Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/413/4692
Keep 'the market' out of schools
No to a dog-eat-dog education system
SO BLAIR wants to make his mark on history in his last term of office with "pivotal change" in education.
Martin Powell-Davies, (secretary, Lewisham National Union of Teachers)
Don't worry, Tony, the school textbooks of the future will remember you all right.
You're the man who turned Labour into a party for the bosses and then set out to destroy one of the labour movement's main gains since the war - comprehensive education.
Every parent wants their child to have a decent education that meets their individual needs and interests, regardless of their background.
That will never be achieved by a divided system where high-status schools can pick and choose pupils at the expense of their neighbours.
But that is exactly what Labour's new White Paper is proposing.
Of course some state schools have always enjoyed a higher reputation or a more privileged intake.
But agreed comprehensive admissions policies planned by Local Education Authorities (LEAs) at least attempted to level the playing field.
Years of under-funding and the introduction of Grant Maintained Schools and Academies have opened a widening gap between the most popular schools and those caught at the bottom of the league tables.
Blair's plans threaten to open that gap into a chasm.
Every secondary school will be allowed to become a "self-governing independent school" with its own assets and admissions policies.
'Popular' schools will be allowed to expand, leaving others to go to the wall.
Businesses and churches will be invited to sponsor groups of schools so that they can tout their 'brand' against their rivals.
In short, Blair wants to unleash the 'free market' on education.
He wants to create a dog-eat-dog system where schools are free to compete for the pupils that will boost their league table position.
Forget 'parental choice', it will be the schools doing the choosing.
Millions of workers already know only too well what the 'market' means for pay, jobs and their quality of life.
Working-class families suffer to boost the chances of the wealthy.
Now that class divide will be driven firmly into our children's lives even when they are at school.
It seems that the plans outlined in the education White Paper have shaken the conscience of even some of Blair's Cabinet.
Perhaps MPs like John Prescott can still remember how millions of working-class youth were dumped into second-class secondary moderns by selection and the 11-plus.
It's not something that Blair or Education Minister Ruth Kelly will be able to recall - they were educated at public schools!
Prescott might voice his concerns in private but he won't risk his New Labour career to mount any serious opposition.
Instead parents, school students, staff and unions must mount a united fight that can make its own mark - by defeating Blair's divisive plans.
In The Socialist 27 October 2005: