There will be “no more free schools” under a Jeremy Corbyn lead Labour government according to Lucy Powell the Shadow Education Secretary, who also hinted in her speech that councils would be given powers to open and run new schools if Labour come to power. During her first speech in post, Lucy Powell told the Labour party conference that there will be no more free schools, with Mr Corbyn describing free schools and academies as accountable, “it’s not political heresy to say all this; it’s the right thing to do”.
The Manchester Central MP said that Labour’s sponsored academy programme did ‘a huge amount to transform a small number of failing schools in disadvantaged areas’, but claimed that there is no evidence to suggest that the process of changing schools into academies has led to the improvement of schools. Ms Powell believes that the Conservatives are ‘blinded by their political positioning on free schools’ , and have failed to address the main challenges facing the British education such as teacher shortages, the widening attainment gap, the lack of school places and the cuts to post-16 education. But will putting free schools back in the hands of local authorities really solve any of these issues?
Critics of free schools have been complaining that they are expensive and often not located in areas where school places are desperately needed. The Shadow Education Secretary continued to say that “When in power Mr Corbyn will make sure that local authorities will be able to provide sufficient places and fair admissions. A good education shouldn’t be a privilege – it’s every child’s right”.
So academies and free schools would remain, but would be returned back into local control. The Conservative Party has however pledged to open 500 extra free schools by the end of this parliament, and Nick Timothy, Director of the New Schools Network supports this. Mr Timothy has said that “Free schools are better placed to give parents what they want and drive up standards because the give more control to headteachers, teachers and governors rather than politicians who have no experience in the educational system.”
Eteach’s Robbie O’Driscoll has his own opinions on Jeremy Corbyn’s vision for a local authority governed school system, stating that “it is sure to add further confusion to schools and teachers, coming as it does, just months after David Cameron called for all schools to become academies and autonomous. From our point of view, regardless of the structure of the school, there’s one vital component that matters more than anything; the teachers. Excellent teachers make for excellent schools. As a country in the midst of a teacher shortage crisis, retaining top talent and appealing to newly qualified teachers has never been more important.”
What do you think? Should the parties be looking to change school structures or concentrate on what matters in schools… teachers? Who should be the decision makers in schools; politicians and local authorities as Ms Powell believes? Have your say here…