Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Councils need powers to build new schools - new campaign needs your support

I was pleased to see Green Party leader Natalie Bennett tweet her support to the new School Places Crisis campaign to Kevin Courtney, Deputy General Secretary of the NUT. The campaign calls for local authorities to get back the power to plan for the increased demand for school places and build new community schools.

At present Coalition policy under Michael Gove restricts any new schools to academies or free schools outside the control of local authorities.  In a posting on this two weeks ago I said LINK
Local authorities have the local knowledge to plan new schools where they are most needed and the expertise and resources to ensure that such schools are fit for purpose, have access to school support services and are professionally staffed so that they hit the ground running.  Free schools, even if they happen to be provided in areas of shortage (and many are not), do not have these guarantees.

Local authorities have a statutory duty to provide education and parents have a legal duty to ensure that their children attend school. Gove's policy, despite all his protestations, is actually thwarting both, and in the process damaging children.

At present in Brent we lack -3.2% of school places which will become -10.3% by 2016-17.

The Campaign says:
The way school places are organised changed dramatically when the Academies Act gained Royal Assent in 2010. Up until this point local authorities played a pivotal role in planning for, commissioning and providing high quality places for pupils across the country. This is no longer the case.

Local authorities have lost the power to open new schools and their budgets have been slashed. A Free School can now be set up anywhere at the whim of the Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove. The problem with this is that it doesn't take into account local need or demand, or even the potential surplus of school places in any given area.

And that's why the UK is now facing a shortfall in quality school places. In London, this could be up to 23% by 2016.

Sounds scary? It is. But the solution is beautifully simple:

The Government must ensure that any extra places provided are quality places. All children deserve to be taught by a qualified teacher. They also deserve to be taught in an appropriate environment – it would be wrong to cram more children into already crowded classrooms.
The local authority still has a responsibility for education for all local children, but they cannot guarantee high quality school places without the ability to plan for the future, build schools or reduce school size where needed. Can you contact your MP to let them know your concerns?
The site has a link for you to  write to your MP and  to sign a petition. If we want to secure quality, planned and democratically controlled education for our children we should support this campaign.

Twitter link @placescrisis  Website: http://www.theschoolplacescrisis.com/


Mike Buckley said...

Great campaign - the right solution to an unnecessary problem. The correct website is here: http://www.theschoolplacescrisis.com/

Martin Francis said...

Thanks Mike. I've corrected the link.