Friday, July 12, 2013

Labour's foolish opposition to private schools entering the state sector

Last summer I spent a few days in Tynemouth and shortly afterwards blogged about the plans of The King's School, Tynemouth, to enter the state sector:
Such moves ... are to be welcomed, but the left is always deeply suspicious of them. 
Sure enough, the area's Labour MP is quoted on the Evening Chronicle website expressing concerns about the move.
Sebastian Payne has more about this story in this week's Spectator and about the Labour council's opposition to the school's plan:
The Labour-run North Tyneside council is a bastion of resistance to the Baker/Blair/Gove reforms, and seems to be primarily interested in protecting its own territory. Allowing the King’s School to open to state pupils would, they say, upset the ‘feeder’ system that shepherds pupils in primaries into designated secondaries. Giving parents a choice upsets this careful plan. 
The opposition is being led by Ian Grayson, a National Union of Teachers official who doubles as the North Tyneside council member responsible for education. He believes that removing the Priory school from council control could ‘destabilise’ the entire education system in the borough. Giving parents choice, he told me, could ‘see a significant drop in numbers elsewhere in the borough and we have to plan for that’. A third of pupils might choose schools other than the ones the council has designated for them. To Mr Grayson, this is not something to celebrate, but a problem. 
Councillor Grayson has been trying to thwart King’s School by demanding a formal investigation into the effect the new academy would have on the borough. This is how school wars are fought in England: the opponents demand a bureaucratic assessment, hoping that a judicial review will delay the process long enough to stop the new school opening — in this case in September. 
Even taken at face value, Grayson’s arguments make no sense. North Tyneside council is building three new secondary schools and one new primary, so his ‘balance’ will be upset anyway. It appears Grayson and his comrades loathe the idea of not being in control. The real issue is that the unreformed left don’t want any new schools while places in old, inadequate schools remain unfilled.
Payne goes on to sat that the pro-reform left - people like Andrew Adonis - are almost as angry as the Tories about this, while Stephen Twigg, Labour's shadow education secretary, is on the fence but leaning towards the anti-reform side.

The kindest thing you can say about people like Councillor Grayson is that they display a typical Labour weakness: they are interested in a the overall system but far less interested in individual schools.

I shall leave you with the wise words of George Walden in his 1996 book We Should Know Better:
In no other European country do the moneyed and professional classes - lawyers, surgeons, businessmen, accountants, diplomats, newspaper and TV editors, judges, directors, archbishops, air chief marshalls, senior academics, Tory ministers, artists, authors, top civil servants - in addition to the statistically insignificant but eye-catching cohort of aristocracy and royalty - reject the system of education used by the overwhelming majority pretty well out of hand, as an inferior product.
In no modern democracy except Britain is tribalism in education so entrenched that the two main political parties send their children to different schools.
That is why we should welcome private schools entering the state system.

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