Don’t trust the Trust schools – organise!
LAST YEAR, New Labour forced through legislation that would allow ‘high-achieving’ schools to go from being a community school, under democratic control from the local education authority, to becoming a Trust School which will be completely independent from the LEA.
Paul Philips Chester-le-Street
This would leave the community without any control or influence over the school. Many schools around the country have already applied for Trust status and these applications are currently being approved by their own internal governing bodies (the body which will gain full control of the school), by the LEAs and by the government.
Hermitage School in Chester-le-Street, Durham is in its final stages of becoming a Trust school and has had to use a lot of spin to get this far.
The first spin was seen in October in a school newsletter to parents directly from the governing body explaining what good would happen if Hermitage School became a Trust. A questionnaire attached asked if they want Hermitage to become a Trust school with a simple tick answer box of yes and no.
The next question asked: “If you agree with Trust schools, please list the reasons why.” There was no question asking why people would disagree with Trust schools. Basically it gave parents no chance of expressing reasons for opposition.
Another reason why there is no real opposition is that teachers are scared to speak out. If Hermitage becomes a Trust they will be employed by the Trust, not the democratically elected council. They are also scared in case the management tweak their wages or decrease their chances of getting promoted. One anonymous teacher has said “If I speak out against the Trust I’m afraid in case I lose my position as head of department.”
At this stage, because of all the misinformation, most students don’t have a clue about the implications of being a Trust school. Even though the consultation period started in October, only in the past two months has the governing body started to push through this proposal at a quicker rate. It looks like it has purposely been done to coincide with the students’ examination period, making it harder for students to get organised.
Public stalls are being held by teachers’ unions and students to inform parents of what Trust schools really mean for them. One second year Sixth Former recently said “Even though I’m not going to be a student at this school next year, I am worried about the future of my siblings of not getting the comprehensive education they deserve and what impact this may have on the community”.
Teachers must let their voices be heard to show that Trust status is not the way forward for a quality education system. The same goes for students and parents, who should organise and tell the governing body that they don’t believe going Trust is the way forward.
Schools can be very top-down when proposing to become a Trust and fear can be used to stop teachers from speaking out. Organisation is the best way to stop potential privatisation of our comprehensive education system.