educated in the state system, so why not improve that across the board with tax payers money? What is wrong with sending children to a local school, the majority of parents want that. You talk about democracy - but a lot of parents have been manipulated into having to choose. Up until the 80's and before league tables etc the majority of children went to their local school. Parents were not marching on downing street demanding the right to go else where , it was politicians who used the choice card to serve their own ends rather than reflect what voters wanted. What is wrong with ploughing resources into improving this system rather than adding layers of others, which can only fragment our society. We are educating future citizens not just children. Can you give me an example of a country where choice for all = a cohesive society,because that is what we all want isn't it?

Please tell me how, for example, a bus driver and care worker living in a housing association/rented house could, should, want or afford to choose anything but a good local school for their children? What choice do you think they should be helped to make? If they are an example of your "tail end" then it will be a very long tail!

Ben Taylor's picture
Wed, 25/05/2011 - 20:08

Janet there are 'losers' in the sense that across a normal distribution some people lie at the tail end of a bell shape curve on the left hand bit. It is a simplification but helpful for our debate to say there isn't much we can do about that 'shape' if characteristics are normally distributed in a population. This is science not opinion, or if you like a form of objectivity.

Now if the tail end is dropping absolutely as a result of factors like selection and choice then I might agree with you. But the statistics for English LEAs and NI Library Boards show many are superior to areas without selection, and the average performance of ALL the pupils in these areas tends to be higher not just those in the grammar schools.

So the whole curve has moved but there are still people in the bottom tail. Every child has won compared to the national average but if you wish to call this bottom tail 'losers' I think you are misguided, their potential is more realised than in the non selective case.

So I accept that there is a tail end we can call 'losers' but it is not a helpful term in all cases.

I think I can accept this term for children in schools which perform badly in a different objective case - perhaps one where many of the children are performing under the national average - such as many not achieving 5 core GSCEs. But we know from the selective areas that it is possible to get a good performance from all children. So there must be a real problem in such a school, these children are 'losers'.

If the school can be turned around, and I don't care what kind of school it is, then it's OK. If it can't change then children and parents need to be able to CHOOSE not to go there, which in fact they already can do legally and as far as I am concerned that is moral. What is often not offered now is an alternative. Not enough support was there until now for people who are unhappy.

What are you going to do for these people? Coerce them in to local schools they don't want to go to? We live in a democracy with public services. They must be accountable and with the consent of the people. All the free schools do is provide a safety valve when people feel they are not being helped.

There is a simple solution for those of you who want local comprehensive schools to be popular - make them places people want to go which are effective.

W Smith's picture
Wed, 25/05/2011 - 21:26

if you are talking bell curve - what should league tables, SATS results, GCSE etc look like?
"There isn't much you can do about it!!!!!" - Wow imagine if that's how we approached every discipline - as far as I am aware science is not static.
Have not seen your LEA stats but unpicking average scores more often than not reveals a very different conclusion. Do the averages include the selected pupils? What are the demographics, population school size etc etc
If the tail end haven't lost - what have they done and why should they lose when a universal state system can make them winners and at the same time be democratic??
"If a school can be turned around then you don't care what kind of school it is" - What if it is the kind of school that is taking away resources from others?
The government is responsible to all parents in the state sector to provide a good education, so they MUST ensure that all local schools are good schools - it should be a fundamental remit of their responsibility to the citizens of this "democratic" country that they were elected to responsibly govern - after all it is a legal requirement that children are schooled.
You still have not answered the question - If every local school was a good school - why wouldn't parents choose to send their children there?? What about the bus driver and care worker scenario ( previous post) you have not answered that? And that is a real here and now question , rather than academic.

Ben Taylor's picture
Wed, 25/05/2011 - 22:18

Wendy you are right the distribution of these things might not be the shape of a bell.

However I am trying to say that probably the bell shape is what is normal. If everyone improves it is still a bell shape. It is like having a bunch of plants and feeding them all more. There is nothing you can do about this normally it is a quality of things and has nothing to do with opinion. I didn't invent this it is accepted as conventional science. You will still have people in the left hand tail. Whether they are losers or not I have tried to argue depends on other factors.

One of these factors as other posters here have mentioned is how grades correspond to the functional performance of children. If C is a supposed to be proficient and attainable by most it must be somewhere way over to the left of the curve. This does indeed make measuring things difficult especially if the standards change.

If schools take resources in the sense that money follows children in proportion I don't see what the problem is. The money is provided by the state to pay for the child. It isn't that people come and beg the patronage of schools. It would be unfair if there were very different levels of funding.

There is no legal requirement to attend a school as far as I understand it. There IS a full time requirement for education of children. Parents can choose to do this in the home. The state does not support this. Why does the state take away resources from such parents?

Distance to school shouldn't be a big problem - I thought the LA had to provide free transport - I could be wrong - but if transport is a problem let's address that.

Finally, I agree that most people want good local schools. This however is defined not just by professionals, it is the right of anyone to define subjectively to an extent what they think is a good school besides accepted objective standards. If people are unhappy with schools then the state should address it - that is what Mr Gove is doing.

Now if all schools were good schools

Allan Beavis's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 19:55

Yes Ben - so what about free schools that fail, Academies that fail? How does the money and resources spent creating and propping those up at the destruction of existing schools guarantee their excellence? The don't. We all want universally good schools. Money is better spent in improving schools that we have not gambling them on systems that have not worked in other countries.

Ben Taylor's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 16:50

Interesting article relevant to this theme of dynamics of competition and cooperation in raising standards

W Smith's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 16:54

Ben - what you can do is create an equal playing field to start with so at least everyone has the same opportunity. Obviously we are not all the same and shouldn't be expected to achieve the same as we go through our school career. But to use normal distribution as justification for fragmenting the school system is an excuse not a statistic.

There are different levels of funding!!!! That is a central point - money is being taken away from existing schools and given to create new entities. The money available needs to be ploughed into local schools so that they can be all be good. There is absolutely no reason why they can't be if the resources are used wisely by the government.

According to Gov logic - parents educating children at home should be encouraged. Free school, small class size - but it does not really fit in to their making profit vision does it?

LEA"s have traditionally provided school transport - but now they are beginning to use the argument that if parents are "choosing" to educate their children out of area, then it is their choice so they have to pay!

Why is it ok to "travel" to a good school, take a step back and think of the implications for traffic, pollution. cost, children's health - and it could all be simply avoided.

Parents are TOLD what is a good school through league tables, OFSTED reports etc, as I have said previously they are being manipulated. The majority of parents want to and need to put their trust in the hands of experts.

Mr Gove's policies are demonstrating that he is not an expert and he is betraying the trust of the majority of parents, teachers and ultimately his own " big society"

Andy Smithers's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 18:30


The OECD, who are often quoted here, have stated that they approve of the policy for both academies and free schools to both improve choice and improve standards.
Obviously Labour began the process "fragmenting" the state system in order to improve choice and standards. Gove agrees with the policy and is accelerating it.

Janet Downs's picture
Sun, 29/05/2011 - 07:30

And I have repeatedly said that while the OECD says that the government's policy for free schools and academies will increase choice the organisation does not imply this will raise standards. In fact, it warns that the opposite is true as I have said before and provided the link. Just in case you missed it, I'll repeat the quote here:

"There is however mixed evidence within the OECD area whether school systems with more user choice provide better outcomes. User choice may also increase segregation of high-ability and low-ability students, which is likely to create peer-spillovers. Several high performing school systems in the OECD area offer very limited choice... Studies show no measurable long term effects on increasing user choice on pupils in Sweden and the United Kingdom." (OECD Economic Surveys: United Kingdom 2011 p106).

Please, if you are going to cite the OECD please make sure you do not follow Mr Gove's example and distort the data.

Allan Beavis's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 19:51

Yes Smithers - but would the OECD approve of you? They, after all, are a globally respected and impartial organization. Not qualities easily attributable to someone who hides their prejudices behind the mask of "aspiration". And that is where you are wrong about Labour. They may have made some mistakes but at least their policies improved choice and standards across the board and for everyone, regardless of ability. What you are advocating is a fascistic type of choice on standards, aimed and and benefiting ONLY a social or academic elite. That is where the Tory-dragged coalition is actually bastardizing Labour policies.

What you always fail to answer is - what does the state (and Gove, as you mention him) do with the disadvantaged and those excluded from what you consider a high standard education? I suspect you don't want to admit the truth about what you really are and what you really think. Because your attitude ultimately shows that you don't care and are just fixated with promoting your own interests at the expense of people less fortunate than you. You clearly take great pride in your lack of tolerance, compassion and sense of superiority (what you call aspiration, but it's not the same thing) but it's not really much to be proud of - it reveals a rancid morality.

I'm sorry if you feel that I am insulting you again, so I'll pre-empt you by saying that your narrow-mindedness, short-term thinking, condescension and hypocrisy runs parallel with current government schools policy. But no doubt you take great pride in knowing which side of the education apartheid fence you are sitting in

Andy Smithers's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 23:14

You know nothing about what I think or stand for.
You think all is perfect and hate change.
I would not lower myself to answer your juvenile name calling, I just present simple facts and off you go with your assumptions.
No-one else on this site feels the need to insult.

Allan Beavis's picture
Fri, 27/05/2011 - 08:04

Smithers - No assumption going on here. You've made it loud and clear what you stand for - social and academic selection, social and academic segregation and a contempt for disadvantaged people. You hide this by criticising people who DO support fair provision for everyone, not just a select few, by accusing them of hating change, thinking that everything is perfect and opposing "aspiration". When challenged, you offer few facts or statistics, just prejudiced assumptions based on biased heresay or reporting and you bat off difficult questions, especially relating to your entrenched and socially divisive ideology, with no coherent statements but with feeble complaints about being insulted or being called names.

Ben Taylor's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 21:50


There is no guarantee of success as you say. This is the same for ANY school whether LA, free school, academy, private etc.

I can paraphrase your question with a reciprocal and say: How does the money and resources spent creating and propping up existing state schools at the destruction of potential schools guarantee their excellence?

We can allow people some ability to escape failing structures and create or find new ones.

Something which nobody has answered is my scientifically objective point relevant to the idea of univerally good schools. OK we can guarantee certain minimum standards but we cannot make everyone perform at the same standard if we try to maximise the potential of each individual! A "universal standard" graph would be a single point or bar which represented the performance of every person. If nobody replies to this point I will have to assume it is being ignored or is not understood. I do not wish to be contentious for its own sake. This point is a keystone in debating the issue of selection because if we don't understand the population of course we will tend to make bad decisions.

W Smith's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 21:52

Andy I disagree with Mr Gove's policies as I believe for the sake of a cohesive society we need and can achieve a universal education system.

Not once have I mentioned Labour as being any more successful at working towards this. I am interested in the here and now and campaigning for policy to move in the right direction for my own children, and the children that I teach , who come from a very different starting point. Why do my children deserve better because of who I am and what I do?

Of course free schools and academies will improve choice - they are the choice.
Will that choice improve standards, that depends on the standards that are measured, who is measuring them and what the political and social vision of "improvement" is.

Janet Downs's picture
Sun, 29/05/2011 - 07:36

Wendy - the OECD also has doubts about whether the increased choice will lead to higher standards. It reports that the evidence from global data on the relationship between user choice and higher standards is mixed (see my post above). Mr Gove, and others, have seized on the former point (that OECD agrees that the government's policies increase choice) while ignoring the second (that it may increase social segregation, and may have no impact on standards). I think such selection of evidence is called cherry-picking.

W Smith's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 22:01

Ben - you have answered your own question if you think about it.
How is this new system going to guarantee excellence - it can't.
So why take the risk when we have a great opportunity to maximise the potential in the system that we already have?
Imagine if we were all working together to create the perfect local school. Of course it would never be perfect and would always be evolving BUT it would be a cohesive work in progress with all members of the local community having a real vested interest in its success. Does that not shout out "BIG SOCIETY" to you?????

Ben Taylor's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 22:19

Wendy I agree there is no guarantee.

No system can offer this including existing state schools.

We can offer systems for: escaping failure as fast as possible; changing the function of existing schools to prevent failure; reorganising faster in existing schools when failing.

Wendy I actually think hese systems, which is what I believe Gove is implementing, will have the effect of causing different social classes to engage where now they are separated. I would offer Young and Birbalsingh as examples as people mixing across classes but it seems LSN do not accept their intent and conduct.

And I always think that it is OK to try and change an existing state school and agree with you in that respect, but I think it is the right of every parent and child to make this choice without duress.

Allan Beavis's picture
Fri, 27/05/2011 - 08:19

Ben - you are going round and round in circles. The fact remains that the government's disproportionate financial and ideological support of free schools and academies weakens LA maintained schools financially, operationally and in terms of their standing in the local community. Please answer how that is fair provision for all schools creating a fair choice for parents? It is essentially propaganda saying Gove schools good. Other schools bad. Which is not true because there are good maintained schools and there are bad academies.

We shall have to see what free schools achieve when they are actually up and running but for the moment, both Young and Birbalsingh are hardly the best representatives for inclusion. I certainly don't accept their conduct. Both have two running agendas - self promotion/minor celebrity and creating/governing a school. Often their pronouncements are incompatible with both agendas and their tendency to run around denigrating maintained schools and making offputting comments about the expectations of their schools is designed to covertly select.

It won't help their case that one of the leaks from the new Admissions Code will allow Toby Young to offer a place at his school to his own children. This is not going to help dispel the suspicion that his school is a vanity project and self serving. Birbalsingh is encouraging poor black children to apply to her private-sector school but how many can she accommodate and her position begs the question - what doesn't she encourage advantaged white children as well to encourage and teach social cohesion by example?

Difficult to change existing state schools when people like this do the government's dirty work to trash state schools.

W Smith's picture
Fri, 27/05/2011 - 10:22

Ben - I agree with Allan. Your arguments do not convince me that choice is the missing ingredient in improving our education system. You appear to want a society where individual choice reigns over joint responsibility and that anything else could not be called a democracy.
What comes first rights of an individual or responsibility to each other? Deep question may be! But as human beings we do seem to thrive on being members of families and when you relate that to the education system shouldn't we be trying to use what we do best to ensure the best for our children? Isn't the BIG SOCIETY an extension of the family ethic and therefore shouldn't it be reflecting that philosophy in its public education sector?

Can you really argue that giving every parent the right will translate into every parent getting their choice?

There is a real world out there and a majority of our society which you appear to be ignoring in your quest to give choice. Most parents want their children to walk down the road every morning to a good local school that is an extension of and support to their family life. We all want our children to have the skills to be successful and happy human beings.
It is hard work being a parent, especially when your own skills and contribution to society are vital, but not always financially rewarded to enable you to make choices e.g bus drivers, refuse collectors, school cooks, care workers, catering staff, shift workers, single parents - the list goes on and on. We all need parents in these roles to be contributing to our lives in the work that they do, their skills and jobs are vital to making the world go round!

Choice is not their first priority when educating their children, a good local school is!

We are all legally required to educate our children and do not have/are not given the capacity to do that at home, so it is the governments responsibility to ensure they are providing the best for the children they are requiring to attend.

Are free schools going to serve the local community or themselves? Your quoted role models do not inspire confidence or credibility - sorry!

Not all schools who do not meet the "standardised" criteria for being successful and are held up by Mr Gove as reasons for his reforms can be considered failures - their successes are not being measured. Data is being used irresponsibly to scare and manipulate.

What if Mr Gove said to each LEA school - here is the funding, now I am going to stand back and free you up to create an environment and curriculum to meet the needs of your local community. I expect you to do the best for all children in your care and I am going to support you in doing this.

Every school would be considered important, with everyone having a vested interest in it, but would not necessarily be the same. How schools's success and accountability would be measured would not be able to be standardised. ( no generalised/averaged out stats for politicians to manipulate might be a problem for them but not for the children in the schools) Would we see healthier children walking to school? Would we see less traffic on the road? (That would mean joined up government policies - how refreshing would that be?!)

Why is Mr Gove reluctant to do this and instead plough money into individuals......hmmm I wonder???

Ben - who is most important, your children, my children, everyone else's children or all of them?

Ben Taylor's picture
Sat, 28/05/2011 - 15:51

I'll give you a more complete answer later.

You don't understand that first parents choose about their children's lives and everyone else including the state lines up after that. Also you need to work through processes of consent first rather than coercion. The state emerges from the actions of people it is above them.

So if parents and children don't want to go to local schools they don't have to. The onus is on the people such as LAs, schools, teachers, unions and so on to gain the trust. If people decide they don't trust local services they can change them or demand alternatives.

I have asked already in what ways you are willing to have control over your choice minimised by the state in order to increase your concept of equity. It is not a bizzarre question since these are your values to live out. I don't agree with them in the same way and think it is OK to say wanting something different is moral.

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