Wednesday, 15 July 2009


The Wembley Park playing fields disappear under rubble as building begins

Brent Council and ARK lost no time in securing the Wembley playing fields site and moving the builders in after the London Mayor and Government Office for London decided not to intervene in the academy dispute. However works could still be affected by the possibility of an application for judicial review.

Meanwhile The Policy Exchange has published a critical report on Partnership for Schools (PfS) the quango responsible for running the £55bn Building Schools for the Future programme. The report, Building Blocks, gives accounts from LEAs, local officers, academy sponsors and others about their experience with PfS.

PfS is accused of forcing local authorities to opt for academies or trust schools if they want funding to rebuild schools or build new ones. The programme to improve school buildings has thus been 'contaminated' by government pressure on LEAs to adopt the academy model and all the baggage that goes along with it. This mixing of the two separate issues and the extension of the academies programme via the funding bribe has been condemned by teacher unions.

The Policy Exchange itself favours Conservative and Liberal Democratic policies for 'free schools' - schools with less local authority control, and so sees the PfS's action as a form of increased centralisation. They cite requirements for school ICT systems, where LEAs are pressurised into awarding lucrative contracts to just one supplier across schools, as an example of control and micromanagement.

From this perspective we are left with unpalatable policies from all three parties: Labour continues to push academies on to often reluctant local councils and communities while finding more ways to control them, while the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats in 'freeing' the schools will actually limit the role of Local Education Authorities with voters no longer having a direct say in the way their local schools are run.

A worrying developement when local communities have been angered by moves to convert or amalgamate schools is high-lighted by the report. In Stoke the BNP has opposed local reorganisation plans on the basis that they 'foster racial integration against local wishes' and they made opposition to Building Schools for the Future a central plank in their June election camapign.

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