Michael Gove’s flagship policy is that of enabling groups of parents, charities and other interested parties to set up ‘Free Schools’. On the face of it, Free Schools sound like a great idea. As a parent of three boys, there has been many a time when I’ve been frustrated with an aspect of how their school is run. I have thought ‘Give it to me. I’ll run it better myself.’ But although I am a very determined, well-motivated and capable person, I am well aware that setting up and running a school is nowhere near as straightforward as it looks. Some of the well publicised campaigns such as writer Toby Young’s West London Free School, have stated that they will employ a separate company to do this for them. At first glance this seems like a good idea. But where’s the money coming from? Surely money spent on middle men such as this is a waste. Wouldn’t that money be better spent on teachers, teaching assistants and a committed and passionate Head? I am assuming that such schools as Mr Young’s would not want to make a profit but this does not seem to be prohibited in Michael Gove’s plans and clearly if you build in a percentage profit, even less taxpayers’ money will be spent on educating children. http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/may/31/michael-gove-academy-schools-profit?CMP=twt_iph
In terms of improving standards, a claim made by Mr Gove, I am not at all sure how giving schools greater freedom over the curriculum will ensure higher standards. It will be extremely difficult to measure and compare quality and performance across schools which have widely varying curriculums. This will not support parent choice. There has been much talk of the new policy being based on a Swedish model. The very same model has been discredited in Sweden. Mona Sahlin wrote in the Guardian: ‘the Swedish authorities’ own research has concluded that over the last fifteen years since the free schools were introduced, the number of low performing pupils has increased in Sweden, while the high performing pupils have neither increased in numbers nor have they become more successful.’ http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/may/02/conservative-education-policy-swedish-failures
In areas where parents are educated, organised and have sufficient time and energy to set up Free Schools, there are already perfectly ‘good’ schools with high SATs results and good/outstanding OFSTED judgements. These schools are very well supported by active parent Governors and PTAs. Nothing is broken so no need to fix it. In deprived areas, schools struggle through lack of parental confidence in participating in Governing bodies, which means that Heads and teachers do not get the informed support they need. They have low SATs results because of the nature of many of the families they cater for who have not enjoyed a good standard of living or benefited from a good education. Parents in deprived areas are not motivated enough or educated enough to start up and run a school. They will be excluded from this policy which is supposedly increasing fairness. Free Schools will be paid for from money diverted from other parts of the education budget through cuts to excellent schemes such as ‘Every Child a Reader’ and one-to-one tuition. These schemes help deprived children to catch up. Rather than enhancing the fairness of society, Free Schools will reward the ‘haves’ and punish the ‘have-nots’.
this was originally posted on the MumsRock website