English schools are broken. Only radical action will fix them

Aug 10, 2018 by

Melissa Benn

From failed free schools to poor funding and inequality, education needs drastic reform to create a fairer model

Even for the sceptical, the suddenness and speed with which the academy schools project has fallen from public grace is remarkable. After years of uncritical acceptance of official claims that academies, and free schools, offer a near cast-iron guarantee of a better-quality education, particularly for poorer pupils, there is now widespread recognition of the drear reality: inadequate multi-academy trusts failing thousands of pupils, parents increasingly shut out of their children’s education, and academy executive heads creaming off excessive salaries – in some cases almost three times higher than the prime minister – from a system perilously squeezed of funds.

Crisis can be an overworked term in politics, and our schools are good examples of public institutions, subject to years of poor political decisions, that continue to do remarkable work. But along with the academy mess, we can add the following to the current charge sheet of what should be (along with the NHS) our finest public service: pressing problems with recruitment and retention of teachers; rocketing stress among young children and teenagers subject to stringent testing and tougher public exams; and the ongoing funding crisis.

For those who have been closely observing developments in education over the years, none of this comes as much of a surprise. The reckless damage of the coalition years was, after all, only an exaggerated version of cross-party policy during the previous two decades: central government control-freakery allied to the wilful destruction of local government and the parcelling out of schools to untested rich and powerful individuals and groups, including religious organisations. From early years to higher education, every sector of our system is now infected with the arid vocabulary of metrics and the empty lingo of the market.

So what now? It is clear that the Tories have run out of ideas, bar the expansion of grammars. This autumn, following widespread consultation, the Labour party will publish its eagerly awaited plans for a national education service, an idea that Jeremy Corbyn has made clear he would like to see form the centrepiece of any future Labour administration.

Source: English schools are broken. Only radical action will fix them | Melissa Benn | Opinion | The Guardian

From failed free schools to poor funding and inequality, education needs drastic reform to create a fairer model

Melissa Benn –

From failed free schools to poor funding and inequality, education needs drastic reform to create a fairer model

Even for the sceptical, the suddenness and speed with which the academy schools project has fallen from public grace is remarkable. After years of uncritical acceptance of official claims that academies, and free schools, offer a near cast-iron guarantee of a better-quality education, particularly for poorer pupils, there is now widespread recognition of the drear reality: inadequate multi-academy trusts failing thousands of pupils, parents increasingly shut out of their children’s education, and academy executive heads creaming off excessive salaries – in some cases almost three times higher than the prime minister – from a system perilously squeezed of funds.

Crisis can be an overworked term in politics, and our schools are good examples of public institutions, subject to years of poor political decisions, that continue to do remarkable work. But along with the academy mess, we can add the following to the current charge sheet of what should be (along with the NHS) our finest public service: pressing problems with recruitment and retention of teachers; rocketing stress among young children and teenagers subject to stringent testing and tougher public exams; and the ongoing funding crisis.

For those who have been closely observing developments in education over the years, none of this comes as much of a surprise. The reckless damage of the coalition years was, after all, only an exaggerated version of cross-party policy during the previous two decades: central government control-freakery allied to the wilful destruction of local government and the parcelling out of schools to untested rich and powerful individuals and groups, including religious organisations. From early years to higher education, every sector of our system is now infected with the arid vocabulary of metrics and the empty lingo of the market.

So what now? It is clear that the Tories have run out of ideas, bar the expansion of grammars. This autumn, following widespread consultation, the Labour party will publish its eagerly awaited plans for a national education service, an idea that Jeremy Corbyn has made clear he would like to see form the centrepiece of any future Labour administration.

For the progressive left, then, this is an important but tricky moment that requires two distinct approaches, both of which befit a potential government-in-waiting and an avowedly radical party.

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