Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/414/4704
No to two-tier schooling
NEW LABOUR'S proposals for education academies argue that poorer families and deprived areas will benefit. Blair and Co. say giving schools independence and academy status will drive up standards and provide excellence for all. In areas like Lambeth we already know that this isn't the case.
In one area of Lambeth, similar proposals have led to the situation where three cousins who live in the same street go to three different schools in three different boroughs travelling 22 miles per day between them.
They all live two to five minutes walk from a Foundation School and 15 minutes walk from a catholic school. But they were unable to get into these local schools.
This problem stemmed from allowing these schools to have independence and choose their own admission systems which systematically weeded out less academic or non-religious families.
The schools got their required results leading to the idea, often false, that some schools are desirable and others not. So-called 'failing' schools had been previously shut and land sold off to housing developers.
The foundation school sucked in resources and was hugely over-subscribed. It systematically took a higher proportion of children with better academic abilities and the catholic school drew in children from a wider area. The result was that hundreds of local children were left with no school place.
Blair's academies will decide their own criteria making yet more admissions authorities, one of the key problems in Lambeth. Even if community pressure makes academies start with fair admission criteria, there is no guarantee they will keep to it.
If all schools develop as academies with private sponsors making decisions, a nightmare will develop. Competition for pupils will be the driving factor and so-called more able, better behaved or religiously correct children will be favoured to make the statistics work and create the illusion of improvement.
Further privatisation of schools and the smashing of LEAs will weaken what little democracy and accountability we have left to do anything about it. The lesson of foundation/independent schools in Lambeth has been that it creates two-tier schooling where, in the main, working-class kids lose out.
In The Socialist 3 November 2005: