‘Free Schools’=Chaos

NUT members marching on the April 14 ‘Defend the Welfare State’ demonstration in London
NUT members marching on the April 14 ‘Defend the Welfare State’ demonstration in London

‘The Government’s commitment to “free schools” will create chaos at local level,’ National Union of Teachers (NUT) General Secretary Christine Blower warned yesterday.

She continued: ‘Groups setting up their own schools irrespective of local planning needs would be a retrograde step that will lead to planning gridlock and social division.

‘(Education Secretary) Michael Gove has said that Sweden’s free schools have broken “the bureaucratic stranglehold”, and that, far from “driving segregation, these schools have driven up standards for all”.

‘Yet the National Agency for Education (NAE) in Sweden points to a system that shows, “fairly unambiguously, that segregation has increased”.’

Blower added: ‘Despite reassurances from Michael Gove that reforms based on the Swedish system of “free” schools would not be run for profit, there is the strong possibility under this system that governing bodies could increasingly contract out the running of schools to private companies in return for management fees.

‘Adopting such a business model to our schools will amount to the sweeping dismantling of our education system, turning it over to unaccountable, unelected companies.

‘There should be no place within education for private companies to profit. These profits can only be made at the expense of funding and investment in children’s education.

‘Not only that, the Conservatives’ “free schools” project would be a fundamental waste of money at a time of proposed serious cuts when schools will need every penny they can get.

‘Waste will be created by the unnecessary and expensive addition of unwanted school places, just to suit the Conservative Party’s ideological commitment to the introduction of a chaotic marketplace.’

NASUWT teachers’ union General Secretary Chris Keates said: ‘The “free schools” programme will be anything but free. “Free schools” are an unnecessary and costly gamble in educating the country’s children.’

l A High Court judge has dealt the final blow to the government’s unlawful cuts to civil service redundancy pay, the Public and Commercial Services union said yesterday.

Mr Justice Sales confirmed the PCS was right to challenge the way the terms of the civil service compensation scheme, which governs redundancy payments, were slashed.

The decision quashes an amendment to the scheme that the previous government had claimed was effective from April 1st, and requires the new government to enter into negotiations with PCS if it wants to change the scheme in future.

While the judge quashed the detrimental changes to the scheme, he retained elements – relating to protection against age discrimination – that provide improvements.

The union said this shows it was not opposed to change on principle, but that any alterations had to be fair and agreed.