Labour Consultation on “Devolving Power in Education”

The Labour Party consultation called “Devolving Power in Education: School Freedom and Accountability” has just been published. It can be found at http://www.fresh-ideas.org.uk/devolving-power-in-education.

The basic premise of the consultation is that current developments mean that:

  • The school system is becoming on the one hand massively over-centralised and in other ways seriously fragmented.
  • Opportunities for parents and local communities to have influence over their local school system have been much reduced.
  • There is no proper local scrutiny of admissions to make sure the process is fair especially to vulnerable pupils.
  • There is no effective way of identifying the early signs of school failure and for ensuring ways of driving up standards are in place everywhere.
  • Systems for making sure that there are the right number of school places are not working.
  • There is a need to make sure school to school collaboration is spread across the whole system.
  • Schools need help in getting value for money from procurement – working together is one way of doing this.

The consultation is open until 10th July so there is plenty of time for responses.

The document presents itself as a pragmatic one, interested in what works best. But at its core are some fundamental issues such as:

  • the massive democratic deficit that is building up in our system  
  • the need to balance the freedom to innovate with necessary local accountability
  • the fact that individual decisions by schools and parents can have consequences for other schools and parents and so some planning is needed to protect everyone’s interests.

These are critical issues and it’s a pity that the consultation doesn’t really tackle them more head on. Labour needs an analysis of what the essential characteristics of the most effective school systems are – something about which the OECD has a good deal to say, little of it supportive of the Gove revolution.

As a result, the document says little about the role of the private sector, the gradual moves towards a profit making sector and the massive lack of openness and transparency that surrounds Academies and Free Schools. Nor does it consider questions like what we actually mean by “fair admissions”, what the proper scope of school autonomy (for all schools) should be, or why we need to have so many different types of school.

The passion which underpinned Labour’s opposition to the NHS changes is not yet to be seen in the education field.  But there are some signs that evidence is beginning to accumulate that challenges the government’s view of the world – even reaching today the Guardian leader writers!

Let’s hope that the responses to the consultation go to the heart of the matter and spark a real debate on the fundamentals of what is being done to our education service and how we go about putting it right.

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One Comment on “Labour Consultation on “Devolving Power in Education””

  1. Paul says:

    Amen!